The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Amanda Bonn handles some of the most groundbreaking litigation in California and across the country. In 2021 she secured settlements valued at $175M against AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint on behalf of hundreds of California and Nevada government entities in whistleblower case, California et al. v. Cellco Partnership. Bonn is now serving as co-lead counsel in two groundbreaking putative class actions challenging Google’s unlawful collection of consumers’ Internet browsing and app activity. Bonn has been recognized as one of 100 Top Women Lawyers in California by The Daily Journal, an “Up and Coming” Commercial Litigator by Chambers USA, a Litigation Trailblazer by National Law Journal, and one of 500 Leading Plaintiff Financial Lawyers nationwide by Lawdragon.
Elisha Barron has secured over $1B in jury verdicts and settlements for her clients in the past five years alone. Landmark victories include winning a $706.2M jury verdict for HouseCanary after a six-plus week jury trial against Title Source over trade secret misappropriation, fraud, and breach of contract; securing a confidential settlement for Joel and Mary Rich in their high-profile defamation lawsuit against Fox News; and securing a $450M settlement in a landmark FCA lawsuit against Novartis Pharmaceuticals. Barron has been named a Plaintiffs Lawyer Trailblazer by National Law Journal, One to Watch by Best Lawyers, and a Rising Star by NY Law Journal. Elisha previously clerked for Judge Shira Scheindlin in the Southern District of New York and Judge José Cabranes on the Second Circuit.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
Amanda: My practice is commercial litigation. I represent both plaintiffs and defendants in a wide array of practice areas including antitrust, appellate, class action, employment, intellectual property, privacy, qui tam, and securities litigation. I practice in federal and state courts, as well as in arbitrations.
Elisha: My practice is commercial litigation. I represent individuals, companies, and classes, on the plaintiff and defense side, in anything that could be characterized as a business dispute (we do the occasional personal dispute as well). I practice in state and federal court across the country and in arbitration.
What types of clients do you represent?
Amanda: I represent a diverse client base of businesses, government entities, and individuals. My corporate clients include media and entertainment company, NBCUniversal; online real-estate marketplace, Zillow; and commodities trading firm, Vitol. I have also represented dozens of government entities in California, including the County of Los Angeles and numerous other counties and cities throughout the state. In addition, I have served as legal counsel to individual whistleblowers and employees challenging powerful corporations.
Elisha: I represent companies of all sizes, from innovative start-ups like the real estate analytics company, HouseCanary, and the driverless car company, Aurora, to large companies like Walmart and Nasdaq. I’ve represented a class of animators, an individual partner at a private equity firm, and a whistleblower from the pharmaceutical industry.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
Amanda: I enjoy the challenge of taking on formidable opponents in cases that are shaping the future of business and industry. For example, I serve as co-lead counsel in two groundbreaking putative class actions challenging Google’s unlawful collection of consumers’ Internet browsing and app activity. The first case—which challenges Google’s collection of private internet browsing data even when users are in “Incognito” mode—received nationwide press in connection with our successful efforts to defeat Google’s motion to dismiss. The second case challenges Google’s collection of users’ “Web & App Activity” even after users expressly denied Google permission to do so. We successfully argued against Google’s motion to dismiss the case—resulting in a court order keeping the plaintiffs’ claims alive.
I also enjoy defending parties on the other side of the “v.” Before the same court in which I represent plaintiffs with privacy claims, I also lead the defense of the world’s leading commodity trading firm, Vitol Inc., in an antitrust case alleging a conspiracy to inflate California gasoline prices over a two-year period. In another newsworthy matter, I defended Flutter Entertainment in a multi-billion-dollar dispute with Fox Sports concerning an option to purchase a stake in the leading U.S. sports betting firm FanDuel Group.
Elisha: My cases range from trade secret disputes between companies big and small, to qui tam False Claims Act cases, defamation suits, antitrust class actions, and a gender discrimination lawsuit.
My biggest win is a $706.2M jury verdict for real estate analytics company, HouseCanary, after a six-plus week jury trial in state court in San Antonio, Texas. The case involved claims against Title Source, an affiliate of Quicken Loans, for misappropriation of trade secrets, fraud, and breach of contract.
