The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Lisa W. Bohl, Associate
Lisa Bohl represents clients at the trial and appellate levels in both state and federal courts. Her practice covers a broad array of subject matters, including business litigation, financial and securities cases, and intellectual property. She also has an active pro bono practice representing plaintiffs in civil rights matters. Prior to joining MoloLamken, Lisa served as a law clerk to the Honorable Edmond E. Chang of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. She also worked as an associate at the Chicago office of Jones Day. Lisa received her B.S.Ed. from Northwestern University and her J.D. from Yale Law School. Prior to law school, Lisa worked at Achievement First, a charter school network, and Morningstar, an investment research company.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
MoloLamken is a law firm focused on representing clients in complex litigation. We are involved in some of the most challenging and interesting matters in the U.S. courts for clients around the world. We handle civil, criminal, and regulatory matters at the trial and appellate levels in state courts, federal courts, and arbitral forums. We also conduct internal investigations and have recently developed an international arbitration practice. MoloLamken does not have practice groups, so associates do not have to specialize in particular subject areas or in either trial or appellate cases. That means I can be simultaneously working on a state court trial, a Supreme Court brief, and a government investigation.
What types of clients do you represent?
MoloLamken has a diverse range of clients, including foreign sovereigns, corporations, individuals, and hedge funds and private equity firms. We also represent clients on both sides of the “v.” For example, we might be representing corporations defending against breach of contract or patent infringement claims. At the same time, we might be representing plaintiffs in antitrust class actions or investors challenging a payout on a structured product or stock offering.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
Our firm handles cases in a broad array of subject areas, including business disputes, intellectual property, international law, antitrust, securities, white collar criminal law, and constitutional law. During my time at MoloLamken, my cases have spanned almost all of those areas. At the trial level, I have represented a public company fending off a group of lenders that challenged a refinancing, a global pharmaceutical company asserting fraud and breach of contract claims, foreign corporations in trademark litigation, and trustees in actions against the sponsors of residential mortgage-backed securities. At the appellate level, I have represented foreign government institutions challenging attachment of their property under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and global technology companies in a copyright case. On the investigation side, I have represented employees of a technology company in an SEC investigation.
How did you choose this practice area?
I have always pursued opportunities that would give me exposure to different areas of the law. During law school, I interned at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and joined a clinic where we represented veterans in cases involving military sexual assault, healthcare benefits, discharge upgrades, and FOIA. During my clerkship, one of my favorite parts of the job was the ability to work on a patent case one day, a civil rights case the next day, and a criminal case the day after that. One of the reasons I joined MoloLamken was the ability to maintain a diverse practice, represent a range of clients, and do both trial and appellate work.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
The variety in my caseload translates to variety in my day to day, meaning that my days are never boring and are always different. On a given day, I might spend the morning drafting a brief for a partner to review. During lunch, I might respond to emails and calls, take out an interviewee for lunch, or eat with my colleagues in our large communal kitchen and catch up on what we did over the weekend. In the afternoon, I might attend a weekly team meeting for one of my cases, where we go over big-picture case strategy, set deadlines for upcoming tasks, and brainstorm solutions to a problem that we’re having on some aspect of the case. After that, I might prepare for an upcoming deposition, attend a meet and confer with opposing counsel to discuss a discovery dispute, or speak with an expert witness about the report that she is preparing. Our cases are staffed across offices, so I am constantly communicating with partners, associates, and paralegals from other offices through phone, email, and video conference.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
For those who are in law school, I would recommend seeking out as many practical experiences as possible, including through clinics, summer internships, trial advocacy and legal writing courses, or moot court. Because students often work on a real case from start to finish in a clinic, clinics are particularly valuable because they provide the opportunity to build not just oral and written communication skills, but also skills in case management, client management, and teamwork. It is also helpful to observe practitioners in action, so I would encourage law students and graduates alike to take advantage of every opportunity to attend arguments, trials, settlement conferences, depositions, or the like, even if you’re just there to watch.
What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?
One challenge of being a litigator, especially at a place like MoloLamken that has such a varied practice and gives associates so much responsibility, is also one of my favorite parts of the job: I am constantly doing something new. Each of my cases involves a different area of the law or an unfamiliar industry that I learn from scratch. And every day involves a jurisdiction, procedural twist, or client concern that I have not encountered before. All of those experiences help to hone my judgment and develop my ability to make decisions in the face of uncertainty, some of the most important skills for litigators. This aspect of the job also makes the work engaging and exciting every day.
What is unique about this practice area at your firm?
Associates at MoloLamken get substantive experience early and often. Since joining the firm two-and-a-half years ago, I have taken nine depositions, defended two, and drafted several briefs. I was also recently part of a small team that represented a media company in a trial involving contract, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty claims. During the trial, I delivered an opening statement, conducted direct and cross examinations, and argued several evidentiary motions. Associates are also entrusted to manage cases and teams, so they communicate with clients and opposing counsel, help set the strategy, and take ownership of their cases. Because our associates’ professional development proceeds more rapidly than at other firms, we are able to operate more efficiently and on smaller teams, even when we are up against larger law firms with significantly bigger case teams.
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
There is no strict hierarchy at the firm, so there is similarly no strict division between the tasks of a junior versus senior associate. Associates are given as much responsibility as they can handle from the moment they join the firm. Typical tasks that an associate might perform include doing legal research; drafting a motion or brief; mooting a colleague for an upcoming argument; working with an expert; taking or defending a deposition; drafting a complaint; negotiating with opposing counsel; interviewing a witness; or issuing and responding to requests for production, interrogatories, requests to admit, or other discovery.
How is practicing litigation in a boutique different from practicing in a large law firm?
In addition to getting substantial, on-the-ground experience earlier and working on smaller teams, the nature of our representations can also be different from the representations at a larger firm. As a smaller litigation boutique, we have fewer conflicts and are more nimble, so we have more variety in our cases and can represent both plaintiffs and defendants. We often get referrals from larger law firms for cases they are unable to take due to conflicts. In addition, while our case teams might be small, our cases are often quite big, so we must use our time and resources efficiently. For example, it is very unusual for associates to spend significant time on document review. When we have a case that involves a large amount of discovery, we usually have contract attorneys conduct first-level document review, and we also develop creative strategies to efficiently mine large quantities of data. Business development at a small boutique like MoloLamken also begins much earlier. Associates are included in the business development process, from developing the strategy for a pitch to attending and presenting one. Associates are also encouraged to join bar associations and other organizations to cultivate their networks, and their ideas and efforts to develop business are encouraged and valued.