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The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.

Leigh Oliver specializes in antitrust issues ranging from bet-the-company merger control matters to state and federal antitrust investigations. She has two decades of experience advising clients in heavily scrutinized industries, including healthcare, life sciences, aerospace and defense, and industrials. She regularly represents clients before federal and state antitrust agencies and in merger litigation in federal court. 

She is on the Council for the ABA Antitrust Section and a member of the American Health Lawyers Association. Outside the office, she coaches youth lacrosse and basketball.

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Antitrust is usually broken down into a few different buckets of legal work: litigation, investigations, transactions, and counseling on ongoing business operations. I focus most of my practice on transaction-related antitrust, civil investigations, and counseling. I have substantial experience litigating mergers that are challenged by government agencies as well, and for these, I typically team up with my colleagues who focus day in and day out on civil antitrust litigation. As issues tend to arise in more than one jurisdiction, I work closely with my colleagues around the world (now more than ever) so we can coordinate a holistic view for the client.  

What types of clients do you represent?

I represent a wide range of clients across all industries, but I have particular expertise when it comes to companies that touch the healthcare system. This includes health technology and data companies, hospitals and health systems, clinical laboratories, and medical device and pharmaceutical companies.  Some of my clients include: UnitedHealth Group, GE Healthcare, and Advocate and Atrium Health. 

What types of cases/deals do you work on?

I work to help my clients obtain clearance for mergers and acquisitions that are reviewed by the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. Department of Justice, and/or any number of State Attorneys General. When a deal is challenged by the antitrust agencies, I work in defending the transaction in federal court. 

Notable deals that I worked on recently include: UnitedHealth Group's acquisition of Change Healthcare; Mondelēz International's sale of its gum business to Perfetti Van Melle; and Einstein Healthcare Network's sale to Thomas Jefferson University Health System. 

How did you choose this practice area?

I chose antitrust because I was attracted to a legal practice that intersects with government, business, and regulation. Antitrust is the perfect combination of transaction-related work, investigations, litigation, and counseling. Further, as an antitrust lawyer, my job is to understand how a particular part of the economy works, how my client's business fits into that part of the economy, why they make the decisions they do, and what are the competitive effects of their strategy. Then, I apply the law to the commercial realities of the business as a legal advisor.  

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

A colleague of mine (and fellow parent) told me her young daughter had picked up an imaginary phone and exclaimed, "Look, I'm mommy at work!" It made me laugh and certainly hit home: so much of my day is spent talking to my clients to get to know (and really understand) their business. I couldn’t do my job without my awesome team. I am typically working with a range of lawyers of all levels of seniority on major matters. As a result, a big piece of my job is making sure things run smoothly from the client's perspective. I do a lot of coordination to make sure we are all delivering a cohesive product. 

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

My best advice is to take as many antitrust courses as are offered! I previously taught a Healthcare Antitrust course where we incorporated hypothetical scenarios for the students to roleplay, e.g., simulating a government agency presentation about a merger with a competitor. Obviously, I think courses like this are valuable. If I were advising my younger self, I would say to take Accounting for Lawyers—knowing one's way around financial statements is incredibly useful. Economics is also helpful for antitrust lawyers. In terms of experience, it's great to get exposure to a variety of matters because, as I mentioned, we're asked to see issues from different angles. Personally, having been on merger litigation teams as an associate was a huge benefit early on.

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

So much of my job is trying to predict what is going to happen. Antitrust attorneys make a risk assessment based on the facts we have, knowledge of the law, and application of the law in prior, similar situations. However, as agency policy shifts, it is incredibly important to not just look at precedents, but to stay current on policy statements and speeches from agency officials, because these are also important indicators of how enforcers may approach a particular issue. Predicting the future is definitely challenging, but our judgment calls and management of expectations are what will be valuable to clients. 

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

A junior antitrust lawyer has the opportunity to participate in a wide range of tasks in the practice so they can truly understand the full picture. The junior associates on my team are often asked to research the latest developments on a particular issue, draft the initial risk assessment for a client, or prepare a filing or submission to a government agency. Because of their critical role on a matter, associates are on client calls and join meetings with government attorneys, hearing the questions being asked and then taking the lead in putting together responses. One of the questions I get asked most frequently by candidates is, "Will I get client interaction?" Without hesitation, the answer is yes! 

How do you see this practice area evolving in the future?

Antitrust is a hot area today, and I don’t see that cooling off anytime soon. There is a consensus throughout the world that there needs to be increased attention to enforcing antitrust and competition laws and regulations. Antitrust cases have multiplied in recent years from both government agencies and private plaintiffs, and this is expected to continue. 

It's an exciting and busy time for our practice at Clifford Chance; we are well-positioned in this space because of our incredible international team. We have a global network of more than 190 antitrust lawyers and are most certainly in "growth mode," enabling us to support clients on their most complex and important antitrust matters across the globe. 

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

In the last ten years, I've noticed a gradual shift by companies to hire more in-house antitrust counsel than they had previously. There has always been the law firm path and the government path, and now there is a very clear (and attainable) path for working in-house. Years ago, this was only a possibility at larger companies, but now there are so many businesses with entire in-house antitrust teams, which I think is fantastic.