As a youngster, William Jentes, ’56, had a clear view of his career path. “I’m going to be a lawyer,” he told anyone who asked.
Bill, who has called Chicago his home since graduating from the Law School, had an equally clear idea of how he wanted to thank the School for the outstanding education it provided him. For nearly two decades, he has made it possible for students with a dream similar to his to receive a Michigan Law education. Each year since 1989, three incoming students have been chosen as recipients of Jentes Merit Scholarships, full tuition awards made on the basis of undergraduate achievement and potential to excel at Michigan Law.
He created the program because he believes the School benefits “from the presence of exceptionally qualified students who could add to the dynamism of its academic environment,” as he writes in a statement sent to each new Jentes Scholar. Jentes says, “The Law School has had an immense influence on my achievements inside and outside the practice of law, and I want to show my appreciation.”
Bill recently reaffirmed his commitment to his merit-based program with a new gift of $1 million to fund the Jentes Scholarships in future years. His gift will be matched by $500,000 from President Mary Sue Coleman through her Donor Challenge for graduate scholarships.
Jentes is an alumnus of the University’s former Combined Curriculum in Letters and Law, a six-year program in which he earned both a B.A. degree (in 1953) and a J.D. (Order of the Coif in 1956), as well as serving as undergraduate president
of the Michigan Union and as an associate editor of the Michigan
Upon graduation, Bill went to work for Kirkland & Ellis, one of the nation’s premier firms with a particular emphasis on litigation, the practice area that most interested him. “I happened to arrive on the scene at exactly the right time as the firm’s large-case litigation work grew dramatically,” he recalls.
The whole character of trial law was changing, and Jentes became a major player. Today he teaches a seminar in complex litigation at the Law School, in which he draws on the knowledge and experience he gained from nearly four decades of practice as lead trial and appellate counsel in many of Kirkland & Ellis’s most significant cases.
More recently, he left the firm to concentrate on his practice as an independent arbitrator and mediator of major domestic and international commercial disputes, which he began in 1998. “Interestingly, the type of cases I arbitrate and mediate are very close to the cases I used to handle as an advocate—generally very complicated factual and legal matters,” Jentes says.
In addition to his teaching at the Law School and his funding of the Merit Scholarships, Jentes serves as an honorary chair of the Law School’s Building On Campaign.