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Overview

In a litigation practice, lawyers represent clients in a range of disputes, which can be either civil or criminal. Depending on the case, litigators will counsel clients through the pleadings stage, at trial, in alternative dispute resolution, or during internal investigations. Among the tasks that a litigator may perform are researching issues and writing memorandums; doing such discovery work as completing document review, drafting and responding to pleadings, engaging in meet and confers, and taking or defending depositions; preparing for and going to trial; conducting internal investigations; drafting and submitting amicus briefs on behalf of a client or organization, etc. Litigation is a broad career path that offers opportunities to work in a various areas, including—but not limited to—antitrust, appellate, bankruptcy, criminal law, environmental law, general commercial, insurance, housing, human rights, labor and employment, media, patents and intellectual property, product liability and mass torts, securities, white collar, and more. Those within large law firms will often practice general commercial litigation through which they advise companies on their litigation matters. At some law firms, litigators will operate as generalists, taking on a range of matters and not specializing in a specific subspecialty. Many litigators apply to become judicial law clerks to gain insight into the judicial process.

Featured Q&A's
Get an insider's view on working in Litigation from real lawyers in the practice area.
Vanessa A. Lavely, Partner
Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My practice area is complex commercial litigation. That covers a broad range of subject matters, with most cases fitting into more than one bucket. My recent work for Qualcomm is a good example. As part of the Cravath team, I represented Qualcomm in its global dispute with Apple, which involved 180 lawsuits around the world concerning antitrust, contract, and patent issues, the intersection of which yielded many issues of first impression. In a sense, my “specialty” is complicated high-stakes litigation that does not fit neatly into one practice area, which is part of what draws me to it.

What types of clients do you represent?

I have represented companies across a wide variety of industries. Much of my work has been for companies that, generally speaking, make things—historical production of carbonless copy paper (NCR) or talcum powder products (Colgate-Palmolive), innovative work with specialty mineral products and services (Mineral Technologies), industry-changing work with electric cars and other clean energy solutions (Tesla), or modems and other cellular technology (Qualcomm). I have also had the privilege of representing some of the world’s largest banks, including Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan, in matters concerning complex securities and derivatives.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Overall, I tend to work on cases with a high likelihood of going to trial or an arbitration hearing. For Qualcomm, I primarily focused on the antitrust and contract claims in California federal court by and against Apple and the companies that manufacture Apple’s phones. As one of Qualcomm’s trial counsel for that matter, I was ready for a five-week courtroom battle. Following opening statements at trial, we were able to reach a favorable global settlement for Qualcomm. In recent years, I have also represented Colgate-Palmolive in product liability lawsuits concerning its talcum powder products. I have tried three cases for Colgate; one resulted in a unanimous verdict in Colgate’s favor after a three-month jury trial, and two settled during trial. This coming year, I will serve as trial counsel for the Tesla Board of Directors in two shareholder derivative matters in Delaware.

How did you choose this practice area?

When interviewing candidates for our summer program, I typically ask if they are leaning toward litigation or corporate (or another area). Many are undecided and want to try both, having not had much, if any, exposure to transactional work in law school. That was not me. I knew I wanted to be a trial lawyer even before law school. I worked during and after college at my uncle’s entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. My two main takeaways: I don’t care much about celebrity culture (a minority opinion at an entertainment firm!), and I want to be on my feet in a courtroom as much as possible. I navigated a path in law school that would lead me to that goal. After my clerkship, it was a no-brainer to accept Cravath’s offer. From headlines, I already knew that Cravath handled many of the most high-profile litigation matters. I was also drawn to the Cravath System, which I could discuss for hours ... and often do during recruiting season! As I approach my 10-year anniversary, I can’t imagine working anywhere else.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

A classic lawyer answer: It depends. In one case, I may be gearing up for trial in a couple of months. My day-to-day work for that client will involve revising drafts of pre-trial submissions (motions in limine, Dauberts, pre-trial briefs, exhibit lists) and preparing direct and cross-examination outlines, among many other tasks. In another case, I may be working on fact depositions. By that time, we will already have crafted a trial strategy, and the deposition prep will focus on getting (or avoiding) key admissions. I then fly around the country for several weeks to take and defend the depositions. Although planning and preparation is critical for effective litigation, I most look forward to “game day”—taking a deposition, arguing a critical motion, or examining a witness at trial. Regardless of a case’s stage, I typically communicate with my client about it on a daily basis.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

I have three pieces of advice for future trial lawyers:

1) Practice your written advocacy. Most of your interactions with the court will be by motion or other formal written submissions. And most communications with your client and opposing counsel will be by email. Read books about effective legal writing. Read great briefs. Then practice and be open to feedback.

2) Practice your oral advocacy. Seek out opportunities in law school to be on your feet, whether in moot court or a clinical program.

3) Know business basics. If you work at a big law firm, most of your clients will be corporations. You definitely don’t need an MBA to be a good litigator, but you need to know enough to understand your client’s business and how a particular dispute could affect it. Beyond that, no specific class is essential for a generalist. Once you hone the core litigation skills, you should be able to apply those to any area of law and any industry.

What do you like best about your practice area?

