The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
We invited the top ten firms in each practice area, as ranked by more than 17,000 associates from across the country in Vault’s annual Associate Survey, to be featured in this guide. Skadden ranks 6th in Antitrust.
Karen Hoffman Lent, Partner—Antitrust, Sports & Complex Litigation
Karen Hoffman Lent represents a wide variety of clients in antitrust, sports and other complex litigation matters at both the trial and appellate court levels. Ms. Lent also provides general antitrust counseling.
In the antitrust litigation area, she has handled matters involving price-fixing, group boycotts, mono-polization, other restraints of trade and class actions. She has extensive experience counseling professional sports leagues and teams on a variety of antitrust and sports law matters.
In the area of general antitrust counseling, Ms. Lent advises clients on compliance with basic antitrust statutes, including issues relating to competitor collaborations, unilateral conduct and distribution. She also presents antitrust compliance programs.
Ms. Lent actively works on pro bono matters. She received the Legal Aid Society Pro Bono Publico Award in 2009 and 2011 for her successful representation of a disabled senior citizen whose landlord illegally overcharged her monthly rent for several years.
Ms. Lent was selected for inclusion in Sports Business Journal’s “Forty Under Forty” 2013 list. She received her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law (cum laude) and a B.S. from Johns Hopkins University.
Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.
Our practice advises clients on their most sophisticated competition law challenges in jurisdictions around the globe, including counseling and obtaining clearance for highly complex mergers and acquisitions, successfully defending clients in civil and criminal disputes, and guiding companies through investigations by various government agencies.
What types of clients do you represent?
Skadden’s broad footprint affords us the opportunity to represent a diverse array of domestic, foreign, public and private clients, including multinational corporations, start-ups, private equity and hedge fund firms, individual investors, sovereign governments and other stakeholders. The firm is committed to ensuring that associates have exposure to different types of clients. I spend a majority of my time representing clients in the sports industry (NBA, NFL, NCAA, NHL), as well as the pharmaceuticals and health care (Pfizer, Actavis, IASIS), oil and gas (Vitol), building products (Ainsworth) and financial services (JP Morgan Chase) industries.
What types of deals and/or cases do you work on?
Most of my work relates to antitrust litigation on behalf of sports organizations and other large corporations. I also frequently counsel those same entities on antitrust-related issues. For example, I am representing the NCAA in a federal antitrust class action by Division I football and basketball players challenging the NCAA’s amateurism rules barring compensation for athletes other than for educational expenses.
How did you decide to practice in your area?
As a summer associate at Skadden, I was excited to learn that I could bring together my passion for sports with a challenging legal career. At Skadden, most of the sports litigation is performed by the antitrust department, which I found to be a very collegial, smart and hardworking group. After taking some advanced antitrust courses my third year of law school, I knew that the Antitrust and Competition Group was the place for me.
What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?
A typical day, to the extent there is one, involves working on multiple different cases with different teams of attorneys both at Skadden and other firms in joint defense groups. I could be in court for a conference or hearing, drafting a brief, meeting and conferring with opposing counsel, or reviewing case law. Every day is different, which keeps my practice exciting.
What is the best thing about your practice area?
Skadden’s antitrust practice provides the opportunity to delve into an industry in order to fully understand the competitive dynamics, and work with our clients to solve problems and implement strategies under the paradigm provided by federal and state antitrust laws. Thus, it provides an unparalleled opportunity to gain an in-depth knowledge of many of the industries in which our clients operate. We work on some of the most high-profile litigations and are at the leading edge of developments in antitrust law.
What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?
The most challenging aspect of my practice is making each and every client feel they are the top priority, particularly when each of them needs something at the same time. Because I always have such a strong team of attorneys working with me, we are generally able to pitch in and help ensure that each client gets the level of service they expect. It is also very challenging—but particularly interesting—to learn a new industry on each new matter you take on, to the degree that you fully understand the manner in which your client competes in that industry.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone hoping to enter your practice area?
In the sports and antitrust areas, I have found that research and writing skills are key for young attorneys. These skills typically come with practice and experience, so the more legal writing a law student can do, the better. Clerking for a judge is a great way to hone these skills. While this may be important for any litigation-based practice area, because antitrust can be a hybrid group (with litigators and transactional practitioners), some might overlook these as necessary skills for antitrust work.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?
Many students think they need an economics background to work in antitrust. While it can prove useful, it certainly is not a prerequisite and most attorneys in our group did not study economics. I also think that many young lawyers do not understand that being a sports antitrust lawyer requires being a good antitrust lawyer first, and backing it up with the specialized knowledge of and experience in the sports industry.
I wish I had realized the importance of legal writing and had sought out a clerkship either prior to joining Skadden or early in my career. I also wish that I knew the importance of networking as a young lawyer. Classmates, friends and even other Skadden attorneys will be an invaluable part of your network as you progress through your career, and you should cultivate those relationships even as a junior associate.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
The Antitrust and Competition Group is unique in that it gives attorneys the opportunity to do a wide variety of work or focus on one particular area, such as civil and criminal litigation, governmental investigations, and transactional work. We encourage associates to get involved in each of these aspects of the practice and determine whether they want to specialize in a particular area or be more of an antitrust generalist.
What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?
Most of my time out of the office is spent with my three children. We enjoy skiing together in the winter, swimming in the summer and attending all of their sports practices and events in between. I make time for my family by being as productive and efficient as possible when I am in the office and finishing up my work after the kids go to bed at night.