Overview

Matthew F. Prewitt is a trial lawyer with a national practice advocating for Schiff Hardin’s clients in disputes arising from the theft and misuse of confidential and private information, breaches of restrictive covenants in commercial and employment relationships, and related breaches of trust and loyalty. Matt also frequently advises clients on protection of sensitive competitive and personal information, information governance, and the intersection of the law of trade secrets, privacy, and data security.

Clients turn to Matt for swift, decisive courtroom victories when time is of the essence. As lead trial counsel, Matt has won emergency injunctive relief in expedited proceedings in more than a dozen states. Matt has extensive experience investigating and trying complex claims for theft and destruction of electronic data and has won case-terminating sanctions for destruction of computer data in multiple suits. Matt also has unusually deep experience in enforcement proceedings to compel compliance with injunctions and to win remedies for violations of court orders. Matt has won case terminating or dispositive sanction awards for litigation misconduct and violation of injunctions in numerous suits, often prevailing under a heightened burden of proof to win punitive sanctions.

Matt provides strategic advice and counseling for clients seeking growth through lateral competitive hiring, guiding the client through the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding process to mitigate litigation risk when hiring employees subject to restrictive covenants and nondisclosure obligations.

As a trial lawyer who regularly leads the prosecution and defense of complex, fast track injunction proceedings, Matt has learned how to triage the potential factual and legal issues to develop a focused, winning strategy that achieves the client’s business objectives. Matt knows how to litigate as a plaintiff, by seizing the initiative and framing the issues for trial.

Matt applies these skills in “rescue” engagements where he is called upon to augment or replace prior trial counsel at an advanced stage of the case. These engagements have provided Matt substantive experience in a broad range of business, environmental, and mass tort disputes in both the trial courts and in bankruptcy proceedings.

Matt is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP-US). He is also an adjunct professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law where he has taught courses on complex pretrial litigation and the law of data privacy. Matt is an active participant in The Sedona Conference Working Group 1 (Electronic Document Production and Retention) and Working Group 11 (Data Security and Privacy Liability) as well as the newly formed Working Group 12 (Trade Secrets). He is a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

  • Experience

    • Portola Packaging v. Logoplaste USA, et al. (Cook Cty. Ill.) Lead trial counsel for defendants in complex trade secrets dispute between competing manufacturers of plastic packaging, involving extensive cross-border discovery. Defendants won summary judgment on all claims, and the court awarded defendants recovery of their attorney fees as a sanction against plaintiff for commencing the suit in bad faith after Matt obtained evidence that the plaintiff’s general counsel had submitted materially false affidavits to the court. The victory was profiled in a "How They Won It" feature in Law360 and reported widely in the legal press as the first time an Illinois court had awarded a trade secrets defendant its entire fees for a complex, multi-year litigation.
    • Bunnett & Company, Inc. v. Natural Soda, LLC (Travis Cty. Tex.)  Lead trial counsel in a suit arising from the resignation of our client’s former general manager and the manager’s attempt to form a competing business with other key employees and a long-term exclusive supplier.  Matt won a TRO and a criminal contempt finding against the supplier, which was sustained on expedited appeal to the Texas Supreme Court on the eve of a jury trial.  Before the jury, Matt won a substantial verdict of both actual and punitive damages.  The contempt proceedings and subsequent jury verdict were widely reported in the legal press.
    • Energy Feeds Int’l v Dores (W.D. Tex. and E.D Cal. Bankr.) After we won a TRO against our client’s departing manager, the defendant sought bankruptcy protection to invoke the automatic stay against further proceedings.  After extensive discovery and two bench trials, Matt won dismissal of the bankruptcy case on grounds of fraud and won a finding of contempt against the defendant and others for engaging in an elaborate scheme to hide the former manager’s continuing competitive business activities and receipt of compensation in under the table payments from a competitor, despite his claims before both courts that he was psychologically disabled and unemployed.
    • Confidential Matter in Delaware Chancery and Federal District Court.  Matt represented a private equity investor in a suit against a selling shareholder, founder, and former senior executive of an acquired business, who attempted secretly to form a competing business with other former employees in breach of restrictive covenants in the stock purchase agreement. Matt commenced separate proceedings against both the employees and the former executive and, after obtaining the employees’ videotaped testimony identifying the shareholder as the instigator of the strategy, won a favorable settlement under which all defendants exited the industry entirely for an extended term, and the former shareholder disgorged a substantial part of the consideration for his shares.
    • JLG Industries v. Baxter (Kane Cty. Ill.) Lead trial counsel for a manufacturer against the departing director of strategic planning, who attempted to resign and join a competitor immediately after completing our client’s secret plan for redesign of its product fleet.  In expedited proceedings, Matt won a TRO and then a case-dispositive order of contempt against the departing director.  In a multi-day bench trial, Matt and the Schiff Hardin team presented extensive and complex computer forensics evidence to prove that the director had copied and retained competitive information in violation of the TRO.
    • Brighton Associates v. Toper (Cook Cty, Ill.)* As lead trial counsel for a consulting firm, Matt won a TRO on New Year's Eve, enjoining three of plaintiff's former executives from continuing to operate a competing business they had secretly organized while still employed with the plaintiff. Following entry of the TRO, the parties reached a confidential settlement.
    • Krumwiede v. Brighton Associates (N.D. Ill.)* Lead trial counsel in successful litigation on behalf of consulting firm against a departing vice president.  Matt won a TRO requiring return of the company’s confidential information and in subsequent contempt proceedings presented complex computer forensics evidence to win case-dispositive sanctions against the former vice-president.  The decision is still widely cited as the first case in which a federal court awarded dispositive sanctions for alteration of file metadata.
    • Confidential Clients. Matt is national counsel for talent recruitment and retention for multiple clients, providing regular advice on compliance, training, and litigation preparedness and avoidance as well as representing clients in litigation matters across the United States.

