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Exploring The Role of an Antitrust Litigation Lawyer



Exploring The Role of an Antitrust Litigation Lawyer

Antitrust laws are the pillars that support a free, competitive market. Without them, businesses could engage in any number of tactics to boost their profits at the expense of consumers.

As an antitrust litigation attorney, you will handle civil cases involving price-fixing allegations, bid rigging, group boycotts, and other restraints on trade. These are often considered class actions, allowing a wide spectrum of people and companies harmed to join a single legal action.

Defending and Prosecuting Cases

Antitrust lawyers often take on cases brought by consumers, businesses, or associations claiming that their competitors have violated antitrust laws. These cases could be brought as civil claims in a court of law or criminal prosecutions by a government agency. Defending antitrust cases requires excellent litigation and negotiation skills. You must also be prepared to spend much time investigating and gathering evidence, particularly when defending firms accused of antitrust violations brought by private plaintiffs.

For example, defending an antitrust claim by a group of business owners or consumers alleging that a large company has used unfair methods to suppress competition can require diving into specific industries in great detail. You must understand the specific business at issue and be very familiar with the broader industry in which that business operates, such as healthcare, technology, energy, credit cards, or publishing.

Another aspect of defending these cases is working with third-party providers to help research, write briefs and prepare documents for the US antitrust authorities. Antitrust attorneys are often required to interface with the clients, the antitrust counsel for other companies involved in the transaction, and the antitrust officials at the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission who conduct these investigations.

Bringing Class Actions

The role of the antitrust litigation lawyer can include bringing class actions on behalf of consumers and businesses harmed by companies violating antitrust law. Such class actions can be very complicated, involve several plaintiffs, and require a lot of work, especially at the certification stage of the case when all of the plaintiffs must be verified as having suffered harm from the defendant’s conduct.

These cases often result from companies engaging in monopolization practices or acquiring competitors through mergers and acquisitions. This can often lead to antitrust violations such as price fixing, market allocation, exclusive dealing, and other prohibited activities under Section 2 of the Sherman Act. These cases can also include monopolization claims against companies that make or sell pharmaceuticals, energy, credit cards, and other products. When a private citizen or a business complains about a company violating antitrust laws, an attorney can bring a private action under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to consolidate multiple injury claims against the same defendant. These private antitrust actions can be very effective when the alleged violation has caused scattered harm to several victims, and the costs associated with proving individual injury in each case would be prohibitive. When such a claim is successful, class counsel is usually compensated as a percentage of the settlement award.

Negotiating Settlements

Antitrust lawyers must have excellent negotiating skills when fighting for small businesses or against large corporations. They are tasked with ensuring that justice is done and that small business owners get their fair share of the marketplace. This is particularly true for civil cases that involve alleged price-fixing, market allocation, and other illegal restraints of trade.

In addition to representing clients in civil and criminal antitrust cases, antitrust attorneys also handle corporate and transaction work. This can include analyzing the antitrust-liability risks of certain agreements, such as mergers or intellectual-property contracts (IP protections typically give the owner a monopoly for a set period).

The work is often very document-heavy, and many firms have teams of juniors or interns doing the actual research because it can be quite expensive. For that reason, a successful antitrust litigation lawyer will need to know how to manage their billable hours carefully. Nothing stops smaller attorneys from taking on these types of cases. Still, the larger firms find it a lucrative source of income because the cases are significant and usually require a lot of expert testimony. The work is also rewarding, but it can be challenging to sift through the large volumes of documentation companies tend to bury.

Representing Clients

When a business owner or a group of businesses thinks that a competitor has violated antitrust laws, they call an antitrust lawyer. They can also be called by a government agency (the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice Antitrust Division) or someone whose illegal antitrust practices have been injured.

A typical day for an antitrust litigation attorney could include negotiating settlements, interfacing with clients and other business lawyers, and arguing in court. The job requires a strong understanding of the law and the ability to communicate well with clients, other attorneys, paralegals, junior associates, and the C-suite. An antitrust litigation attorney needs to dive deep into the specific industry in a case and understand how that industry generally works. That’s why many antitrust litigation attorneys enjoy their practice.