The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Yehudah L. Buchweitz, Partner—Litigation
Yehudah Buchweitz is a partner in Weil’s Litigation department, where he focuses on a wide spectrum of complex commercial litigation and arbitration arising out of high-profile disputes regarding sports broadcasts, rights of publicity in amateur athletics, real estate development projects, and multibillion-dollar drug development joint ventures, among other things, for clients such as CBS, Showtime Networks, and Sanofi. In 2015, Mr. Buchweitz was recognized as one of just five “MVPs” nationwide for Media & Entertainment by Law360, and since 2015, he has been annually named a “recommended” lawyer nationwide by The Legal 500, including in the areas of general commercial disputes, antitrust, media & entertainment, and sports. In 2018, he was named a Life Sciences “Star” for non-IP litigation and enforcement by LMG Life Sciences and a “Future Star” by Benchmark Litigation, after being named to that publication’s “Under 40 Hot List” for three consecutive years.
Mr. Buchweitz also has an active pro bono practice, where he primarily focuses on representing religious organizations in protecting their constitutional rights against unlawful encroachment in municipalities across New York and New Jersey—including through a number of successful and high-profile federal civil rights litigations.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
Weil’s Complex Commercial Litigation practice marshals litigators around the U.S. and Europe who collectively possess comprehensive experience in successful high-stakes litigation on behalf of sophisticated clients around the world. Our priority is to assist our clients in obtaining the best results in litigation, managing risk and capitalizing on strategic opportunities. The practice consists of more than 130 attorneys in Boston; Dallas; Frankfurt; Houston; London; Miami; Munich; New York; Paris; Princeton; Silicon Valley; Warsaw; and Washington, DC. We have a reputation for defending, prosecuting, and coordinating some of the largest, most complex cases ever filed in courts, before arbitration panels, or in private mediations.
What types of clients do you represent?
We have a long record of successfully resolving these proceedings on behalf of clients across all industries. Likewise, our experience covers a broad range of substantive areas of law, including fraud, bankruptcy, media and entertainment, trade secrets and restrictive covenants, unfair and deceptive trade practices, RICO, insurance and reinsurance, breach of contract, consumer protection, product liability, and antitrust, among many others.
Some of the clients we have successfully represented include: C&S Wholesale Grocers, Showtime Networks, Univision, Illumina, Marsh & McLennan, Sanofi, Procter & Gamble, CBS, Credit Suisse, Discovery Communications, ESPN, ExxonMobil, Farmers Insurance, Nuance Communications, and Forbes Media.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
The types of client matters I have worked on cover a wide range of areas: multiple television programmers in disputes with cable operators concerning the implications of significant cable operator acquisitions and mergers; a pharmaceutical company in an antitrust case alleging market exclusion by a competitor; a major cable network in connection with numerous high-profile disputes regarding the broadcast of professional boxing matches; an energy company with a multibillion-dollar valuation trial; a major television broadcaster in its successful early dismissal from a multi-district litigation relating to professional football programming; global pharmaceutical companies in several contract disputes in multiple international and domestic arbitral fora arising out of drug or device development collaboration, licensing, and merger agreements; a publisher of e-books in cases alleging a conspiracy to fix prices; a sports radio station in a nationwide class action alleging violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act; a radio broadcaster in connection with an arbitration regarding the creation of a national sports radio network; a multi-media rights organization in a contract dispute with a major state university; a private university in its successful withdrawal from a Division I athletic conference; and a portfolio company of a major private equity firm in a series of multi-jurisdictional bankruptcy and turnover litigations concerning ownership of shares of one of its minority shareholders.
Among the clients I have represented are CBS, Providence Equity Partners and some of its portfolio companies, Showtime Networks, Sanofi, Entercom, and Simon & Schuster. I have represented both plaintiffs and defendants.
How did you choose this practice area?