Before “game day” arrives, litigators spend many hours digging into the facts and law underlying a case’s seemingly intractable problems. In my experience, the best litigators are inherently curious and enjoy learning. Litigation often involves a deep dive into a client’s business and industry, cutting-edge technology, and complex financial issues. When I represented NCR in various environmental matters, I had to become an expert in paper recycling, wastewater treatment, and Superfund remediation. To defend Morgan Stanley in an antitrust matter, I learned everything I could about credit default swaps. It is a privilege that companies entrust us to handle some of their most challenging legal problems. That I find it intellectually stimulating is an added benefit.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

I often hear people say that cases rarely go to trial anymore. Although the number of trials is declining in the industry as a whole, that is not true at Cravath. We are often retained precisely because a case is likely to go to trial. Sometimes settling is not a viable option, perhaps because the very structure of a client’s business is at issue. We prepare every case as if it is going to trial, and many of them do. I have averaged one trial per year since I joined Cravath. That said, not every case should go to trial. Above all, we serve our client’s interests. It is critical to know how your client defines a “win” in a particular dispute.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

With the support of partners and clients, I was given opportunities early and often as a junior associate. Within two years at the firm, I had taken or defended, as first chair, nearly a dozen depositions; taken the lead in drafting various filings, including a preliminary injunction motion and appeal; attended three trials in federal court; and examined witnesses (direct and cross) in two of those trials. By BigLaw standards, Cravath’s Litigation department is relatively small. We strongly believe in lean staffing, which benefits both our clients and our associates. It is common for a junior Cravath associate to handle a meet and confer or oral argument against a partner from another firm. Watching an experienced litigator can be valuable, but there is no substitute for learning by doing.

What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?

Within my first year at Cravath, I knew I wanted to spend my career at the firm, if they would have me. Because Cravath does not hire laterally (with rare exceptions), each first-year class likely includes one or more future Cravath partners. We train associates with that in mind—we are building the future of our firm. Our rotation system gives associates exposure to many partners and areas of law. For various reasons, some associates ultimately decide to pursue other opportunities, such as the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or an in-house position. A third-year Cravath associate often has more hands-on experience than senior associates at other firms, so there is no shortage of options. Even after associates leave, they are still part of the broader Cravath family. We maintain a strong alumni network; many clients are former Cravath associates.

Vanessa A. Lavely, Partner—Litigation

Vanessa A. Lavely is a partner in Cravath’s Litigation department. Her broad trial practice covers a wide variety of complex litigation matters, including antitrust, intellectual property, environmental, general commercial, and securities matters. Vanessa’s clients have included Atlas Air, Colgate‑Palmolive, JPMorgan Chase, Mineral Technologies, Morgan Stanley, NCR, Qualcomm, and Tesla.

In 2019 and 2020, Vanessa was named a “Future Star” by Benchmark Litigation and was included in the publication’s “40 & Under Hot List.” She was also recognized by The Legal 500 United States for her work in antitrust, general commercial, and patent litigation.

Vanessa received an A.B. degree, magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 2004 and received a J.D. from the UCLA School of Law in 2008, where she was elected to the Order of the Coif. After graduation, she clerked for the Hon. Kim McLane Wardlaw of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Vanessa joined Cravath in 2010 and was elected a partner in 2017.

Vanessa resides in New York City.

Lynn K. Neuner, Partner • Jacob Lundqvist, Associate
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Lynn: I was trained as a generalist and still am to this day. In a market with increasing specialization, I chose to remain a diversified commercial litigator, and the breadth of cases I handle has made my practice both fascinating and professionally rewarding. My work involves counseling clients daily on a wide variety of legal issues and advising on the best course of action when matters become embroiled. Court is my home away from home, and I’ve handled dozens of trials and appeals in state and federal courts throughout the country, guiding cases through fact and expert discovery and related motion practice. I work very closely with my corporate partners and am regularly brought in to advise on litigation-related concerns in connection with major corporate transactions.

Jacob: Like Lynn, I am also a generalist. My work runs the gamut, from performing document review to drafting letters and briefs to conducting research. In my pro bono cases, I handle everything from the ground up, counseling clients directly and managing all aspects of the litigation.

What types of clients do you represent?

Lynn: Our clients include large financial institutions, pharmaceutical companies, mega insurers, tech giants, domestic manufacturers, and individual directors and officers. Over the past few years, I have represented TD Bank, Pfizer, Travelers, Bayer, Merck, Hovnanian, Weight Watchers, Avianca Airlines, CorpBanca, Ingersoll-Rand, and Hay Island Holdings, to name a few. Pro bono work is also a significant priority; I represent a group of United States veterans in a major lawsuit challenging the years-long delays in VA resolution of disability benefits appeals.

Jacob: Since I arrived at the firm in 2018, I’ve worked on litigation matters on behalf of Valeant Pharmaceuticals; Versum Materials; and NN, Inc. In addition, I’ve represented the Natural Resources Defense Council and individual clients seeking unemployment insurance from their former employers on a pro bono basis.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Lynn: I regularly handle all kinds of high-end corporate disputes and contract entanglements, including shareholder litigations, M&A disputes, insurance coverage matters, and false advertising disputes. I also represent pharmaceutical clients that manufacture over-the-counter brands like Advil and Claritin in false advertising disputes, which is a lot of fun.

One case I’m working on now is on behalf of The Toronto-Dominion Bank in connection with the Stanford International Bank litigation, alleged to be the second-largest Ponzi scheme after Madoff’s. Roughly $7.5 billion was lost through an Antiguan bank, which sold certificates of deposit to about 24,000 investors across the globe. We successfully defeated a class certification initiative that sought to certify a global class of investors, and we are now focused on a receiver litigation. Dozens of depositions are currently taking place across several continents.

