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

Leah Godesky is a trial lawyer who represents an array of clients in headline-making litigation, including singer/songwriter Kesha, Twentieth Century Fox, and insurance giant Chubb. A committed champion of crucial social causes, Leah is also a tireless advocate for pro bono clients. She has prevailed in numerous reproductive rights cases while working with the ACLU to challenge the constitutionality of state abortion statutes in Kentucky and Arkansas, helping to ensure women’s access to safe healthcare. In 2021, The American Lawyer selected Leah as one of six “Young Lawyers of the Year.” Leah’s additional recognitions in 2021 include being named to Billboard’s 2021 Top Music Lawyers List, to The National Law Journal’s list of Sports, Gaming, & Entertainment Trailblazers, and to Variety’s Legal Impact Report.

Describe your practice area and what it entails.

Some lawyers develop practices that focus on ensuring a case never gets beyond the pleading stage, but the common thread across most of my cases is that they’re high-stakes matters likely to involve large amounts of discovery and a likelihood that the litigation will culminate in a trial or arbitration. Flexibility and an ability to quickly learn new issues and areas of the law is one of the most important skill sets for a generalist. Two short years ago, no one could have imagined all the issues currently litigated across all practice areas and industries arising out of and relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawyers who didn’t hesitate to jump in and master new areas of the law with an eye toward creative solutions are the ones who clients think of first when they’re presented with a problem.

What types of clients do you represent?

My clients really run the gamut and span a range of industries. I represent insurance giant Chubb, recording artist Kesha, Hollywood studio The Walt Disney Company, banking institution Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and financial-technology company Klarna, Inc. I also do a lot of pro-bono work representing clinics that provide reproductive healthcare services in states where women’s access to care is increasingly restricted. 

What types of cases do you work on? 

This past year alone, I handled a defamation case arising out of a sexual-assault allegation; several business-interruption insurance coverage disputes arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic; a Hollywood breach-of-contract dispute relating to simultaneous distribution of the film Black Widow in theaters and through Premiere Access on Disney+; a Section 11 securities fraud case relating to a biopharmaceutical company’s public statements about one of its therapies; and a consumer fraud litigation addressing a financing alternative that allows consumers to pay for purchases in installment payments.

How did you choose this practice area?

I realized early in my career that I wanted to ensure I got out from behind my desk and was up on my feet advocating for my clients. For a litigator, that means trial and arbitration work, which is immensely challenging and rewarding at the same time. Because cases go to trial or arbitration in a wide range of industries and practice areas, trial lawyers tend to be generalists who can easily pivot between various subject matters and areas of the law.

What is a typical day like?

It’s impossible to describe a typical day, because the only thing I know at the beginning of each week is that a calendar or to-do list will constantly be adjusted. That said, daily practice as a litigator almost always involves some combination of client counseling meetings (or Zooms!), legal briefs, and witness interviews. And with the day-to-day unpredictability comes a really exciting career arc. Each three-year segment of my career would have been impossible to predict during the preceding three years; lean into the uncertainty and say yes to cases in new industries and new areas of the law––the next big opportunity or challenge can pop up in unexpected places.  

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

Get as much on-your-feet experience as you can. In law school, everyone spends a lot of time worrying about whether they’re taking the right classes and giving all the right answers in the Socratic Method leaning environment. All of that has its benefits, but there’s no substitute for getting up out of your chair and onto your feet. Sign up for the internships, the externships, and the clinics; hands-on experience interviewing witnesses, meeting with clients, and presenting argument will let you hit the ground running as a young litigator. 

What do you feel are the benefits of taking a generalist approach in litigation versus pursuing a more specialized practice?

Taking a generalist approach to practicing as a litigator is a great intellectual challenge. There’s a lot of comfort that comes in practicing in the same areas year after year; when a new pleading comes in or the client needs counseling on a strategic issue, you know exactly what to do. The same isn’t true for generalists: each new pleading and question comes with a challenge of applying your judgment and experience against a new backdrop of industry-specific nuances and potentially new areas of the law. The job is never boring, and mastering something new to secure a favorable result for a client is incredibly rewarding. 

What do you like best about your practice area?

The opportunity to continuously learn and master new things; it keeps me on my toes.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

Some people might assume that generalists don’t have specialized knowledge, but that’s not true. A general litigator needs to become an expert in a wide range of issues and areas of the law. At various times in my practice, I have been a subject-matter expert in the European drug-approval process, California state law treatment of non-competes in employment contracts, and music-production royalties. Being a generalist doesn’t mean that you practice at surface level; it means that you need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and master almost anything.

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

It’s impossible to say, and that’s what makes the work of a generalist so engaging. Five years ago, no one would have predicted the business-interruption litigation that’s become the current norm in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. The only thing you can reliably predict as a general litigator is that your practice will evolve over time.