    *Handled prior to joining Schiff Hardin.

  • Credentials

    Education

    • University of Chicago Law School, J.D., 1996, with honors
      Phi Kappa Phi graduate fellowship
      Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy Studies, Symposium Editor
    • Delta State University, B.A., History, 1993

    Bar Admissions

    • Illinois
    • New York
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
    • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Trial Bar)
    • U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York
    • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin

        Clerkships

        • Honorable John E. Sprizzo, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (1997 – 1999)

        Professional Memberships

        • American Bar Association, Section of Litigation, Expert Witnesses Committee, Co-Chair (2015), Vice Chair (2012–2015)
        • International Association of Privacy Professionals
        • The Sedona Conference, Working Group 1 on Electronic Document Production and Retention, Drafting Team for Commentary on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security, Privacy, and Discovery, Working Group 11 on Data Security and Privacy Liability, Drafting Team for Data Privacy Law Primer, and Working Group 12 (Trade Secrets).

        Professional Certifications

        • Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP-US)

        Teaching Appointments

        • Chicago-Kent College of Law, Complex Civil Litigation, Data Privacy Law, Adjunct Professor (2008–present)
      • Insights

        TITLE
        News Release

        Three Practices Recognized in The Legal 500 for Fourth Year in a Row

        Schiff Hardin LLP is pleased to announce that three of the firm’s practice groups have been recognized for the fourth year in a row in The Legal 500 United States 2019 guide, which provides a nationwide analysis of law firms that provide cutting-edge and innovative advice.

        News Release

        2019 Leading Lawyers Lists Recognize 95 Schiff Attorneys

        Schiff Hardin LLP is pleased to have 95 attorneys named to the 2019 Leading Lawyers list.

        News Release

        The Legal 500 Recognizes Three Schiff Hardin Practices for the Third Time in a Row

        Schiff Hardin LLP is pleased to announce that three of its practice groups have been recognized for the third consecutive year by The Legal 500 United States 2018 guide, a nationwide analysis of law firms with input from more than 300,000 corporate counsel on which firms provide the most cutting-edge and innovative advice.

        In The News
        News Release

        Prewitt Helps Draft The Sedona Conference Commentary on BYOD

        Matthew Prewitt is a member of the drafting team for The Sedona Conference Commentary on BYOD: Principles and Guidelines for Developing Policies and Meeting Discovery Obligations.

        News Release

        95 Schiff Hardin Lawyers Named to 2018 Leading Lawyers Lists

        Ninety-six Schiff Hardin lawyers have been named to the 2018 Leading Lawyers lists for Illinois and Michigan.

        News Release

        The Legal 500 Recognizes Three Schiff Hardin Practice Groups

        Schiff Hardin LLP is pleased to announce that three of its practice groups have been recognized in the 2017 edition of The Legal 500 United States.

        News Release

        99 Schiff Hardin Attorneys Named to 2017 Leading Lawyers List

        Ninety-nine Schiff Hardin lawyers have been named to the 2017 Leading Lawyers list for Illinois and Michigan.