Jacob: I’m working on a complex securities litigation involving Valeant Pharmaceuticals, and I’m also representing the Board of Pacific Gas & Electric in litigation arising out of wildfires in Northern California. In addition, I’ve worked on several internal investigations on behalf of clients in various industries. Having a diverse practice from day one has been very stimulating.

How did you choose this practice area?

Lynn: Litigation was a natural fit for my passions and abilities. I enjoy reading, analytical thinking, creative problem-solving, and writing. Litigation allows me to deploy my studious tendencies in a more extroverted way, through communication with the court, jury, clients, and adversaries.

Jacob: The advocacy part of litigation is what drew me to this practice area. I enjoy learning a new set of facts and analyzing them to determine what is at the core of the dispute. I also enjoy digging into the law to make the best possible case for our clients.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

Lynn: I don’t think I’ve had a typical day yet! I may begin the day thinking that I’m going to devote myself to reviewing a witness script for an upcoming trial, but two hours into the morning, I get an urgent telephone call about a potential dispute in connection with a contemplated merger working on a tight deadline. Emergency matters come up all the time, as our clients need to try to resolve litigation concerns as quickly and efficiently as possible so that they can get back to business. My days are exciting and fast paced, and I’m lucky to be busy.

Jacob: You never know what the day will bring when you walk into the office, which is part of the fun! I will often switch between drafting pleadings and letters to working on discovery and communicating with clients to brief them on issues where they have asked for our advice.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Lynn: I think it’s very important for students and new lawyers to get as much “on-your-feet” experience as possible. In law school, I was a member of the Barristers’ Union, which gives students the opportunity to learn trial-advocacy skills by assuming the role of attorneys in a simulated jury trial. We prepared witnesses, drafted pre-trial motions, delivered opening and closing statements, and conducted direct and cross examinations. Evidence is also a must for litigators, and for students who intend to practice in BigLaw, they should become well versed in corporations and business law.

Jacob: The ability to share information in a clear and concise way is a key skill for an attorney, so I would take any opportunity to practice your presentation skills. I would also re-commend taking a negotiation workshop.

What do you like best about your practice area?

Lynn: My favorite part of the job is going to trial. It’s the culmination of all the work that we do—the discovery process, the depositions, the briefing, the legal analysis. Trial is our chance to demonstrate to the judge, the tribunal, or the jury why our client has been wronged or why its interests should prevail. At trial, we leverage talent from across the entire team, which gives everyone the chance to shine.

Jacob: I really enjoy absorbing a new set of facts and learning what the client wants, what the law says, and piecing it together to advance our client’s interests. It’s crucial to keep these different aspects in mind. In law school, students are given a fact pattern and a set of governing legal principles. But when you’re working at a firm, you quickly realize that our clients have important commercial interests, and you need to learn how those interests come into play in any given matter and how to achieve the client’s commercial goals in the context of a large business dispute.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

Jacob: I would say, especially to people on the fence about litigation, that there are misconceptions about the “personality types” of litigators. In my mind, you don’t need to be a brash or super-aggressive person to succeed in litigation. The keys to becoming a successful litigator are being thoughtful about your work and capable of expressing yourself in a clear way to your colleagues and clients.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

Lynn: Simpson Thacher may offer a different experience because our associates are able to simultaneously handle a securities litigation, an antitrust investigation, a pro bono death penalty case, and a false advertising arbitration. They learn the substantive law in a wide variety of fields while improving their litigation skills and servicing our clients’ needs. I can’t imagine a more diverse array of clients and cases than what we offer here at Simpson.

I’d also add that we are a highly integrated firm, and I call upon the expertise of my colleagues in other practice groups all the time. For example, in the trial I recently completed, I looked to my corporate partners to provide advice about appraisal methodology, which is something they understand intrinsically in a highly nuanced way. And conversely, we litigators are brought into the transactional side of Simpson Thacher’s practice on a daily basis.

Jacob: Our firm is somewhat unique because young lawyers obtain broad experience from day one. Associates are not siloed into one practice area, but instead have the opportunity to work across a multitude of disciplines. Further, our close relationship with the firm’s corporate lawyers is very special. In my M&A litigation work, we rely heavily on the Corporate department, and so I’ve learned to think in a more “commercial” way. The variety of work is gratifying and makes it fun to come to the office every day.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

Lynn: In a recent trial, associates prepared witness scripts, the trial exhibits, and the pre-trial briefs. We also conducted a “mock trial,” and during that process, each associate on the team was responsible for his or her particular witness. During our mock examination, the associate then played the role of the witness—challenging me in the questioning. That sort of role-playing is crucial to our preparation and exploration of insightful lines of inquiry.

Jacob: I’ve been off to the races in terms of representing clients and getting hands-on experience. In my unemployment insurance cases, I’ve conducted hearings before an administrative law judge. And in a very interesting environmental contamination case on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, I have already taken my first depositions. That litigation is scheduled to go to trial this summer, and I hope to be involved in presenting our client’s case in court.