My area is general commercial litigation. It allows me to remain a generalist and to interface with many colleagues throughout the firm in order to bring the best solutions for our clients. I rarely repeat the same problem, so it keeps my work very interesting.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
There’s no typical day, and there are definitely no common tasks. First, I scan a variety of news and information channels to get up to speed on what’s new with my clients—the companies and my in-house colleagues who work there. If a new complaint has been filed or an appellate court has issued an opinion that affects their businesses, I assess and communicate with them to offer our assistance and counsel. Then I turn to new business, reading briefings and updates from my team so that I can revert to my clients to discuss next steps, whether it is resolving a brewing dispute via a business-oriented mechanism, finalizing a draft complaint, or writing letters to opposing counsel. Afterwards, I catch up on longer-term matters, typically including reviewing and revising briefing and pleadings, assessing deposition testimony, and discussing strategy with co- and in-house counsel. Oftentimes I’m on the road, attending court hearings and arguing motions, so a lot of this is done by phone. The entire time, I’m always thinking about what’s next—planning business meetings and lunches with clients, checking LinkedIn and using it to interface with colleagues, reading the trade publications, and generally staying in front of my contacts. There is a great deal of work under intense pressure—a work environment I thrive in.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
We don’t require that new lawyers have specific classes under their belts. With our excellent mentoring and coaching programs, you will learn what is needed on the job. However, we do need lawyers joining our practice to have a high degree of writing acumen. We look for people with good judgment who are willing to work hard and stay focused. We value attorneys with an entrepreneurial mindset who are not afraid to take risks, rather than particular courses or training.
What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?
The most challenging part of our practice is having to master many areas of the law and in fact become what I call a “multi-specialist.” You really must be able to represent clients, as either plaintiff or defendant, across any type of cases and jurisdictions and understand the risks and opportunities involved from a business and legal perspective. For me, the litigation practice has included prosecuting a major antitrust complaint for Sanofi; defending media companies in IP, antitrust, and contract disputes regarding everything from college athletes to text-message-based sports promotions; and handling a confirmation trial in a billion-dollar bankruptcy.
What do you like best about your practice area?
The flip side of the need to acquire specialist-level skills across many areas of the law is that my practice is extremely interesting and exciting because of the variety of matters I handle. I think that is what I like best about it. One moment I am representing a client in an antitrust MDL in Kansas federal court, while the next I am advising private equity clients on warding off legal claims before they enter the courtroom, and still the next I’m preparing state-by-state assessments of laws governing everything from the right of publicity to gambling. The variety is seemingly endless.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area?
First, there is a misconception that a commercial litigator’s job only starts when a dispute has come to the surface. In reality, much of my practice is advising my clients on potential rights and obligations if certain situations were to come to pass and then walking them through how to protect themselves and their businesses. In that sense, we are risk counselors and business advocates first and litigators second—not strictly confined to active disputes.
Yet the biggest misconception about commercial litigators is the idea that, once actively representing a client in a dispute in court, they are all about resolving disputes before trial—either through motion practice or settlements. We are here to achieve the right outcome for our clients’ business needs. If that means taking the case to trial, we are certainly ready to
do that and have shown that we are among the finest trial litigators in the world. If, on the other hand, negotiating to resolution is the better option for the overall needs of the business, we of course are extremely skillful at resolving disputes that way as well.
What is unique about this practice area at your firm?
One major way that Weil differentiates itself from other firms is through our trial resume. Drawing on the robust experience of leading trial lawyers across all of our practices and offices, we have the tools to take any matter to trial—and win. We always seek the most cost-effective, efficient, and judicious solution from a business standpoint for our clients—but our clients and our adversaries always know we are prepared to advocate in the courtroom. That knowledge impacts how adversaries assess risk along the way. Associates have the opportunity to play lead roles in the trial engagements at an early stage of their careers. Lawyers in our practice also have the opportunity to work a wide variety of engagements and become multi-specialists. As I have mentioned, my own areas of specialization range from pharma antitrust and media company IP to sports contract disputes and a multibillion-dollar bankruptcy. Finally, our breadth of clients is remarkable: We represent financial institutions, corporates and private equity, and more.
Weil has an excellent record in defending complex, multi-plaintiff actions, including proceedings before the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (MDL) and under various state multi-district litigation statutes, as well as class and collective actions in state and federal courts around the U.S. From multi-hundred-plaintiff MDLs regarding health care reimbursement rates and product defects to significant class actions asserting claims for treble damages under the antitrust laws and RICO statute, Weil’s commercial litigators have extensive experience litigating high-value claims, cases of first impression, and other significant issues in these contexts for clients across the industry spectrum.
In 2018, the New York Law Journal recognized the firm as Class Action Litigation Department of the Year, and Weil was one of 10 firms nationally that received an Honorable Mention in the General Litigation competition of The American Lawyer’s Litigation Department of the Year contest. Weil is currently ranked as one of the Top 12 firms in New York for General Commercial Litigation: The Elite by Chambers USA 2018. Weil is also a Legal 500 U.S. 2018 top-ranked Tier 1 firm for General Commercial Litigation.