The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Wendy Huang Waszmer, Partner—Antitrust
Wendy Huang Waszmer is an antitrust and litigation partner who represents and defends companies and individual employees in criminal cartel and other U.S. and cross-border government investigations, and in federal court cases and trials. Her first experience in antitrust was working on a Department of Justice investigation as a first-year associate. On that investigation, she saw up close how companies and their employees, as well as government prosecutors, respond to allegations that collusion or fraud has undermined markets and consumer interests. After that, she spent 10 years in public service as a law clerk to the Honorable Richard J. Leon, United States District Judge for the District of Columbia; an Assistant U.S. Attorney at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York; and later, in policy and leadership roles in the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. Being part of the Wilson Sonsini team has been a boost to her practice because of the firm’s experience with high-tech and innovative companies, the diversity of viewpoints and expertise of her colleagues, and the “think-outside-of-the-box” culture.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
I often describe my practice as having two majors, which overlap: antitrust and litigation. On the antitrust side, I represent companies and individual employees who are under federal investigation; sometimes, those investigations could lead to criminal charges or civil litigation filed in federal court. I am a defense counsel for clients in those scenarios. Antitrust investigations are interesting because they require assessment of facts and people in multiple countries across numerous business and product lines, and antitrust agencies around the world cooperate and communicate with each other. As a result of this global scope, I spend time during the year in Europe and Asia and also have contacts with counsel in Latin America, Saudi Arabia, and other countries. Even when companies are not facing an investigation, I provide counseling and legal advice to clients when they need to assess whether their business practices—for example, how they distribute their products—raise antitrust issues. As I have a background as a trial lawyer, there are times when I represent companies and individuals in other types of civil litigation in federal and state courts in New York and nationwide.
What types of clients do you represent?
At Wilson Sonsini, we work with companies making exciting and groundbreaking moves in high-tech and innovation markets. The best part is that our clients are at all stages of the corporate life cycle, from global public companies—like Google, Qualcomm, Netflix, and Symantec—to individual founders of startups that are the next-generation trailblazers (and every stage in between).
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
I will share two recent examples of the kinds of matters I
worked on in the past year. First, I am working with a team of antitrust, data privacy, and investigations lawyers to defend a tech company in global regulatory investigations and
class action litigation that raise fundamental questions about the way users interact with news, social media, and online platforms. We are making significant efforts to work collaboratively with agencies in the U.S. and other countries to understand their concerns and provide information about cutting-edge products and services. A second example is that I represent several executives in a U.S. government investigation into alleged fraud and criminal cartel violations. My objective in these matters is to understand clearly what the clients’ exposure is and to advocate on their behalf for successful resolution of the investigations without charges. If there are charges brought against them, we will litigate on our clients’ behalf in federal court.
How did you choose this practice area?
My path to being an antitrust and litigation partner was a bit of a zigzag—not linear. My practice resulted from years of exploring and finding a community of lawyers I want to be around (and try cases with when we have the chance!). I began my legal career as an antitrust associate and was mentored by several female antitrust partners in my first year of practice. After that, I took a six-year detour from antitrust to learn how to try court cases, first seeing trials during my clerkship and after that, being in court every week as an Assistant United States Attorney. Although being a litigator is a very demanding career, the camaraderie and the challenge of doing cases is very meaningful. I ultimately returned to anti-trust because there were opportunities for me to serve in the Department of Justice Antitrust Division with some of the colleagues that I had worked with at the start of my career, and there were large-scale trials on the horizon at that time. These cases are difficult and big, and I like the challenge.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
What is amazing and challenging with my practice is that it varies so much day to day. Here’s an example of a recent day:
9:00 a.m.: Video call with a client to discuss responses and next steps in a global competition investigation.
10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.: Walk down the hallway to check in with a senior associate about preparation for a deposition in a federal civil antitrust case, including how the witness will react to questioning and key documents. The senior associate and I both conduct the deposition. Talk about pro bono civil rights case with the same senior associate and payment of the settlement the associate has secured for the client.
12:15 p.m. - 12:30p.m.: Talk with a new associate about draft letter and how certain positions in discovery impact trial. Discuss pros, cons, and examples of when my chosen strategy wasn’t as effective.
12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.: Team meeting with WSGR attorneys to discuss response to discovery motions and economic expert reports in an antitrust case and hear the group’s feedback on advocacy.
3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.: Calls and correspondence on a criminal antitrust investigation in which U.S. and state agencies have asked the client for production of information.
The rest of the afternoon into evening: Videocalls with cross-office associate team to talk about scope and interviews in an internal investigation. Draft summary to give the client an update on key facts.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
I would recommend that a person seek out and get to know antitrust professors and lawyers (newer and more experienced) who have worked in government, firm, or in-house positions to ask them about their careers and get to know the subject matter area. In terms of training, the more practical exposure newer lawyers have, the more confident they will be in problem solving and working with clients and other people. A lack of confidence (especially when starting out in a legal career when one has less experience) can be paralyzing. Among the best ways to gain confidence and practical experience are clinics and other court/client-oriented programs at law school, federal or state clerkships, and pro bono representations that put you in contact with people who need your help.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
Like our clients—which include the full range of technology companies, from new startups to well-known social media and digital platforms—our lawyering needs to be fast paced, creative, and energetic. Our clients are trailblazers, and we strive to keep up and advise them well as they grow and change.
I came to WSGR’s Antitrust practice because it was one of the most innovative and highly regarded competition practices that had talent at all levels of experience. We have an unusually diverse group of lawyers, with lawyers in their first two decades of practice leading some of the group’s cases and business development, as well as more experienced lawyers who are viewed as luminaries in the field of competition. We have more than a dozen attorneys who were previously government antitrust attorneys in U.S. and European agencies, so we have seen both sides of arguments.
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
Here is what one first-year attorney has worked on with me in the course of a week:
- Preparing and thinking through material for an economic expert report for an antitrust case.
- Attending deposition preparation sessions with witnesses, including preparing key topics and documents to review with the witnesses.
- Researching criminal procedure topics for a DOJ investigation.
- Handling calls with a pro bono client regarding a federal court case.
- Attending a lunch for diverse antitrust attorneys to encourage law students to explore antitrust.
What kinds of experience can summer associates gain in this practice area at your firm?
Summer associates with WSGR’s Antitrust group do real work, and we have them try out the same types of projects that they would do if they joined us after law school—seeing depositions, researching and drafting memos and briefs, and interacting with clients. They get to know colleagues of all experience levels, from new associates to senior partners. We have them help us with business development (e.g., attending client meetings and preparing presentations), so they see how clients view us and how important client relationships are for our practice. We also give feedback on their work, including areas for further development. We want them to have a realistic idea of what it is like to work as a WSGR antitrust attorney.
What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?
Among the newer attorneys I have a chance to work with in my practice, there are many paths:
- Federal, state, or overseas antitrust/competition agencies (e.g., Department of Justice has an Honors Attorney Program for new attorneys to join government service).
- Private law firms of all sizes, working on antitrust litigation (plaintiff or defense side), counseling on antitrust issues, and responding to government investigations.
- Nonprofit competition and consumer protection public interest and advocacy organizations.
- In-house legal departments that have M&A, litigation, competition, and regulatory attorneys.
- Research and other academic positions in economic and competition areas.