Lynn K. Neuner, Partner, and Jacob Lundqvist, Associate—Litigation

Lynn Neuner is a senior litigation partner with substantial experience in securities, insurance, false advertising, and other complex commercial litigation matters. Named one of Benchmark Litigation’s “Top 10 Female Litigators in America” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers,” Lynn has secured wins in cases ranging from a complex credit-default swap litigation on behalf of Hovnanian Enterprises to a significant Second Circuit victory on behalf of Pfizer in a longstanding false advertising battle to a critically important pro bono lawsuit on behalf of United States veterans. The recipient of dozens of awards and honors, including Crain’s “Leading Women Lawyers in NYC,” Lynn was honored in 2018 as a “Distinguished Leader” by the New York Law Journal. She graduated from Yale Law School in 1992 and from Williams College, summa cum laude, in 1989.

A native of Sweden, Jacob Lundqvist is a junior litigation associate and has worked on a broad range of matters on behalf of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Versum Materials, and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Jacob obtained a B.A. from Yale, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, in 2015. In 2018, he graduated from Stanford Law School, where he was an editor of the Stanford Law Review, and also obtained a Master of Laws, with distinction, from the University of Vienna.

Claire DeLelle, Partner
White & Case LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My practice involves representing foreign entities in U.S. litigation. While I occasionally appear on the plaintiff’s side, my practice has largely focused on representing named defendants. My practice typically involves moving to dismiss complaints against my client and continuing to represent them at trial, when necessary, and through any appeals process. (At White & Case, our attorneys see their cases all the way from the trial court through to final appeal.)

What types of clients do you represent?

Although my litigation practice involves a diverse group of clients, I have a strong focus on representing the interests of foreign sovereigns and their state-owned entities in U.S. litigation. These cases often involve analysis of foreign laws and legal systems and can also implicate questions of foreign sovereign immunity and sensitive issues that touch on U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. The majority of my non-sovereign clients are multinationals and include technology companies, mining companies, and financial institutions

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

As a generalist with some particular areas of specialization, I have defended clients on a vast array of subjects, including alleged expropriation of artifacts, bank fraud, reinsurance scams, material support of terrorism, securities fraud, and violations of the antitrust laws, to name a few. Currently, my docket comprises, among other matters, representation of foreign sovereigns in various federal trial and appellate courts, including in the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal antitrust case brought under the Sherman Act (Sections 1 and 2), an Anti-Terrorism Act litigation, and even a global economic sanctions and export controls investigation.  

How did you choose this practice area?

I worked as a law clerk at a mid-sized litigation firm in DC while I was completing my LL.M., and I recall being inspired by the creativity and drive to win that one of the partners I worked with brought to his cases. In one case, he was defending a civil RICO action, and the law on a particularly critical issue appeared unfavorable to his client. He enlisted my help to deep dive that issue, and my work helped ensure that the brief carried the day for our client. It was very gratifying to see the adversarial system play out and know that I had contributed to a win for the client. I always knew I wanted to be a legal advocate, but the experience I had with this partner solidified my determination to build a similar career for myself. I am happy to say that I am surrounded by colleagues at White & Case who are incredibly creative and driven to win. 

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

I rarely have typical days! I start my week thinking that it will follow a particular path, and, invariably, new issues emerge that take the week down a very different road. This keeps things interesting, to say the least. Common tasks include analyzing case law, drafting and editing briefs, drafting advice in response to client questions, and getting on conference calls to discuss that advice; checking in with my teams on case-management issues, preparing for and taking depositions, and preparing for and arguing hearings; participating in conferences with courts and opposing counsel and witness interviews; and responding to new business opportunities.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

I encourage aspiring litigators to find any opportunity to hone their public-speaking skills. Moot court, legal clinic, and trial advocacy classes are obvious choices to do this, but there are so many other ways to improve public-speaking skills. For example, offer to introduce a speaker at your school, give a presentation, or present your views at a book club. In addition to the numerous litigation training opportunities we offer at White & Case, we hold a monthly litigation luncheon for our U.S. offices where our junior associates are encouraged to present on a variety of topics of interest. Similar opportunities are undoubtedly available to anyone aspiring to become a litigator. I also would encourage students to take an international law or transnational litigation course, if available, as well as evidence. Aspiring litigators should also consider pursuing a judicial clerkship or internship with a prosecutor’s or public defender’s office.

What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?

Litigation does not necessarily come with a predictable schedule. Clients can appear with emergent litigation problems without any notice, requiring that our teams spring into action quickly. This can require some flexibility. It also requires that our team members work collaboratively and effectively together under time constraints. I am lucky to work with amazing colleagues who are not only collaborative and extremely effective, but a pleasure to work with under any circumstances.

What do you like best about your practice area?

I enjoy the numerous opportunities we have at White & Case to work on novel legal issues and, in many instances, to play a key role in creating new precedent regarding those issues. An excellent example of this aspect of my practice is the cutting-edge work we have done for the Republic of the Sudan. Foreign sovereigns are presumptively immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts unless a statutory exception to immunity applies. Sudan was sued by victims of terrorist attacks and their families who alleged that a number of U.S. courts had jurisdiction over Sudan under the “terrorism” exception to immunity. The plaintiffs alleged that Sudan had provided material support to the terrorists who carried out those attacks because those terrorists had lived in Sudan years before the attack and had allegedly received support there. Sudan did not defend these cases, which meant that the plaintiffs were able to obtain sizeable default judgments. We were engaged not only to defend new cases that were being filed against Sudan, but to vacate the default judgments and convey our client’s desire to defend on the merits as necessary. We won decisive victories for our client in the new cases, successfully vacating billions of dollars of punitive damages in other cases and vacating multimillion-dollar default judgments through a U.S. Supreme Court decision, giving our client the opportunity to defend itself. In many of these cases, we advanced novel legal arguments that U.S. courts had never addressed before because foreign sovereigns subject to this immunity exception do not typically appear and litigate these types of cases.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

