Insights on Pursuing a Career in Litigation
Q&A with Anitha Reddy: Partner, Litigation—Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz handles some of the largest and most complex litigations across the globe. The firm works on everything from takeover and mergers litigation to complex commercial and securities litigation to bankruptcy and restructuring litigation to white collar and regulatory enforcement. Wachtell Lipton partner Anitha Reddy sat down with Vault to answer some questions about her own career path and to offer advice for those considering litigation careers.
How did you decide to pursue a career in litigation?
I was a newspaper reporter before law school, so I’ve always been interested in writing. Even before my reporting career, I had been attracted to the part of the law that was about reading, analyzing, and writing. So I always assumed I would be a litigator. Wachtell Lipton has an amazing transactional practice, but that still didn’t deter me. I just went into law school thinking litigation would be the best fit for me, and I turned out to be right.
What law school courses are most helpful for someone considering a litigation career?
I suppose it depends on whether you are planning to be a civil or criminal litigator. Civil procedure is very important substantively for civil litigators. In terms of electives, I think nowadays, a lot of law schools have clinics, which I would distinguish from externships. I think in the class setting of a clinic, you get more instruction. At the same time, you are generally doing work for real clients where there are real stakes. I think that experience is often more useful than the experience you get in an externship. Apart from that, there really is no one course you should take. The reality is, any course is just a taste. You will have to learn the area of law later by actually trying the cases.
How useful is journal experience and clerkship experience for future litigators?
I worked on my school’s law review, and I really enjoyed it. Joining any organization is valuable, and if you are in a leadership position, that is a plus. Ideally, you are intellectually interested in the subject of the journal if it is specialized, and if it is generalized, you are thinking about the pieces and how they fit into the scholarly debate, even if you aren’t on the articles committee. But journal experience is—like most things—not essential. I think other people prefer participating in things like mock trial. These things aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. I also hesitate to say that judges today think journal experience is as important as they did in the past.
I maxed out on the clerkships because I did three. I think for a litigator, a clerkship is more important than any class you can take in law school. Ideally, you want to work with a judge with whom you can build a great relationship as an apprentice. I think most clerks feel they succeed in doing that. Generally, most clerkships are structured so a single clerk is assigned to a case, and I think it helps early on in your career to take a bird’s-eye view of a case and be involved in the decision-making for that case. It’s very hard to get that kind of experience as a junior associate or a junior lawyer in any organization because you’re often working on only a small part of a case. But I think if you’ve been a clerk, it trains you to take a broader perspective. If you learn how do that, you’ll certainly be more valuable as a litigator.
What are your thoughts on a generalist approach versus specializing in a sub-specialty as one develops as a litigator?
To be a true generalist these days is not really possible. But I do think one should aspire to the attitude of a generalist. For example, I don’t think you should narrow yourself to a subcategory of a particular kind of commercial law. I think the best lawyers keep track of broader developments and are able to see analogies between the area they practice in most often and other areas. The reality of practice is you will develop a specialty. But I think you should always try to think broadly about your practice and the law because there are important common principles and connections between different fields.
Looking back, what experiences as an associate best prepared you for life as a litigation partner?
When I was a junior associate, which I guess I classify as the first through fourth years of practice, I worked on a substantial number of cases where I was the only associate. That may be uncommon. But those cases—even though they were necessarily small—forced me to think about the whole case because I couldn’t rely on other people to do that. So I actually think being one of the few people on a small case early in your career teaches you how to approach bigger cases later in your career.
How can lawyers prime themselves for stand-up experience?
When you work on cases, it’s helpful to think about them as though you are in charge and responsible for the entire case. If you approach the case that way, you will learn it, and you need to know the case inside out to do a top-notch argument. So I’d say that’s one method that will help you perform better at oral argument and increase the chances that someone will assign one to you. I also think it is helpful to watch oral arguments, so you can see the variety of ways lawyers do them. This is yet another reason I think clerking is useful. The amount of time you invest on your own in keeping up with legal developments also helps in preparing for oral argument. Being familiar with broader principles, not just the facts and law of your own case, is valuable because a judge is thinking not just about your case, but also about how your case fits with broader precedent.
Anitha Reddy graduated from Stanford Law School in 2008. While at Stanford, she was managing editor of the Stanford Law Review. After law school, Ms. Reddy served as a law clerk to the Honorable John Gleeson of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York and to the Honorable Pierre N. Leval of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Ms. Reddy served as a law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the Supreme Court of the United States for the October 2014 term. She became a partner of the firm in 2018.