The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Margaret L. Carter—Partner, Litigation
Maggie Carter is a skilled trial attorney and former federal prosecutor who specializes in high-stakes civil and white collar criminal trials, complex litigation, and regulatory matters. Maggie spent eight years as a prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, where she focused on public corruption, civil rights, and sophisticated fraud cases, including those involving charges of embezzlement, money laundering, health care fraud, and identity theft. As a prosecutor, Maggie led dozens of significant prosecutions, won convictions in several high-profile jury trials, and argued and briefed cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Prior to her service as an Assistant US Attorney, Maggie practiced at O’Melveny for five years, focusing on white collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation.
Please provide an overview of what, substantively, your practice area entails.
I represent corporations, boards, and individual officers and directors in the prevention, response, and defense of various types of government scrutiny and enforcement, for example from the SEC, DOJ, or State Attorneys General. I defend clients in criminal and civil cases in federal and state courts, I counsel clients or investigate possible criminal or regulatory violations, and I help clients respond to requests from government investigators.
What types of clients do you represent?
I represent clients across industries with government-facing issues, and particularly in health care, financial services, and telecom and technology.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
In health care, I have advised a health plan regarding False Claims Act issues related to the Medicare overpayment rules, defended a company against allegations of compliance violations by its employees, and represented a hospital against charges of conspiracy and violations of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute. I have also represented financial services companies and executives in litigation and arbitration involving allegations of director negligence, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duties. In the tech space, my clients have included an entrepreneur in an investigation of possible criminal fraud by his former partner and co-founder, and a fintech company in an investigation of possible criminal wrong-doing by its CTO. I have also defended a variety of institutional and individual clients against allegations of fraud in civil litigation.
How did you decide to practice in your area?
I have been particularly interested in criminal law since I was a law clerk. Criminal and government facing work is both complex and extremely high-stakes for anyone who has come under government scrutiny, or who may be a victim of crime.
What is a typical day or week like in your practice area?
It is hard to define a typical day because my practice spans everything from counseling, to investigations, to litigation. You can often find me conducting witness interviews as part of an internal investigation, negotiating with government attorneys, or appearing in court to defend my clients who are facing fraud allegations in civil cases.
What is the best thing about your practice area?
I like helping clients navigate their way through a government investigation. Even the most sophisticated litigation clients rarely have experience with a criminal investigation by government authorities. I enjoy being able to help walk them through what can be a scary and difficult time, so that they feel comfortable during the process, and so that they can achieve the best possible outcome.
What is the most challenging aspect of your practice area?
The high-stakes nature of criminal work is the most rewarding part but also the most challenging. Companies, careers, and individual liberty are often on the line.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
I chose O’Melveny as an associate because of the opportunity it gave me to work with talented former prosecutors. After practicing for several years on the defense side as an associate and counsel, I spent eight years as a prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, where I prosecuted on public corruption, civil rights, and sophisticated fraud cases. That was crucial experience to my work now, because it gave me first-hand knowledge of how prosecutors evaluate, build, and try criminal cases. I use that experience and perspective every day in my work leading both defense teams and internal investigations.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area? What do you wish you had known before joining your practice area?
Some prospective clients think that they will only call a white collar or regulatory attorney if they or their company is accused of wrongdoing. In fact, I often partner with clients to investigate wrongdoing that they suspect and want to evaluate and remediate, or I represent witnesses to or victims of crime or fraud.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm, and how has it evolved since you have been at the firm?
O’Melveny has always appreciated government experience, and its white collar team is deep with former prosecutors, former agency lawyers, and other valuable former government experience. We leverage that experience to help clients address the rise in multi-agency investigations and parallel criminal and regulatory proceedings, as well as their civil litigation challenges.
What activities do you enjoy when you are not in the office, and how do you make time for them?
As the mother of school-aged children, a lot of my free time revolves around my kids’ soccer games, baseball games, and chess and piano lessons! I also enjoy being active in the community and sit on several boards. I wish I had the secret to juggling it all effortlessly, but I don’t—I just make time as best as I can!