I am often asked this question by aspiring summer associates, and I tell each of them that the tasks a junior lawyer can perform in my practice area can vary depending on their capabilities and the lawyer’s desire to be involved. Junior lawyers in my area can perform any number of tasks, including drafting research memoranda to highlight strengths and weaknesses of claims, identifying legal arguments to dismiss complaints, drafting sections of court pleadings, and second-chairing depositions. Junior lawyers on my team contribute substantively in the team’s preparation for meetings with U.S. government officials and for oral arguments in court, including before the U.S. Supreme Court. While a junior lawyer’s tasks do not typically follow a “one-size-fits-all” approach, we do maintain benchmarks that junior lawyers should strive to meet, and our senior lawyers are committed to providing junior lawyers with the opportunities and training necessary to meet, and hopefully exceed, those benchmarks.

What do you feel are the benefits of taking a generalist approach in litigation versus pursuing a more specialized practice?

One of the key benefits I have experienced as a general commercial litigator is the sheer diversity of subject matter to which I am exposed. I thrive on immersing myself in new subject matter within the context of a U.S. litigation or counseling our clients to avoid or prepare them for possible litigation. The opportunity to constantly learn new subject matter keeps the practice fresh and engaging. Of course, as invariably happens, you do form particular areas of focus, but it is exciting to complement those areas with new subject matter.

Claire DeLelle, Partner—Commercial Litigation

Claire DeLelle is a partner in White & Case’s Commercial Litigation practice, based in Washington, DC. She has litigated cases in federal and state courts, at the trial and appellate levels, for 20 years. Her team recently achieved an 8-1 victory for a foreign sovereign client at the U.S. Supreme Court. She has an active international disputes litigation practice that focuses on complex cross-border issues. Her cases routinely concern U.S. foreign policy and international comity matters. She specializes in representing foreign and foreign-sovereign clients, particularly clients based in the Middle East and Africa, as well as international financial institutions in complex commercial litigations brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the Anti-Terrorism Act. She also advises clients on U.S. economic sanctions issues and leads global investigations under U.S. sanctions and export controls laws and regulations.

Jordan Rice, Associate
MoloLamken LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

MoloLamken is focused on representing clients in complex litigation. Beyond that focus, MoloLamken does not have practice groups. We take on civil, criminal, and regulatory cases and represent clients on both sides of the “v.” The subject matter of our cases is diverse, spanning business litigation, white collar defense, plaintiff-side class actions, intellectual property, bankruptcy, securities, and asset recovery, among other areas. We handle trials and appeals across the country and are growing an international arbitration practice. We also conduct internal investigations for clients around the world.

What types of clients do you represent?

As a boutique, MoloLamken has fewer conflicts than law firms with hundreds of attorneys. That affords the firm the ability to represent a wide variety of clients, including foreign sovereigns, Fortune 500 companies, hedge funds, private equity firms, corporate directors and officers, government officials, and other law firms. We also represent plaintiffs in class actions and individuals in criminal matters.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

We like to say we are advocates first and subject-matter specialists second, so my practice has spanned a broad variety of substantive areas. Recently, at the appellate level, I worked on an opposition to a petition for certiorari in defense of our client’s nearly $450-million patent-infringement verdict. I also drafted an appellate brief in a case where our client asserted professional negligence claims against its former auditor. At the trial level, I represent the largest energy infrastructure company in North America in a series of contract disputes against more than 20 companies. I also represent former executives in a habeas petition asserting Brady claims and claims of prosecutorial interference.

How did you choose this practice area?

As a law clerk, I enjoyed the diversity of cases that arrived on my judges’ dockets, the level of responsibility that came with each case, and the close-knit environment of chambers. I wanted my experience in private practice to reflect the things I liked most about clerking. I did not want to be limited to one area of the law, to have to choose between appellate and trial work, or to work at a firm focused on only one industry. With these goals in mind, MoloLamken was an obvious choice. It was the only boutique I considered where I could truly be a generalist and work on a mix of trial and appellate matters.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

One of the things that I like most about MoloLamken is that my work varies substantially day to day. On some days, my cases will take me out of the office for witness prep, a hearing in court, or strategy meetings with clients. Other days, I may focus primarily on drafting a brief or discovery responses, turning away from that work for intermittent meetings and client calls scheduled throughout the day. Because MoloLamken staffs cases across its three offices, I am in frequent contact via phone, email, and video conference with my colleagues in New York and Washington, DC. Often, I’ll spend part of the day catching up with my colleagues about their weekends, bouncing ideas off of them for a case, or joining them for lunch or a happy hour.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

For law school students, I recommend gaining practical litigation experience. Participate in clinics and complete an externship for a judge with a record of giving externs substantive assignments. These are great ways to see how the theoretical concepts you learn in your classes are applied in practice. Students should also seek out professors who litigate cases in addition to their more traditional academic duties. Most law schools have a handful of professors who take on cases, and many of those professors are looking for students to provide valuable research and litigation support. For practicing lawyers looking to transition to a litigation boutique, do as much as you can to gain substantive experience. Try to get assigned to cases with small case teams where you will be given more responsibility, and take on pro bono matters where you can take ownership of the case.

