The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Jaran Moten is a litigation partner in Kirkland’s Chicago office whose practice includes a wide range of complex disputes. Jaran represents corporations facing antitrust claims and government investigations, private equity firms in disputes arising from mergers and acquisitions, distressed companies in connection with bankruptcy litigation proceedings, and a host of clients in various contract and tort matters.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
My litigation practice generally involves counseling clients through challenging disputes, both in and out of the courtroom. My recent matters have largely been on the plaintiff’s side. In those cases, my teams begin working with clients to investigate and develop potential claims in the pre-litigation stage, often at the first indication that the client may have been wronged. We start with a deep dive into all of the pertinent facts and let those facts guide which claims ultimately have merit and should be pursued. We usually attempt to reach a negotiated resolution before filing a complaint, but all of our preparation is guided by how the claims would ultimately unfold in front of a judge or jury at trial.
I’ve also had quite a bit of experience defending corporate clients, mostly against federal and state antitrust claims. The process is a bit different on the defense side and involves a lot of predicting and preempting plaintiffs’ maneuvers. My work developing and pursuing claims on the other side of the aisle provides a unique benefit in that respect.
What types of clients do you represent?
I’ve handled antitrust matters in the dental supplies and equipment industry, the containerboard manufacturing industry, and the computer screen technology industry, among others.
I’ve also handled commercial matters on either side of the aisle for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, energy and petrochemical companies, and financial services providers, to name a few.
I’ve assisted our restructuring teams in complex reorganizations for companies in the retail, telecommunications, energy, and technology industries.
I also maintain an active pro bono practice largely focused on clients who have experienced housing discrimination and landlord mistreatment, as well as women fleeing hostile and abusive situations seeking legal residence in the U.S.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
As noted above, my practice is fairly broad and includes general commercial disputes, lawsuits related to private equity acquisitions, antitrust cases, and restructuring litigation. My recent cases have largely involved representing corporate plaintiffs in breach of contract and tort cases against current and former joint venture partners, and private equity firms pursuing fraud and insurance claims relating to misrepresentations in acquisition agreements. I also recently won dismissal of state antitrust and unfair practice claims that had been brought against a client in the dental supplies industry in Illinois and California.
How did you choose this practice area?
I didn’t know any lawyers growing up, but I always enjoyed public speaking and problem solving—I gleaned from all of the legal TV dramas that litigators get to do both of those things for a living in high-stakes situations. I also took a few practice-based classes in law school, which confirmed that I had made the right choice.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
My days vary a lot, but one thing they all have in common is teamwork. I spend part of each day on the phone or in meetings (or, these days, on Zoom) discussing strategy with my partners, associates and our clients. Depending on the stages of my ongoing cases, the rest of the day could be spent working closely with associates and paralegals to prepare for trial proceedings, motion arguments or depositions; combing through discovery and corresponding research to understand and develop potential claims or defenses; drafting motions or responses thereto; preparing witnesses to testify in depositions or in court; or any number of the infinite—and often unpredictable—tasks that may arise in the course of representation. Every day has some degree of variability, which is one of my favorite things about being a litigator.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Good legal writing is certainly an asset, and one of the easiest ways to stand out on day one. Prioritizing clarity is key in separating legal writing from academic scholarship.
As far as substantive classes go, I encourage law students to take what interests them instead of trying to develop some sort of specialization. You may stumble upon a new subject you didn’t expect to find as interesting and incorporate that into your practice (as I did with antitrust law). Perhaps more importantly, you’ll enjoy law school more and likely do better as a result.
What do you like best about your practice area?
Representing such a wide variety of clients in matters relating to different industries keeps things interesting and exciting. In order to provide the best possible representation, our development of claims and defenses involves gaining a deep understanding of the client’s business and the circumstances leading up to the dispute. As a result, each new case provides an opportunity to “master” a new industry or subject matter.
In addition, we often deal with matters of first impression, which can be exciting. Developing and advocating a solution to an issue that has not previously been determined or implemented always feels like a great deal of responsibility—and winning those cases is all the more rewarding.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area?
There’s a common myth that being a good litigator requires one to be consistently adversarial and uncompromising. To the contrary, good client advocacy requires maintaining civility with opposing counsel and, more broadly, careful consideration of which fights are worth having. Among other things, constant and unreasonable bickering can diminish a litigant’s credibility with the court and ultimately harm the client.
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
Junior associates at Kirkland are able to have just about any experience they’re looking for. Many associates take depositions, argue motions, and attend trials in their first few years—Kirkland’s open assignment system helps enable associates to find substantive work they’re interested in. For example, after a year or so at the firm, I specifically sought trial experience, and ended up with primary responsibility for witness preparation on two trial teams. I can’t imagine a better learning opportunity for a new lawyer than to participate in a complex trial early on.
In what ways has the coronavirus pandemic affected your practice? How have you adjusted to lawyering in the wake of COVID-19?
I’ve been very fortunate that my practice wasn’t severely disrupted by the pandemic. In the early stages, just about every court canceled or delayed proceedings, so we’re still handling matters that were initially scheduled to conclude in 2020. And many of those matters are now being handled remotely, with attendees at home or in their offices. I certainly never thought I’d argue motions from my living room!
That said, one of the reasons I didn’t experience a substantial disruption was because we’ve always had top-notch remote capabilities, so the transition to working from home was seamless. The firm has done a great job of scheduling virtual social events and creating opportunities for us to stay in touch outside of work meetings, though there’s no real substitute for in-person lunches and happy hours at the office (which I’ve been happy to see return in recent months).