The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Daniel (Dan) E. Jones is a partner in the Washington, DC, office and a member of the firm’s Consumer Litigation & Class Actions and Supreme Court & Appellate practices. Dan has authored numerous briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court, federal and state appellate courts, and trial courts around the country, with a focus on arbitration and class action issues. Prior to rejoining Mayer Brown, Dan clerked for the Honorable Stanley Marcus on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Dan graduated with honors from the University of Chicago Law School, where he served as the executive topics and comments editor on the University of Chicago Law Review. Dan received his B.A. from Amherst College, where he majored in English and mathematics.
Daniel (Dan) Queen is a partner in Mayer Brown’s Los Angeles office, where he focuses on litigation and dispute resolution. Dan has extensive experience litigating cases in federal and state courts at the trial and appellate levels, as well as conducting internal investigations and defending regulatory inquiries. Dan received his J.D. and LL.M., magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, from Duke University School of Law in 2010, and he received a B.A. in Government and International Relations, magna cum laude, from the College of William and Mary in 2005.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
Jones: My practice focuses on defending class actions at the appellate and trial levels and providing strategic counseling to clients. I am responsible for crafting persuasive appellate briefs, as well as district court briefs on dispositive motions, motions to compel arbitration, and oppositions to class certification.
Queen: I handle pre-trial, trial, and appellate work in state and federal courts. I work on a wide variety of commercial litigation disputes, though I have a heavy focus on financial disputes, technology-related issues, and consumer class action litigations.
What types of clients do you represent?
Jones: I principally represent technology and telecommunications clients. I also frequently represent business associations. In my pro bono work, I principally represent individuals in civil rights litigation.
Queen: Many of my clients are financial institutions or technology companies, but I also have clients in various other fields—including real estate companies, insurers, and food manufacturers, just to name a few examples. On the pro bono side, I have worked with nonprofits and individual clients both in and out of the appellate context.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
Jones: Almost all of my paid cases involve defending corporate clients in class actions, but they cover a broad array of issues, including Article III standing, personal jurisdiction, arbitration and interpretation of the Federal Arbitration Act, and application of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. The appeals I litigate frequently present cutting-edge issues and provide the opportunity to shape these important areas of the law.
Queen: I handle class action litigations arising from a variety of claims, such as false advertising, labor and employment issues, and violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. I also handle non-class cases, including commercial disputes, trade secrets and intellectual property litigation, and real estate matters.
How did you choose this practice area?
Jones: Like many appellate litigators, I was attracted to the opportunity to shape precedent and tackle legal issues of broad significance to our clients. As a law student and law clerk to an appellate judge, I thoroughly enjoyed researching and writing analyses of thorny legal issues. I was fortunate enough to land a job in Mayer Brown’s Appellate practice, which allowed me to continue that type of work professionally.
Queen: I am not solely an appellate litigator, but I am drawn to the appellate side of our cases out of a love of writing and conceptual thinking. Appellate litigation provides a unique opportunity to influence the law while advocating for our clients. And the caliber of attorneys and judges at the appellate level is unparalleled.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
Jones: My practice principally involves developing and discussing legal strategies with clients and colleagues and drafting, reviewing, and editing appellate briefs and critical trial motions.
I also spend time monitoring class action cases of interest to clients and reporting on significant legal developments.
Queen: One of the great benefits of my practice is that every day is different. I lead the briefing team on most of my cases, so I spend much of my time writing. I also spend a good chunk of the day discussing legal strategies with my colleagues and clients. But you also could find me handling discovery issues, negotiating with opposing parties, preparing agreements, or working on any number of other projects.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Jones: Appellate litigation requires excellent research and writing skills, and the best way to acquire those is through practice, practice, and more practice. An appellate clerkship provides both the ideal opportunity to hone these skills and exposure to many examples of effective (and ineffective) advocacy. It is also enormously helpful to seek out feedback on your drafts from more senior associates and partners who are experienced brief writers and appellate advocates.
Queen: To be an effective appellate attorney, the single most important skill is writing. As a law student, you should take classes and participate in extracurricular activities that give you more opportunities to write and to hone your legal research skills. After law school, consider a clerkship, which will train you to write more effectively and better analyze competing legal positions. Once you join a firm, embrace every writing opportunity you can get—briefs, memos, articles, and anything else you can get your hands on.
What do you like best about your practice area?
Jones: There is a unique and powerful satisfaction that comes from influencing the development of the law at the appellate level, yielding results that benefit not only our client in a particular case, but also other clients in future cases. It is also a privilege to get to work each day with incredibly smart and thoughtful colleagues to come up with convincing answers to difficult legal questions.
Queen: I enjoy the long-term strategic thinking required for cases involving appellate issues. Rather than focus just on the day to day, you need to lay the groundwork for the appellate record, focus on the issues that will draw an appellate court’s attention, and consider the broader impact of an appellate decision on your client.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
Jones: Mayer Brown has a tremendously deep bench of appellate litigators, as opposed to a figurehead practice where the majority of the work flows through a single senior partner. This model results in a diverse array of appellate matters and, because the work is spread around, increased appellate opportunities for junior lawyers.
Queen: At many firms, appellate litigators would not necessarily touch a case before it is appealed. That’s not true here, where our appellate litigators are often intimately involved at the trial level, particularly in high-stakes cases. Likewise, many of our litigators who focus more on pretrial and trial work are attuned to potential appellate issues from the outset of the case, and they are intimately involved in the appeal if there is one.
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
Jones: Junior associates in Mayer Brown’s Appellate practice have opportunities to take very hands-on roles in our matters. They are tasked with drafting all, or sections of, appellate briefs and dispositive district court motions. Other common tasks include in-depth research support for briefs and drafting substantive memos for clients. Through our pro bono program, junior associates can brief and argue entire appeals as early as their first year or two at the firm.
Queen: As Dan said, junior associates will be responsible for drafting briefs, preparing memos, and developing strategies right out of the gate. We love junior lawyers who have a passion for the law and a willingness to learn, and we give them as many opportunities as we can.
What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?
Jones: Appellate lawyers tend to be passionate about briefs, oral arguments, and legal theory. Those skills lend themselves not only to private practice, but also litigation careers at the government and in the nonprofit sector. Some attorneys begin their practice at private firms and then transition into public interest fields, and we also have attorneys who joined the firm after working for the Department of Justice and other federal and state agencies. Other well-rounded litigators ultimately transition from private practice to in-house litigation positions.
Queen: Appellate lawyers tend to be passionate about briefs, oral arguments, and legal theory. Those skills lend themselves not only to private practice, but also litigation careers at the government and in the nonprofit sector. Some attorneys begin their practice at private firms and then transition into public interest fields, and we also have attorneys who joined the firm after working for the Department of Justice and other federal and state agencies. Other well-rounded litigators ultimately transition from private practice to in-house litigation positions.