What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?

The most difficult thing about practicing at a litigation boutique is encountering tasks and issues that are entirely unfamiliar early in your career. MoloLamken staffs cases efficiently, and a new attorney may be the sole associate assigned to a matter. That makes for a steep learning curve, which can feel overwhelming. But confronting new challenges every day is also part of the fun of practicing at a boutique, and it provides ample opportunity to quickly develop as a lawyer. Additionally, I am always able to rely on the experience and insight of my colleagues as I confront unfamiliar issues.

What do you like best about your practice area?

The variety of cases is the best thing about MoloLamken’s broad litigation practice. I have worked on civil and criminal cases at the trial court, on appeal, and before the Supreme Court. The subject matter of those cases has been diverse, involving securities fraud, an Appointments Clause challenge to the constitutionality of a government agency, patent disputes, a habeas petition, bankruptcy, and antitrust, among other areas of the law. And the cases have involved parties and courts across the U.S. and around the world. The diversity of MoloLamken’s cases has kept the work fresh.

What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?

One major difference between MoloLamken and other law firms—particularly larger ones with a higher associate-to-partner ratio—is that MoloLamken hires associates with the expectation that they can one day become partners. Since I started at the firm, all of the attorneys who have joined the partnership were promoted from the ranks of associates. The remaining partners at MoloLamken started the firm, joined during MoloLamken’s first few years of existence, or came directly from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The firm has grown by developing young attorneys in-house rather than hiring partners for their books of business. So during my time at MoloLamken, the typical path for associates has been to become partners at the firm.

How is practicing litigation in a boutique different from practicing in a large law firm?

The biggest difference in practicing at a litigation boutique like MoloLamken as compared to larger law firms is the size of each case team. Most case teams at MoloLamken consist of no more than three or four attorneys, and many case teams are made up of just one partner and one associate. This is true even though we are up against some of the largest firms in the world on matters involving billions of dollars. I am, for example, the only associate in an appellate matter against a major accounting firm and a trial-court matter involving more than 20 parties, many of which are among the largest companies in the world. Because case teams are smaller, associates must take on greater responsibility at boutiques than at larger law firms. Another difference is the breadth of our practice. Associates need not select a practice group or even choose between trial-court or appellate litigation.

Jordan Rice, Associate

Jordan Rice’s practice focuses on complex civil litigation, white collar matters, and appellate litigation. Prior to joining MoloLamken, Jordan served as a law clerk to Judge Amy J. St. Eve on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and to Judge Albert Diaz on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Jordan received his A.B. from Duke University and his J.D. from Stanford Law School, where he was an editor of the Stanford Law Review and a member of OUTLaw. Before law school, he was a legal assistant at Google, Inc., where he responded to subpoenas, court orders, and search warrants from domestic law enforcement agencies.

Kieran Gostin, Partner • Betsy Henthorne, Associate
Wilkinson Stekloff

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

We are a trial litigation boutique and pride ourselves on being able to take any case to trial. The firm’s attorneys have now tried more than 100 cases in a wide variety of areas, including almost 20 trials since the firm opened its doors in
2016.

While we take cases at every stage, we are often hired to represent clients at or near the end of discovery. This means our cases are normally ramping up for trial, and our job is to focus on taking what is often a very broad record and simplifying it into a compelling narrative that will be persuasive to a jury.

What types of clients do you represent?

The firm represents a wide variety of clients—including large companies (Bayer, Allergan, Georgia Pacific), sports associations (NFL, NCAA), criminal defendants, and pro bono clients. The pro bono cases are some of the most rewarding, and we have been lucky enough to work together on a substantial pro bono matter representing incarcerated people in Missouri seeking treatment for hepatitis C.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

Like all attorneys at our firm, we are focused on cases headed toward trial. In terms of subject matter, there is no single type of case on which we work. As a firm, we are willing to take any case to trial, but over the past several years we have had antitrust, class action, criminal, products liability, and sports-related trials. Everybody at the firm floats between these areas and is exposed to all aspects of trial litigation.

How did you choose this practice area?

Kieran: I was working at the DOJ, and my practice mostly focused on briefing and arguing dispositive motions involving constitutional law and statutory interpretation. I joined Wilkinson Stekloff because I wanted a new challenge and to learn from some of the best trial lawyers in the country on how they approach cases. And I am glad I did because it has changed the way I practice as a lawyer. Going to trial regularly gives you a totally different perspective on every other part of a case—including how to take depositions, how to deal with opposing counsel, and even how you argue in front of judges.

Betsy: I knew in law school that I wanted to focus on litigation. I did a trial-focused clinic and interned in two public defenders’ offices and found I enjoyed being in the courtroom, working with witnesses, and making deals with opposing counsel. I particularly loved the problem-solving and strategy aspects of trial work. So, after finishing my clerkships, I looked for a firm where I could do that kind of work with smart people on tough cases. That’s Wilkinson Stekloff in a nutshell.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

No two days are the same, and a lot of what we do depends on the stage of the case. As a general matter, we focus a lot of our time on preparing our cases for trial and then going to trial.

Preparing for trial covers a lot of ground, but on any given day, we might be meeting with clients, participating in internal strategy meetings, prepping witnesses for cross, developing direct and cross examinations, preparing opening statements, or drafting dispositive or trial-related briefs.

