The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.

Leah Brannon, Partner-Antitrust 

Leah Brannon is a partner in Cleary’s Washington, D.C. office. Her practice focuses on antitrust matters, including litigation, mergers, and government investigations at both the federal and state level. She joined the firm in 2003 after clerking for The Honorable Douglas H. Ginsburg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit from 2000-2001 and The Honorable Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States from 2002-2003. She became partner in 2008.

Leah has been recognized for her commitment and contributions to antitrust matters by Chambers USA, The Legal 500 U.S., Benchmark Litigation: The Definitive Guide to America’s Leading Litigation Firms and Attorneys, The Best Lawyers in America, International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers, and Washingtonian magazine. In addition, Global Competition Review named Leah its “Litigator of the Year” in 2016 and “Lawyer of the Year-40 and Under” in 2013, and she was named one of the “most highly regarded” future leaders in North America antitrust law by Who’s Who Legal, and an M&A and Antitrust “Trailblazer” by the National Law Journal in 2017.

Leah Brannon earned her B.A. from the University of Virginia in 1995 and her J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1999. She is licensed to practice law in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails. 

Cleary Gottlieb’s antitrust practice handles high-stakes antitrust litigation, major transactions, and closely watched cartel and monopolization investigations. We serve clients in all areas of competition law, including merger notification and related advocacy efforts before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and other global agencies; every type and stage of government antitrust investigation; and a wide range of civil and criminal antitrust litigation. 

Our antitrust practice is among the most highly acclaimed practices in both the U.S. and Europe. In 2018, Cleary was ranked #1 for global antitrust, cartels, and antitrust litigation by Global Competition Review (GCR), and we are the only law firm ranked in GCR’s ìEliteî category for antitrust in Washington. In addition, we are consistently ranked as the only top-tier firm for antitrust in both the United States and Europe (Chambers Global, 2011-18) and our practice was named Antitrust Law Firm of the Year by Chambers USA in 2011, 2015 and 2017. 

What types of clients do you represent?

We advise clients around the world and across all major industries. Current clients include 21st Century Fox, 3M, Abbott Laboratories, Agilent, Air Liquide, American Express, ArcelorMittal, Asahi Glass, Citigroup, The Coca-Cola Company, Deutsche Telekom/T-Mobile USA, DHL Global Forwarding, The Dow Chemical Company, Essilor, GlaxoSmithKline, Goldman Sachs, Google, Keurig Green Mountain, LafargeHolcim, Molson Coors, Royal DSM, Sabre Holdings, Valeo, Western Digital, and Whirlpool.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

My practice includes antitrust litigation, government investigations, and mergers. For example, I’m currently representing Keurig in antitrust litigation pending in federal district court in New York. The cases were brought by competitors and purported class action plaintiffs and involve allegations of predatory product design, exclusive dealing, and a range of other assertions. Some of my other recent litigation matters include representing Teladoc as a plaintiff suing the Texas Medical Board, and defending Sanofi, Whirlpool, Asahi Glass, and others in cases alleging conspiracy and monopolization. I also represent clients in connection with non-public monopolization investigations by the DOJ and FTC. And I’m currently representing Alstom in its merger of equals with the Siemens Mobility business. Over the last decade, I’ve advised Google in numerous acquisitions and sales including of Motorola Mobility, AdMob, and DoubleClick, and I’ve advised Coca Cola in various transactions, including with Monster.

How did you decide to practice in your area?

As an undergraduate economics major I took an antitrust class taught by Professor Kenneth Elzinga at the University of Virginia. After law school, I had the opportunity to clerk for Judge Douglas Ginsburg at the D.C. Circuit the year the Microsoft case was there. Those two experiences, more than anything else, sold me on antitrust law. My first case when I started at Cleary was representing PeopleSoft in connection with Oracle’s hostile takeover bid and related litigation, which was a rollercoaster of a case. Then in 2004, before its IPO, I began working for Google, and I’ve been working on antitrust matters for the company ever since. I feel tremendously lucky to have had all of these opportunities.

What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?

I can honestly say that no day or week is the same in my practice. I’m variously in court, in my office working on briefs or presentations, interviewing clients, meeting with the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission, or working with colleagues. I particularly enjoy days that involve calls or meetings with business people to learn about their products and their business. I also really enjoy brief writing, working with economists to think through tough issues, and working with my colleagues in Europe and Asia to help our clients navigate through different competition regimes.

What is the best thing about your practice area?

Antitrust law offers a great mix of pure legal argument and concrete fact development. The antitrust statutes are thin, which leaves plenty of room for legal argument. But, unlike appellate law, for example, antitrust law also offers an opportunity to develop the facts and learn about a broad range of different industries. I also love the fact that, while I’m often on the defense side, I also have the opportunity to represent antitrust plaintiffs and play offense from time to time.

What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?

The breadth of the practice (litigation, mergers, and investigations) is a very positive aspect of antitrust, but it can also be a challenge to keep up with the latest developments across all areas of the practice. We are fortunate to have a great staff and an excellent practice group that coordinates to ensure we have timely training and updates on new developments.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Take as many economics and antitrust law classes as you can, and get involved with the ABA Antitrust Section.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?

I think people often don’t realize how broad an area antitrust law is and how international it has become. Before I started, I expected that I would work closely with colleagues in Europe, but the practice has become even more global in nature. I now work on a daily basis with colleagues not just in Europe but also in China and elsewhere around the world.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm, and how has it evolved since you have been at the firm?

Three features make Cleary’s antitrust practice unique. First, we don’t have formal practice group assignmentsóthis allows many of the young lawyers who work in the antitrust area to work in other practice areas as well. Second, within the antitrust practice most lawyers work across several areas, from litigation to criminal investigations to merger matters. Third, most of our projects involve international issues and the coordination of work across jurisdictions, and this is an area where Cleary really stands apart as a result of the history of the firm and our strong global integration.

In terms of what has changed, I’d have to say that e-discovery is the area where I’ve seen the greatest evolution. We’ve built a best-in-class discovery team over the past decade and our discovery group is at the cutting edge in terms of using artificial intelligence for document review and other routine work. This makes a huge difference in junior associates’ lives. It means that junior associates can jump right into the substance of cases, rather than being parked on document review or other routine tasks. 

What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them? 

I love to travel. My husband and kids and I go on many weekend adventures. My firm also has a sabbatical program, and I was on sabbatical last summer. Among other things, my family and I spent a month hiking and camping in the national parks out west.