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MoloLamken LLP

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

Ken Notter represents plaintiffs and defendants at the trial and appellate levels in state and federal court. His practice focuses on complex civil litigation, criminal defense, class actions, intellectual property disputes, white collar matters, and appellate litigation.  Before joining MoloLamken, Ken clerked for the Honorable Jerome A. Holmes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and the Honorable Gerald J. Pappert of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Ken received his B.A. summa cum laude from American University and his J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.  During law school, he worked as a research assistant for Professors Michael Klarman and Jack Goldsmith and participated in Harvard’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

MoloLamken represents clients exclusively in complex disputes and investigations. We handle the most challenging and interesting cases in the country—from high-stakes civil and criminal trials to matters of national importance before the U.S. Supreme Court. In our civil litigation, we represent both plaintiffs and defendants in a broad variety of cases, including business litigation, class actions, antitrust, intellectual property, judgment enforcement, and bankruptcy. On the criminal side, we represent companies and individuals both during the investigation stage and after indictment. We have no practice groups, so I often find myself drafting a Supreme Court brief in the morning and arguing a pretrial motion in a criminal case in the afternoon. We believe that our appellate work makes us better trial lawyers and our trial work makes us better appellate advocates, and that has been true in my experience.

What types of clients do you represent? 

Our clients are as diverse as the matters we handle on their behalf. Unlike firms with hundreds or thousands of lawyers, we have the flexibility to represent individuals, plaintiffs in class actions, criminal defendants, foreign sovereigns, startups, Fortune 100 companies, hedge funds, private equity firms, and government officials. We even represent a Native American tribe. Because our case teams are so small, associates regularly brief clients on case developments and often manage the day-to-day client relationship. One of the great privileges of practicing at MoloLamken is getting to know my clients and helping them achieve their goals.  

What types of cases/deals do you work on? 

My practice is as varied as the firm’s. I currently represent an investment management firm in litigation against a global bank, a criminal defendant facing campaign finance charges, plaintiffs in a trade secrets case, patent owners in suits against the world’s largest technology companies, plaintiffs in an antitrust suit against a giant medical device manufacturer and equally large distributors, and a bank seeking to enforce a judgment against a foreign sovereign. These matters are pending before federal and state trial courts, two different federal courts of appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

How did you choose this practice area?

Coming off my clerkships, I wanted to practice law—not watch others practice a narrow slice of the law. To me, that meant being able to run cases from complaint through appeal. Few firms let associates try plaintiff-side class actions, defend individuals at a criminal trial, and argue appeals raising novel legal questions. Even fewer firms also let associates run cases, take depositions, cross-examine witnesses at trial, argue in court, and draft Supreme Court briefs. But MoloLamken does. That is why I am here. 

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

There are no “typical” days for a MoloLamken associate. On any given day, I might be drafting a Supreme Court brief, arguing a motion in court, taking or defending a deposition, negotiating with the government or opposing counsel, brainstorming trial strategy, or meeting with prospective clients. Most days involve some combination of those things. The one constant, however, is that I am always working with a small team of fantastic lawyers and even better people. A strong sense of camaraderie pervades every team I work on and makes even the less glamorous aspects of life as a lawyer enjoyable.

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

To practice at a firm like MoloLamken, you must be a great teammate and an excellent writer; have a curious mind and an entrepreneurial spirit; and be ready to manage entire cases from start to finish and help bring in new cases. No law school class teaches all that. But law students or lawyers hoping to transition to a boutique can still prepare. In my view, that preparation starts with reading: reading great writing (both fiction and legal writing); reading transcripts of cross-examinations by legendary trial lawyers; reading the news for ideas of potential suits or clients; reading books on trial practice and legal writing. Aspiring boutique lawyers can then pair that reading with experience that mimics practice. Law students, for example, can join clinics, mock trial, or moot court; work as a research assistant for a professor; or get an externship with a judge. Practicing lawyers can join professional associations, attend trial advocacy workshops, or take a pro bono case to get experience running an entire case. More importantly, though, prospective applicants should be constantly looking for ways that they can be better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today. That commitment to self-improvement is more valuable than any class or experience.

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

The hardest part of my job is also the best part—I am constantly doing something new. I am often the only associate on a case, so it is up to me to learn how to do everything from effecting service on a foreign sovereign during a pandemic to arguing a motion with one day’s notice. And because my practice covers so many subjects at both the trial and appellate levels, I have to quickly shift from writing a Supreme Court brief on a complicated question of civil procedure to negotiating with the government. That is both challenging and exhilarating, and I wouldn’t trade the occasional stress it produces for anything.   

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

We don’t think of associates as “junior” or “senior” in the way that large firms do. There is no task that is truly off limits just because of the year a lawyer graduated law school. All associates, regardless of class year, are expected to—with supervision—draft entire motions or briefs, work with experts, take and defend depositions, negotiate with opposing counsel, and manage discovery. We even have had associates in paying cases cross-examine witnesses and argue important motions.

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

We don’t hire associates straight from law school. The path always includes at least one clerkship and more often two. From there, we hire associates with the expectation that they will become partners. The overwhelming majority of our partners either founded the firm or joined as associates and later made partner. Along the way to partnership, every associate receives substantive training to develop litigation skills, and partners go out of their way to help associates work on business development. Turnover is low and lawyers who have left have gone to government, great in-house positions, and even Supreme Court clerkships.

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

There are too many differences to list. As a small firm with few conflicts, we have the freedom to take cases that are off limits to the big firms. We can represent a class of plaintiffs against major banks or a patent owner against big tech companies, for example, while also representing Fortune 100 companies. We handle these cases with teams often as small as two, three, or four attorneys when our opponents have far larger teams. Because we work so closely together and hire only the best candidates, partners trust associates to appear in court against partners at other firms. Beyond the substantive case work, associates are involved with business development from day one. Associates participate in client pitches, help brainstorm potential cases, and even bring in new clients on occasion.