The best part of our job is actually going to trial. The hours can be long, but every day brings a lot of excitement. Regardless of which lawyer is standing up in the courtroom, the entire team has to work together to analyze the evidence as it comes in, react, and provide our best response. It is a very collaborative process that is really quite unlike anything else we do as lawyers.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

There is no substitute for getting trial experience. We would recommend doing anything you can to get that experience, whether it be working at a trial firm over the summer, doing a law school clinic or government internship that gives you exposure to trials, or even doing moot court or mock trial in law school. The most important indicator of whether somebody will be a successful trial lawyer is whether he or she has a passion for the work. The best advice we can give to an attorney who is thinking about becoming a trial lawyer is to get out there and see what it is actually like.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

One of the biggest misconceptions from candidates applying to our firm is that writing is not an important skill for trial lawyers. We both spend a lot of time writing, and it is still the chief way that we communicate with the court. Sometimes we are writing a lot because our firm is taking the lead on dispositive briefing, but there is also an incredible amount of other briefing that occurs before and during trial. That briefing can have a significant effect on the course of trial—from influencing the evidence that is admitted by the court to shaping the instructions that are read to the jury. But it also has a more intangible effect, as you educate the judge on the merits of your case and hopefully win her or him over to your side.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

Wilkinson Stekloff’s relentless focus on trial is part of what makes working here so rewarding. While many firms and lawyers view trial as a last resort, we are thinking about our presentation to the jury from the moment a complaint is filed, or whenever a case first comes to the firm. We develop our trial themes early and use them to guide our decision-making at every stage.

That means we do everything, from depositions to document discovery to the briefing of dispositive motions, with an eye towards our ultimate trial strategy. To take just one example, we don’t just look for experts who agree with our position—we want someone with a compelling story, who will be able to connect with jurors and explain difficult concepts in a way regular people can understand.

Being able to make good arguments will only get you so far—we want to make our case come alive for the jury. This approach is more difficult but also a lot more interesting and a lot more fun.

What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?

Betsy: Beth (Wilkinson), Alex (Walsh), and Brian (Stekloff) always say they founded this firm to train the next generation of trial lawyers. And they mean it. Our business model, which consists exclusively of flat fees, means associates get a lot of exposure to clients, witnesses, and opposing counsel. Even junior associates have a seat at the table for strategy and witness meetings, and associate input is always taken seriously. Associates work closely with witnesses in a variety of contexts. This includes preparing for and attending in-person meetings, helping vet expert reports and other materials, drafting outlines for depositions and trial, working with witnesses to prepare PowerPoint presentations for trial, and writing strategy memos. Associates also help with opening statements and closing arguments at trial, conduct research (legal and otherwise—ask us about how associates’ factual research has helped solidify multiple trial victories!), and draft briefs. The bottom line is we aren’t wasting time billing hours or generating busy work—everyone is focused on the case we collectively will present to the jury.

How is practicing litigation in a boutique different from practicing in a large law firm?

Most of the differences are driven by the practical implications of having fewer attorneys—we have around 40 lawyers; whereas, large law firms can have hundreds if not thousands of lawyers. That means all of our attorneys have to be willing to dig in and participate in the management of the firm—whether by serving on the technology committee or helping to analyze potential business opportunities. But it also means you have a bigger voice right from the start: Many of the actions we have taken as a firm (both at trial and otherwise) were first suggested by some of our most junior associates.

The other big difference is a personal one. At a smaller firm, particularly when you are going to trial together on a regular basis, you end up knowing everyone else really well. That creates a different type of environment and encourages the feeling that you and your colleagues are teammates.

Kieran Gostin, Partner, and Betsy Henthorne, Associate

Kieran Gostin is a partner at Wilkinson Stekloff. Since joining Wilkinson Stekloff at the end of 2016, Kieran has represented company defendants in five trials that went to verdict, with each case resulting in a defense judgment. Before joining Wilkinson Stekloff as an associate, Kieran was a trial attorney in the Federal Programs Branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he defended the legality of federal statutes and executive agency action. Last year, Law360 selected Kieran as a Rising Star, an honor given to “attorneys under 40 whose legal accomplishments transcend their age.”

Betsy Henthorne is an associate at Wilkinson Stekloff. After graduating from Georgetown Law, Betsy clerked on the Southern District of New York, the D.C. Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Since joining the firm, Betsy has worked on numerous paying and pro bono matters at various stages, including discovery, dispositive motions, trial, and post-conviction. In 2019, she was part of the trial team that won a complete defense verdict in a multi-state consumer fraud class action, and she and another associate secured the release of a pro bono client who had been given a life sentence at 16 years old.

 

Lindsay Harrison, Partner
Jenner & Block LLP

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.

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.

D. Farrington Yates, Partner
Kobre & Kim LLP

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

My practice is focused on disputes and investigations connected to insolvency and financial restructuring settings. For example, in one matter, an independent committee of a board of directors for a company that was planning to file for Chapter 11 reorganization asked Kobre & Kim to investigate whether a transaction with its private equity sponsor was fraudulent or not.

In another matter, we represent an insolvency administrator of a failed German bank to wind-down and liquidate the bank’s operations in the United States through Chapter 15 proceedings. The bank had been closed after German regulators found evidence that bank employees facilitated a tax evasion scheme. A final example is where we helped a trustee of a litigation trust to recover assets stolen from a company by one of its former officers by tracing those assets and the flow of money through bank accounts and trusts in other countries before filing court proceedings to freeze and seize those assets.

