It is with great sadness that we inform you of the death of Charles W. Douglas, our partner, colleague, Management Committee Chair Emeritus, and friend. Chuck passed away today after battling an illness for the past several months. A partner of the firm for the past 43 years, Chuck distinguished himself both as a firm and civic leader, as well as one of the country’s leading trial lawyers.
Chuck served as a member of the firm’s Management Committee from 1993-2014, including as Chair of the Committee from 1999-2014. He also served as a member of the firm’s Executive Committee from 1989-2014. Under Chuck’s leadership, the Management Committee, along with our Executive Committee leadership, articulated a bold vision for Sidley’s future, including internal operational enhancements matched with a refreshed vision for global expansion. In executing that vision, the firm grew dramatically while remaining faithful to its commitment to its values of collaboration and teamwork. The firm doubled in size, grew revenue six-fold, endured great challenges, and cemented its position as a global legal powerhouse.
That strategic approach included the successful merger of Sidley & Austin and Brown & Wood – at the time the largest merger of two law firms in history. The 2001 merger, which added to our ranks roughly 600 professionals located at the World Trade Center in New York, was tragically disrupted by the 9/11 attacks just 5 months later with the loss of one of our employees and the destruction of the office. Chuck embodied the leadership Sidley needed at that moment.
Chuck also led the firm’s litigation practice for many years. As a preeminent litigator, Chuck successfully represented many of Sidley’s largest clients, including AT&T, Deloitte, G.D. Searle & Co. (Pfizer), Zenith Electronics, and IBP (Tyson Foods), among many others, in multiple landmark cases and decisions. His accomplishments earned him induction as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and many years of recognition in Chambers USA, Benchmark Litigation, The Legal 500 US, and The Best Lawyers in America.
Chuck was also deeply involved in his Chicago community, and a stalwart supporter of education and the arts. Among many positions of community and civic contribution, Chuck was a Trustee of Northwestern University since 2000, also serving as a Chair of the Board’s Governance and Nominations Committee; a Director of The Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Memorial Hospital; Board Member and Chairman of the Chicago Academy of Sciences and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum; a Trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; a member of The Chicago Club since 1988, of which he also served as President since 2022; and a Trustee of the United States Supreme Court Historical Society.
A U.S. Army veteran, Chuck joined the firm as an associate in 1974 after graduating from Northwestern University and Harvard Law School. Chuck was admitted to the Sidley Partnership in 1980 and remained a partner until his death. In a way that was every bit as impactful as his public and strategic leadership, Chuck will be particularly remembered at the firm for the generous time he invested in providing counsel, humanity, and mentorship to hundreds of colleagues, clients, and friends.
We extend our deepest condolences to his family, including his wife Diane, his two children, Dana and Chuck, and his four grandchildren.