The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Lindsay Harrison, Partner — Complex Commercial Litigation and Appellate & Supreme Court
Jenner & Block partner Lindsay Harrison is a litigator in the firm’s Complex Commercial Litigation and Appellate & Supreme Court practices. Ms. Harrison’s practice includes a diverse range of matters and clients. She also leads the firm’s Hospitality and Gaming practice where she has substantial experience litigating matters involving the hospitality industry, successfully representing hotel management companies in major lawsuits and arbitrations both throughout the United States and internationally. She also represents clients in complex litigation matters in industry sectors including higher education, technology, and entertainment. Many of her matters involve high-stakes legal challenges under the Administrative Procedure Act.
Ms. Harrison is regularly recognized for her work and has been named to the BTI Consulting Group’s Client Service All-Star List. The National Law Journal selected her as a DC Rising Star—one of 40 “game-changing lawyers age 40 and under” who are “leaders in the law” in the nation’s capital. She received the inaugural Rosner and Rosner Young Professionalism Award from the American Bar Association in recognition of her pro bono legal work and involvement in public service endeavors.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
I am a partner in both our Complex Commercial Litigation group and our Appellate & Supreme Court group. I divide my time between appeals and complex matters at the intersection of litigation, regulation, and crisis management.
What types of clients do you represent?
I’m proud to represent a broad range of clients from various sectors and industries, including hospitality, technology, entertainment, and higher education, among others.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
For many clients, I serve as coordinating counsel on complex matters with multiple law firms, experts, and consultants collaborating on a range of moving parts. I have served in that role in a variety of matters, including cybersecurity incidents, multi-party challenges to regulatory actions, and disputes involving foreign governments. By its nature, my practice includes a lot of complex commercial litigation. For hospitality clients, I frequently work on owner-operator and joint venture disputes concerning hotels, as well as consumer class actions. For higher education clients, I have worked on everything from Title IX litigation to FOIA litigation to litigation against the Trump Administration over the termination of the DACA program. For entertainment clients, I have worked on royalty rate proceedings and copyright litigation. And my appellate work spans a wide range of areas, including constitutional law, administrative law, fiduciary duty law, bankruptcy law, criminal law, and immigration law.
How did you choose this practice area?
I suppose one might say that I refused to select a practice area. I like matters that pose different challenges every day, where I am standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my clients to solve their most complex and important problems. Sometimes that comes in the form of an appeal where there is time to marinate on the issues and refine the arguments with precision. Other times, that comes in an emergency litigation matter where everything is moving and changing so quickly that you don’t even have time to write a brief.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
There is no typical day! Some days, I am in meetings and calls from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., and other days, I have the luxury of big chunks of time to write or edit a brief. Some days I will spend in a client’s offices, and other days I will be in court arguing motions or an appeal. My only constants are that I leave the office nearly every day in time to be home for dinner with my family, and I try to make time every day for a coffee or chat with colleagues to check in on how they are doing and see if there is anything I can do to help.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Excellent writing is the backbone of all good lawyering. That is true especially, but not exclusively, for appellate lawyers. So to anyone interested in litigation, I always suggest developing writing skills as the very top priority.
What do you like best about your practice area?
All litigation is storytelling. Whether you are telling your story to a judge or jury, a regulator, or an adversary sitting across the table, the goal is to package facts and law in a compelling story that causes people to empathize and connect with your client. I love taking a very complex puzzle and transforming it into a story.
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
Junior lawyers typically would do legal research, draft motions and briefs, review and analyze documents, and assist more senior lawyers in preparing for depositions and working with experts. In addition, junior lawyers do some more unconventional tasks. As a junior lawyer, I had the tough experience of visiting a luxury hotel in the Caribbean that was managed by our client to ascertain whether it was truly meeting luxury standards.
What kinds of experience can summer associates gain in this practice area at your firm?
Summer associates are treated just like associates at our firm. So summer associates might be asked to research and draft a motion or a section of a brief, or they might be asked to attend and assist at a trial or arbitration. When I was a summer associate, I wrote a memo to assist the team drafting the petition for certiorari in Lawrence v. Texas (which was ultimately granted and resulted in the decision holding sodomy laws unconstitutional), and I drafted portions of an appellate brief that resulted in the reversal of a woman’s homicide conviction where her constitutional rights had been violated.
What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?
A district court clerkship is the most valuable experience for lawyers interested in commercial litigation. In one year, you are exposed to hundreds of different cases in all areas of law and at all phases of litigation. My clerkship for Judge Gold in the Southern District of Florida was critical in preparing me for a career in commercial litigation. Likewise, an appellate clerkship is incredibly valuable for lawyers interested in appellate litigation. Seeing cases from the perspective of the judge for an entire year makes you a better lawyer. The key is to shift from the mindset of an objective judge to a persuasive advocate when you transition from clerking to representing clients.