I also previously secured a $450M settlement—one of the largest ever in the United States by a single whistleblower—in a landmark False Claims Act lawsuit against the Swiss drug manufacturer Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. I represented the whistleblower in this groundbreaking case.
How did you choose this practice area?
Amanda: I was drawn to the idea of being a trial lawyer as a college student. I joined UCLA’s mock trial team on a lark, after the team captain (who, not coincidentally, is now my husband) gave a very convincing presentation to incoming freshmen. Four years of mock trial competitions and two national championships later, I had caught the trial “bug.” Susman Godfrey was a natural fit because it’s a firm that focuses on winning at trial, giving early stand-up experience to young associates, and trying interesting cases in a wide variety of practice areas. After my 4-week summer at Susman Godfrey as a 2L, I knew this was where I wanted to practice.
Elisha: I’ve always wanted to be a litigator. I love thinking of creative ways to persuade people—judges, juries, opposing counsel—that our position is the right one and the one that will win the day. At Susman Godfrey, I get to practice that art across a range of subject matters and on both sides of the “v.”
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
Amanda: My favorite part of any case—and what I most enjoy doing—is digging into the facts to figure out the true story of what happened. Good trial lawyers are storytellers, and to tell a convincing story, you have to master the facts. On any given day, I might be arguing a motion in court, prepping a witness for her deposition, writing a brief, or preparing for trial.
Elisha: It varies depending on the stages my cases are in. I usually have a brief in the works, and there is often a meet and confer with opposing counsel. If I’m prepping for depositions or trial, you will find me reviewing key documents and putting together the story we want to tell.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Amanda: I strongly recommend any training that allows you craft an argument and then stand up and engage in public speaking. If you’re still a student, participating in mock trial/trial advocacy or moot court competitions is a great way to gain experience. If you’re out of law school, I recommend signing up for a NITA (National Institute for Trial Advocacy) training.
Elisha: Watching someone good prepare a witness for a deposition or trial examination is invaluable. This behind-the-scenes work is vital, and you can’t learn it from a book or from watching the deposition or examination itself. I also recommend clerking in a trial-level court. Observing how different attorneys and firms present their cases (in writing and oral advocacy) helped me understand the kind of firm I wanted to practice at and the kind of litigator I wanted to be. Seeing how different styles are received by the court is also highly valuable.
What do you like best about your practice area?
Amanda: I enjoy the variety of our firm’s practice. We are true trial lawyers and generalists at that. We represent plaintiffs and defendants, roughly equally as often. And we try cases in an array of practice areas. We pride ourselves on mastering complex technologies and fact patterns, and standing toe to toe with firms that “specialize” in the practice areas in which we litigate. Our specialty is figuring out the most persuasive way to try a case, no matter what practice area, venue, or side of the “v.”
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
Elisha: Three things:
- 1) Our practice is extraordinarily varied. We don’t just try securities cases or patent cases. We specialize in getting cases trial-ready and trying those cases, whether we represent the plaintiff or defendant. This makes us better lawyers in every case.
- 2) We treat every case like it will go to trial, not like it will eventually settle or otherwise go away. Figuring out the case you will present at trial from the outset puts you in the best position no matter what happens in the case.
- 3) We have a ton of fun. You don’t apply to work at Susman Godfrey if you don’t like the practice of law. While the lawyers have varied styles and approaches, they uniformly think practicing law is fun, and it shows.
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
Elisha: Susman Godfrey is unique in that junior lawyers do many of the same tasks as senior lawyers. They take depositions, they argue hearings, they are in charge of full briefs. At trial, they may not do opening statements (though it happens) but they will put on witnesses. One task that typically falls to more junior lawyers is managing a case’s task list. This critical job requires young lawyers to understand the big picture, not just what they are working on, which ultimately helps prepare them to manage cases as a partner.
How is practicing litigation in a boutique different from practicing in a large law firm?
Amanda: One of the biggest differences is that we are lean and mean. We face off against large law firms routinely and we will never beat them by out-staffing them. Instead, we staff most of our cases with a couple of partners and one or two associates. And we trust those associates to handle significant tasks on their own from Day One—from writing dispositive motions, to taking and defending depositions, to arguing motions in Court, to examining witnesses at trial.