The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Geng Chen represents clients in complex commercial litigation in all areas, ranging from general business disputes to intellectual property to the False Claims Act and more. Geng has amassed an impressive collection of litigation victories and favorable settlements for diverse clients, including Fortune 500 industry leaders and classes of unfairly treated plaintiffs—for example in In re LIBOR Financial Products Antitrust Litigation, Geng secured settlements totaling over $500 million; and Melissa Ferrick v Spotify, she secured a settlement valued at over $100 million for songwriters and composers. Geng previously clerked for Judge Jacques Wiener, Jr., of the Fifth Circuit and, while at Harvard Law, served as an executive editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Lauded by one client as “one of the best patent lawyers in America,” Andres Healy litigates IP and complex commercial disputes and represents clients ranging from multibillion-dollar industry leaders to individual inventors. He has secured a significant number of wins on behalf of major players in the technology and telecommunications fields, including a $31.5 million patent infringement jury verdict on behalf of Dutch telecom company Koninklijke KPN against telecom giant Ericsson in 2022. Andres graduated first in his class from the University of Florida College of Law and completed two federal clerkships before joining Susman Godfrey. He was appointed to SG’s Executive Committee in 2022.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
Geng: Commercial litigation, including intellectual property, False Claims Act, and class actions.
Andres: Commercial litigation with a focus on patent infringement litigation.
What types of clients do you represent?
Geng: My clients include institutions both large and small as well as individuals. For example, I represented General Electric in a major business dispute arising out of an M&A transaction, as well as a small pharmaceutical manufacturer, Genus Lifesciences, in a false advertising case against a larger competitor. I am also proud to represent clients like Yale University and the City of Baltimore in a major class action suits seeking to hold banks accountable for manipulating a benchmark interest rate around the time of the 2008 financial crisis.
Andres: I represent a broad variety of clients, including multibillion-dollar companies like Koninklijke KPN, institutional clients like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and smaller companies like Ancora Technologies and Arigna Technology.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
Geng: I work on all types of cases within the general commercial litigation sphere. Some of my current cases include a patent infringement action in the medical device industry, a multibillion-dollar False Claims Act case against a major insurance company, and a dispute between an individual client and a former employer, among others.
Andres: I am working on a number of patent infringement actions in various jurisdictions around the country, including on behalf of Koninklijke KPN, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ancora Technologies, and Arigna Technology. For example, I recently tried a case on behalf of Koninklijke KPN against Ericsson in the Eastern District of Texas where the jury found in our favor on all issues and awarded KPN $31.5 million in damages.
How did you choose this practice area?
Geng: One reason why I was initially attracted to Susman Godfrey was the breadth of the firm’s practice. I knew I wanted to litigate but was not ready to pick a specific practice area coming out of law school. I’ve been grateful to the firm for giving me the opportunity to work in a variety of different areas of law and hone my skills as a litigator over a range of interesting and exciting cases.
Andres: I think it’s more accurate to say that it found me. I was assigned to a Koninklijke KPN patent infringement case as an associate and really enjoyed the work, including learning such a great deal about the telecom technologies that KPN had developed that were at issue. I decided I wanted to do more cases like that and have not looked back.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
Geng: My work can vary greatly from day to day. Some days I am highly focused on one case or one task—drafting a major brief, for instance, or taking or defending a deposition. Other days I might be splitting my time between several different cases, which can often involve jumping from call to call to go over strategy with a client, negotiate with opposing counsel, discuss an issue with an expert, or just check in with other team members. That’s one aspect of my practice that I really enjoy—there is always something different and interesting to be working on.
Andres: I am lead or co-lead on a number of patent infringement cases, so my day to day involves managing various teams in various stages of litigation. In some cases, that can mean simply checking in with various team members and providing direction on next steps—both at a macro and micro level. In other cases, that can mean writing or editing briefs, taking depositions, and attending hearings. In short, my day to day can vary greatly, but everything I do is focused on making sure my cases are progressing toward a successful outcome for my clients.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Geng: One experience that the firm requires all new associates to have is a federal clerkship, and I highly encourage anyone interested in the type of work we do to pursue that opportunity. As a new attorney, clerking provides a tremendously informative window into how judges approach cases, and it also allows a new attorney to see how the court system works from the inside.
Andres: I practice almost exclusively in federal court, where good writing is paramount—developing writing skills is critical to success as a lawyer. I also think that getting as much deposition and stand-up experience as possible is incredibly important for a young lawyer. I’m very grateful that Susman Godfrey not only provided that to me, but continues to prioritize providing that same opportunity to the next generation of brilliant Susman Godfrey associates.
What is the most challenging aspect of practicing in this area?
Geng: The types of cases that I work on can be complex and take years to resolve, and I even have cases that for various reasons, such as appeals, have been ongoing for a decade or more. One challenge associated with that kind of timescale and complexity can be maintaining the momentum to drive toward a resolution. From my very first day, the firm has emphasized the importance of identifying specifically what is needed to move a case forward and focusing on those high-value tasks to really advocate for what matters most to our clients, which is achieving a successful outcome.
Andres: Two challenges come to mind. Number one, there’s the challenge of diving in and learning the ins and outs of different technologies. But that’s a good challenge. It’s one of the reasons I really enjoy this practice area. A not-so-good challenge is the degree to which the law itself has kept changing in recent years. From TC Heartland to the standards for convenience transfer to the abandonment of Fintiv, it has become much more difficult for a patent holder to get their day in court.
What do you like best about your practice area?
Geng: One underrated aspect of general commercial litigation is the opportunity to dig deep into industries that might never otherwise come across your radar. I really enjoy this learning process and now understand more than I ever expected about a wide array of topics, ranging from medical devices to cryptocurrency to utility regulation. Also, while I enjoy representing both plaintiffs and defendants, there is something special about representing an individual plaintiff and helping them navigate our civil justice system to right the wrongs that they have suffered.
Andres: One of the things that I like best about this practice area is learning such a great deal about a number of different technologies. I also really enjoy helping clients protect their valuable technology—on both sides of the “v.”
What misconceptions exist about your practice area?
Geng: One misconception that I personally had is that you must have a certain personality or style to succeed as a trial litigator. Growing up, no one in my family was a lawyer, and I’ll admit that most of what I thought I knew about the law came from TV and movies. One thing that I’ve appreciated in the years that I’ve been practicing is working with (and against!) a diverse group of successful lawyers who each have their own unique approach. My advice to anyone who wants to be a trial lawyer is to focus on your own strengths and what value you bring rather than worry about how you might compare to what you think a successful lawyer looks or sounds like.
Andres: I think the main misconception is that one needs to have a science or engineering background to work in patent litigation. At the end of the day, you need to be able to explain the technology to the judge and his clerks and—after that—to a jury. Rarely is anyone in those groups going to have science or engineering backgrounds. So, the key is to dive in and learn the technology to the point that you understand it and can explain it to other people who lack that technical background.
How is practicing litigation in a boutique different from practicing in a large law firm?
Andres: The amount of opportunity. Certainly, there is more opportunity to do real case tasks earlier. Here, it’s rare for associates to not take solo depositions or argue in court in their first year. And on the financial side, there’s also more opportunity to forge your own path and be successful. Because we do not have the hierarchy of practice groups or many mandatory “anythings,” partners can focus on what we do best: winning cases and getting fantastic results for our clients.
Geng: Working at a smaller firm gives you the opportunity to really get to know all of your colleagues, and at a place like SG, that means spending every day with some of the most brilliant, fun, and generous people in our profession.