James R. Thompson

Listed in 1997, 2000, and 2013 by The National Law Journal as one of the nation’s 100 most influential lawyers, Governor James Thompson served as Chairman of the Executive Committee of Winston & Strawn from 1991 to 2006, as well as Chairman and CEO of the firm from 1993 to 2006. As Chairman, he oversaw the growth of the firm, both domestically and internationally. He presently serves as Senior Chairman.

Governor Thompson was Co-Chairman of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Violent Crime in 1981; National Co-Chairman of the Campaign to Protect Our Children in 1986; a member of the National Commission to Prevent Infant Mortality in 1986; Chairman of the NGA Task Force on Electric Utility Transmission Policy in 1986; Chairman of the NGA Task Force on Teen Pregnancy in 1987; and Chairman of the NGA Task Force on Transportation Infrastructure in 1988.

As Illinois’ longest-serving chief executive (14 years), Governor Thompson was noted for his skill in settling difficult labor-management problems, his ability to manage one of the nation’s largest public budgets while maintaining one of the nation’s highest state bond ratings, and his leadership role among his peers. He served as Chairman of the National Governors’ Association, the Midwestern Governors’ Conference, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, and the Republican Governors’ Association. During his tenure in office, he traveled abroad extensively on behalf of Illinois business interests, meeting with foreign heads of state and leading government officials; he also led numerous trade missions to Europe, Mexico, Canada, Asia, and the Middle East on behalf of Illinois businesses.

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush appointed Governor Thompson as Chairman of the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board, a position he held until 1993. He was a Commissioner of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (9-11 Commission) by appointment of Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Before being appointed by President Nixon as U.S. Attorney in Chicago (1971-1975), Governor Thompson argued more than 200 cases before the Illinois Supreme Court and argued the landmark Escobedo case in the Supreme Court of the United States. He also served as an Associate Professor at Northwestern University School of Law, an Assistant State’s Attorney of Cook County (1959-1964), and an Assistant Attorney General of Illinois (1969-1970).

Governor Thompson received a J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law in 1959. He has 17 honorary degrees.

Honors & Awards

Governor Thompson was ranked No. 83 in Chicago Magazine's 2012 list of the "100 Most Powerful Chicagoans." He was listed in 1997 and 2000 by The National Law Journal as one of the nation’s 100 most influential lawyers. He was selected as the 2012 Chicago Business Legacy Award Honoree by the Jobs For Youth Legal Industry Council. In 2009, he was named as an Illinois Super Lawyer. He holds the Alumni Medal of Northwestern University, the Justice John Paul Stevens Award (2003), and the Laureate Award of the ISBA Academy of Illinois Lawyers (2000). In 2014, he received The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, from the Emperor of Japan in recognition of his significant contributions to the promotion of mutual understanding and the strengthening of economic relations between Japan and the United States. In 2014, Winston & Strawn was named the Chicago Litigation Department of the Year for white-collar defense by The National Law Journal.


Governor Thompson serves as a member of the boards of Navigant Consulting Group, Inc. and Maximus, Inc. He is the Chairman of the Public Review Board of the UNITE-HERE Union. In addition, he is Co-Chair of the Rare Isotope Accelerator Task Force, CLEAR (Illinois Criminal Code Revision), ABA Committee on Sentencing Reform, and is the U.S. Chair of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association, as well as Chairman of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission.


  • Illinois


  • Northwestern University, JD, 1959