Finalist, Antitrust Litigation Department of the Year: Wilson Sonsini
Wilson Sonsini's antitrust team has gone from a tiny firm outpost to an industry heavyweight in 10 years.
Ten years ago, the antitrust practice at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati was four lawyers and a business plan. Today it's grown to 64 full-time lawyers (up from an FTE of 55 when our judging period began) in Brussels, New York, Palo Alto and Washington, D.C., and earned a finalist spot in our inaugural antitrust litigation of the year competition. Much of the credit goes to practice cochairs Jonathan Jacobson, a 2005 lateral who had been antitrust cochair at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and Susan Creighton, who rejoined the firm in 2006 after four years at the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Competition, including two years as director.
The practice earns its keep, and more: Although it accounted for just 4 percent of Wilson Sonsini's head count in 2012, it brought in 8 percent of the firm's gross revenue. As befits Wilson Sonsini's Silicon Valley roots, the practice's client mix is tech-heavy—Jacobson says that about 65 percent of its representations are of technology companies—but well over half its work is for nonportfolio clients.
SIGNIFICANT CASES: The firm's splashiest representation was for Google Inc. in a 19-month FTC investigation into its search business; Microsoft Corporation and other rivals had accused Google of favoring its own products in search results. Creighton led the defense, coordinated the work of cocounsel, including Legal Policy Solutions, Mayer Brown, Ropes & Gray and Williams & Connolly, and testified before the FTC herself. In January 2013 the commission voted 5-0 not to take action against Google.
Other big wins included two dismissals on summary judgment. In In re Live Concert Antitrust Litigation, the firm defended Live Nation Entertainment and its former parent Clear Channel Communications Inc. in multiple class actions involving the pricing of concert tickets. In In re Online DVD Rental Antitrust Litigation, client Netflix Inc. was accused of colluding with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to set the prices of rental DVDs. (Wal-Mart had settled its portion of the case for $28 million in 2010.)
WHAT CLIENTS SAY: Netflix general counsel David Hyman praises the firm's "deep bench and great courtroom skills." Richard Munisteri, senior vice president and associate general counsel of Live Nation, says the firm has the "experience and ability to deal with really big cases affecting really big companies. … They are pricey, but overall, my company feels that we have gotten the right value for their services."
NEW MATTERS: The firm represents the online rating service BazaarVoice Inc. in the U.S. Department of Justice's Clayton Act challenge to BazaarVoice's June 2012 merger with rival PowerReviews Inc. (The $168 million combination did not meet reporting thresholds for premerger clearance.) The case, U.S. v. BazaarVoice, was heard in September and October in a bench trial before U.S. District Judge William Orrick III in San Francisco. A decision was pending at press time.
Practice Group Size and Revenue
Partners: 12 Associates: 33 Other: 10
Practice Group as Percent of Firm: 4%
Percent of Firm Revenue 2012: 8%