        Other Publications

        Recent Articles on Cybersecurity and Data Privacy

        • “Consumer Data Encryption and the Autonomous Digital Self,” The Circuit Rider
          (Apr. 2016)
        • “The Cybersecurity Aspects of Responding to Government Agency Demands for Trade Secrets Information,” (co-author) TerraLex Connections (Feb. 5, 2016)
        • “Cybersecurity 'Elevator Speech,'" (interviewee) Security Magazine (Apr. 2015)
        • “Managing Cybersecurity Risk for Experts and Consultants,” American Bar Association Section of Litigation (Mar. 23, 2015)
        •  “No One Is Too Small To Hack,” Computerworld (Feb. 17, 2015)
        • “Does Your Company Need a CISO?” Law Technology News (Sep. 21, 2014)

        Recent Articles on Trade Secrets

        • “Jurisdiction in the Information Age,” (co-author) Chapter 16 in Intellectual Property Law, IICLE (2017)
        • “Protecting Trade Secrets in the Era of Cyberbreach,” Law Technology News
          (Feb. 20, 2015)
        • “Regulatory: Think Twice Before Asserting a Trade Secrets Claim,” Inside Counsel
          (Aug. 28, 2013)

        Recent Articles on E-Discovery, Electronic Data Forensics, and IT Expert Testimony

        • “Oh, Yeah – Don’t Forget About the Trial Counsel,” The National Law Journal
          (Jan. 28, 2013)

        Speeches & Presentations

        • “The 13th Annual Institute Program on eDiscovery: Protecting Privacy, Confidentiality, and Privilege in Civil Litigation,” The Sedona Conference, Charlotte, N.C. (Mar. 7, 2019)
        • “HR Cybersecurity Case Study Featuring a panel from Amalgamated Sugar,” (moderator) 2017 NCFC Human Resources Conference, Rosemont, Ill. (Oct. 27, 2017)
        • “Privacy, Innovation, and Growing a Business Domestically and Internationally,” (panelist) Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business and the Donald Pritzker Entrepreneurship Law Center Symposium, Chicago, Ill. (Apr. 14, 2017)
        • “Is Your Data Safe? Cybersecurity and Protection of Trade Secrets under the Defend Trade Secrets Act,” (panelist) FCBA/IPLAC IP Law Symposium, Chicago, Ill. (Mar. 15, 2017)
        • “Protection of Employers' Confidential Information,” (speaker) Schiff Hardin Labor and Employment Webinar Series (Oct, 19, 2016)
        • “Data Breach Case Law Update and Data Privacy Primer,” The Sedona Conference Working Group 11 on Data Security and Privacy Liability Annual Meeting (Dec. 1, 2015)
        • “Discovery of ESI Involving ‘Bring Your Own Devices’,” Sedona Conference Working Group 1: Electronic Documents Retention and Production Annual Meeting
          (Oct. 29, 2015)
        • “Class-Action Review,” Cybersecurity Law Conference (Oct. 15, 2015)
        • “Trade Secrets and Cybersecurity: Protecting Intellectual Property, Mitigating Loss and Navigating Legal Responses,” Webinar (Sep. 24, 2015)
        • “How To Develop A Trade Secrets Protection Plan For A Global Business,” 4th Annual Global IPR Conclave (Sep. 10, 2015)
        • “BYOD: Preservation and Discovery from Mobile Devices,” The Sedona Conference Sedona Conference Working Group 1 Midyear Meeting (Apr. 29, 2015)
        • “A Crisis in Confidence – Replacing Your Company’s Trial Counsel in High­Stakes Litigation,” (panelist) Association of Corporate Counsel, Chicago, Ill. (Jun. 24, 2014)
        • “Controlling Risk While Preparing for Trade Secret Litigation,” Network of Trial Law Firms, New York, N.Y. (Aug. 9, 2013)
        • “Managing Trade Secret Litigation,” (moderator) Network of Trial Law Firms, San Diego, Calif. (Nov. 10, 2012)
        • “Case Study: Spoliation,” National Conference on Managing Electronic Records, Chicago, Ill. (May 8, 2012)
      • Citizenship

        Pro Bono Activities

        Matt oversees our firm’s work as legal counsel for Global Citizenship Experience, a lab school developing curriculum modules and providing teacher training focused on Chicago’s at-risk urban schools and a scholarship fund for disadvantaged high school students.

         

        Matt represented a playwright as plaintiff in a Lanham Act suit arising from false attribution of a play about civil rights martyr Emmett Till. He also represented an indigent plaintiff in a civil rights suit for false arrest and use of excessive force.

        Civic and Charitable Memberships

        • University of Chicago Law School, Alumni Admissions Committee (2007-2011)
        • Global Citizenship Experience Foundation, Board of Directors (2013-Present)
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      Prewitt Contributes to The Sedona Conference Data Privacy Primer

      Compiled by leading privacy professionals, the first-ever Data Privacy Primer provides an overview of key privacy issues in the United States. The publication is open for public comment until April 16. MORE

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      But My Company Is Safe, Right?: A Cybersecurity Elevator Speech

      In an interview with /Security Magazine/, Chicago partner Matthew Prewitt debunks common cybersecurity misconceptions and suggests how middle-market companies can minimize risk now. Read Article

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      Can Trade Secrets Survive the Cyberbreach Era?

      In a /Law Technology News/ feature, industry insiders weigh in on how in-house counsel can balance collaboration and exchange of information against real security concerns. Read Article