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  • Illinois
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Trial Bar)


Ronald S. Safer

Partner, Executive Committee Member

"Taking Time to Represent the Little Guy"

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, February 4, 2010

In My Own Words

Schiff Hardin

Ronald S. Safer manages high-stakes cases with a focus in white collar crime and civil litigation. He co-leads the White Collar Crime and Corporate Compliance Group and undertakes pro bono cases with dedication and concern.

Mr. Safer has successfully represented companies and individuals in matters such as accounting fraud, tax fraud, anti-kickback violations, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), environmental violations and securities fraud. He represents clients before the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and numerous state agencies.

When Mr. Safer takes a case, he pores over the facts and analyzes the complex concepts involved until he can shape them into clear, effective arguments. His impressive track record demonstrates his ability to command a courtroom while maintaining an unflinching commitment to his clients. "My clients' problems become my problems," he says.

His vast federal and state trial experience, paired with his unwavering work ethic and approachable demeanor, allows Mr. Safer to bring extraordinary value to his clients.


Mr. Safer has tried dozens of complex cases to federal juries. He focuses his practice in three primary areas:

Internal Investigations

Mr. Safer's experience as a federal prosecutor, coupled

with his accomplishments in Schiff Hardin's White CollarCrime and Corporate Compliance Group, position him as a skilled and effective leader of internal investigations for his clients. Illustrative representations include:

  • The Audit Committee of the Board of Directors of a publicly held company in investigating alleged violations of the corporation’s travel and entertainment policy by a senior corporate officer

  • A multinational corporation in assessing whether foreign employees had violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act

  • A publicly held corporation in investigating whether the corporation illegally manipulated futures markets

  • A public school system in assessing whether the school principal acted inappropriately

Criminal Defense

As an accomplished defense lawyer, Mr. Safer is able to help clients fight the odds against them in criminal prosecutions. He helps corporations and individuals alike avoid criminal prosecution. He has successfully defended clients in several high-profile cases, including:

  • Kristine Bunch, a mother wrongfully convicted in 1996 of murdering her 3-year-old son, who died when their mobile home burned. In 2012, Ms. Bunch was released on bond, and Mr. Safer will represent her in her new trial.

  • Mark S. Kipnis, a co-defendant in the highly publicized United States v. Conrad Black, et. al. case. Mr. Kipnis was the only defendant in this case who did not spend a single day in prison.

  • Julie Rae Harper, a mother wrongfully indicted in 2000 for the murder of her 10-year-old son. Mr. Safer represented Ms. Rae Harper in her 2006 retrial, in which the jury found her not guilty.

  • P. Nicholas Hurtgen, a former Senior Managing Director of Bear Stearns & Co. indicted for allegedly aiding and abetting a scheme to extort Edward Hospital. All seven counts against Mr. Hurtgen were eventually dismissed.

  • Bennie Starks, a man sentenced to 60 years in prison for criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery despite dubious evidence. Mr. Starks was eventually freed after proper analysis of DNA evidence, and he is now free from further prosecution.

Civil Litigation

Mr. Safer manages all phases of the litigation process with dexterity and precision. He has represented both corporations and individuals before numerous state and federal courts and agencies in a range of matters. Notable achievements include:

  • Obtaining a jury verdict in favor of a major national bank, in a matter alleging the bank had tortiously interfered with an investment company's agreement to buy a futures commission merchant. The plaintiff claimed damages exceeding $200 million. The jury returned a defense verdict.

  • Representing a property owner in a jury trial arising from contribution claims with respect to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. Hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake, but the jury ruled in favor of Mr. Safer’s client.

  • Obtaining a verdict in favor of a major financial institution in a claim that it discriminated against a high-level employee.

  • Obtaining a jury verdict in favor of the City of Chicago in a claim that it discriminated against a city employee.

  • Obtaining an eight-figure settlement for a major retail chain in civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and indemnity agreement claims litigation involving a manufacturer of its products.

Speeches and Presentations

Mr. Safer has lectured for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on various subjects including the use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), complex financial frauds and numerous areas of trial practice. He also continues to lecture for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) concerning complex investigations.

Pro Bono Activities

One reason Mr. Safer first came to Schiff Hardin was the firm's strong history of pro bono work. He started at Schiff Hardin as an associate in 1984 and quickly began handling pro bono matters. Mr. Safer also spent a year teaching a street law class at a high school on Chicago’s South Side.

After working at the U.S. Attorney's Office for 10 years, he came back to Schiff Hardin with the goal of making pro bono practice even more prevalent. Mr. Safer has represented several clients on a pro bono basis and has collaborated with the Center for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University in critical pro bono cases.

Previous Experience

In 1989, Mr. Safer joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago and rose to Chief of the Criminal Division, successfully prosecuting more than one hundred defendants during his tenure. He prosecuted cases ranging from complex financial frauds and public corruption to sophisticated continuing criminal enterprises. He conducted dozens of jury trials and argued many significant cases to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 1999, Mr. Safer rejoined Schiff Hardin and has served as a member of the firm's Executive Committee for over a decade.

Awards and Honors

Administrator’s Award - U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
Benchmark Litigation - Star
The BTI Client Service All-Star Team (2014-2015)
Illinois Super Lawyers — Criminal Defense: White Collar
Best Lawyers in America — White Collar Criminal Defense
Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Award
Director's Award - U.S. Attorney General
Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL)
Frank J. McGarr Award - Federal Bar Association
Gregory C. Jones Award - U.S. Attorney's Office
Illinois Super Lawyers — Criminal Defense: White Collar; Business Litigation; General Litigation; Top 100 Illinois Super Lawyers
Jane Beber Abramson Award — Center on Wrongful Convictions, Northwestern University
Leading Lawyer — Litigation: White Collar Crime & Government Investigations, Chambers USA — America's Leading Lawyers for Business
Leading Lawyer – Commercial Litigation; Criminal Defense Law: White Collar, Illinois Leading Lawyers Network
AV Rated – Martindale-Hubbell
PLC Which Lawyer? - Chicago – Dispute Resolution Lawyer
Top 100 Business Lawyers in Illinois, Illinois Leading Lawyers Network
Who's Who Legal – Illinois, Business Crime


Georgetown University Law Center(J.D., magna cum laude, 1983)
University of Pennsylvania(B.S., Economics — Wharton School, History — Faculty of Arts and Sciences, cum laude, 1979)


Honorable Thomas A. Flannery, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (1983-1984)

Professional Memberships

American College of Trial Lawyers
Center on Wrongful Convictions
Executive Committee
Federal Bar Association
Board of Directors, Chicago Chapter

Civic and Charitable Memberships

Grant-a-Wish Inc.
Board of Advisers
Legal Counsel
The Commercial Club of Chicago