Generally, I can add the most value if I assist with an investigation or dispute that includes allegations of fraud or wrongdoing, involves a cross-border element, and is related to an insolvency or financial restructuring.

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent court-appointed fiduciaries in insolvency or restructuring proceedings, like insolvency administrators, trustees, and liquidators, as well as financial creditors in insolvency-related disputes. As you can tell from some of the above case studies, my clients are varied but generally fall within the umbrella category of insolvency/restructuring matters where fraud or misconduct is alleged to have taken place across borders.

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

In addition to the above, the Special Investigation Committee for the Federal Oversight & Management Board for Puerto Rico asked the firm to write up a report on how the island became insolvent. This included an analysis of legislative, structural, and fiscal factors that contributed to the financial crisis that ultimately harmed the residents of Puerto Rico. We also looked into alleged wrongdoing by financial institutions, investment banks, and underwriters with respect to certain bond offerings. The report concluded with recommendations on reforms and other measures that could be implemented by the legislature and regulators so that another fiscal crisis could be averted in the future. The report can be found on the website for the Federal Oversight & Management Board.

How did you choose this practice area?

I wish that I could say that I chose this area of practice by design, but in reality, it was by chance with a bit of luck. I focused on commercial litigation when I first started practicing, and I noticed that those in the bankruptcy group appeared and argued in bankruptcy court frequently in hotly contested matters involving complex disputes with large amounts at stake. Those typical elements of insolvency disputes appealed to me, as they usually reflect complex issues being adjudicated in highly visible arenas where creativity and efficiency deliver the best results.

What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?

Each day for me is driven by the cases that I have and what needs to be accomplished to meet the expectations of a client or schedule set by a court. I usually plan and prioritize my day while on the subway into the office. I like to use meals to connect with colleagues, clients, and referral sources. In the evenings, I try to go to the gym to work off any excess adrenaline and also find perspective in the day.

What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?

Lawyers essentially do three things—we read, we write, and we talk. Any activity that helps to develop these skills will be useful. Insolvency is a very dynamic practice in that there are many different causes and reasons for financial distress or disputes. I have found that those who are intellectually curious, solutions oriented, adaptable when circumstances evolve, and able to take an intellectual punch now and then are most satisfied with this area of practice.

What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?

There is usually quite intense competition among stakeholders for a piece of a reducing pie with a truncated timetable to resolve disputes.

What do you like best about your practice area?

Because of the challenging aspects described above, you have to assess quickly what is really important in an investigation or dispute, be creative with proposed solutions, and then push hard through advocacy to deliver results.

As many of my firm’s cases involve tools and proceedings in many countries outside the United States, they become complicated puzzles in regards to what tools to deploy and where. As a result, I’m required to have a general understanding of how each system works, what tools are available where, and how they can be used to achieve the client’s goals.

And perhaps I’m being a bit of a law nerd to think that it’s really cool to understand how the law applies and what tools are available to deploy in disputes and investigations in places like Brazil, China, and the British Virgin Islands in addition to those in the United States.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

That success for an insolvency practitioner is measured by whoever yells the loudest or is the most offensive. Certainly, negotiations are spirited but usually principled. Most insolvency lawyers are a little bit crazy, but it’s our own kind of crazy that allows us both to understand each other and arrive at solutions fairly quickly.

What is unique about your practice area at your firm?

My colleagues and I are able to deploy insolvency tools in ways most people don’t think of across many jurisdictions. There may be ways that insolvency tools can be used in the United States and abroad to obtain discovery, challenge claims, or provide a basis to insert independent decision-makers into a process that, if used wisely, can help us swiftly arrive at a unique solution for a client.

How is practicing litigation in a boutique different from practicing in a large law firm?

For what I do, practicing at Kobre & Kim is a dream. We are specialists in the areas where we offer services. The firm has offices in the jurisdictions where investigations and disputes around insolvencies and financial restructurings occur most frequently outside the United States.

Also, the firm is small enough so that the lawyers can maintain close relationships with each other and work in a consistently integrated way. The firm is also “conflict-free,” which means that we are hired as special counsel for a particular investigation or dispute, but we don’t typically have institutional, repeat clients like larger firms. That means, practically, that I can pursue or defend clients that might cause conflicts at another firm.

D. Farrington Yates, Partner — Insolvency

D. Farrington Yates is a bankruptcy lawyer who focuses on litigation related to complex, cross-border insolvencies and restructurings. Mr. Yates advises clients on the investigation, monetization, and pursuit of high-value claims against principals and stakeholders in distress situations. In cases involving fraud, misconduct, or asset concealment, Mr. Yates often works with the firm’s international judgment enforcement teams to pursue asset recovery strategies worldwide.

Recognized by The Legal 500 U.S. as “very responsive, always available and highly dedicated,” Mr. Yates has effectively counseled clients in a variety of industries through global judgment enforcement and asset recovery campaigns that have maximized recoveries in contentious cross-border insolvencies. In addition, Mr. Yates is a Fellow of INSOL International.

Before joining Kobre & Kim, Mr. Yates was a global practice leader and co-chair of the U.S. restructuring, insolvency, and bankruptcy practice at Dentons, where he handled international bankruptcy and insolvency matters.

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