The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Abid R. Qureshi is a Litigation & Trial partner in the Washington, DC, office of Latham & Watkins and currently serves as the Global Chair of Latham’s Recruiting Committee.
In his practice, Abid represents clients involved in complex commercial litigation matters, regulatory proceedings, and government investigations. As an experienced trial lawyer with more than two decades of courtroom experience, he helps navigate complex, high-value disputes in state and federal courts, in arbitrations, and in settlement negotiations. He regularly handles matters involving the False Claims Act, health care fraud and abuse claims, and federal securities laws.
Abid is the former Global Chair of Latham’s Pro Bono Committee, overseeing one of the world’s largest pro bono programs—and he continues to maintain a robust pro bono practice. He also previously served as co-chair of the Litigation Department in the Washington, DC, office. He received his B.A. from Cornell University and his J.D. from Harvard Law School. In 2016, President Obama nominated him to an open seat on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
Together with my Latham colleagues, I lead trial teams on behalf of clients involved in complex, high-stakes commercial disputes. I love the preparation and fact development associated with handling a matter from inception through resolution. These are often intricate cases with large dollar amounts on the line. As litigators and strategic advisers to our clients, we assess how a dispute impacts a client’s business and collaborate on developing a winning strategy. I also advise clients subject to government investigations and defend against allegations of False Claims Act liability, violations of federal securities laws, and claims of health care fraud and abuse.
In addition to advising commercial clients, I dedicate considerable time to pro bono work, which I consider a very important part of my legal practice. From my very first pro bono matter as a young associate, in which I helped a victim of domestic violence from India secure asylum in the United States, I feel compelled to help ensure that even the most vulnerable members of our communities receive equal access to justice. In addition to immigrants, my pro bono clients have included unaccompanied minors, juveniles, prisoners, indigents, and individuals facing wrongful convictions and incarceration. My work includes combating discrimination, bigotry, and violations of civil rights and liberties. Recently, I led a team that secured a US$4 million victory against a neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, that published Islamophobic and defamatory statements. And, as Global Chair of Latham’s Recruiting Committee, I encourage law students to discover everything there is to love about Latham.
What types of clients do you represent?
A large number of my clients are leaders in the health care industry, including hospitals, academic medical centers, managed care organizations, as well as medical device manufacturers and other service providers. I also manage large multifaceted investigations on behalf of international health care companies. I have represented Big Four accounting firms, internet service providers, an advertising holding company, and some of the largest IT companies in the world. This wide range of clients highlights the variety of issues our complex commercial litigation practice services.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
I have handled a wide range of litigation matters and investigations. In just the last few years, my colleagues and I obtained a judgment of more than half a billion dollars for an IT company after a two-week trial. I represented the State of Florida in a water rights dispute handled by the Supreme Court. I obtained a complete victory for a Big Four accounting firm in an auditor malpractice claim. I secured dismissal of a civil False Claims Act matter alleging performance of unnecessary testing in emergency rooms. I represented a death row inmate in his efforts to secure more humane conditions of confinement. And I am currently working with the New England Innocence Project to represent an individual challenging her conviction.
How did you choose this practice area?
Latham offers the full array of practice areas you might expect from a global commercial firm. And I took full advantage of our unassigned program to determine which practice area best suited my interests and background. I have a passion for advocacy and access to justice, so litigation was a great fit. Ultimately, the people I worked with helped shape the decision. I joined Latham fresh out of law school in 1997 (after spending two summers at the firm), and I have made lifelong friendships here. I am fortunate to practice side-by-side with incredibly smart colleagues who mentored me early in my career and gave me opportunities to learn and grow as a litigator and as a member of collaborative teams. That environment shaped my career path.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
No day is typical! Every day is different and varied, and that is why I find my job so interesting. My day typically starts with a check on developments that affect my clients—did anything happen overnight or is anything looming on the horizon that we need to address? And then I join my colleagues as we turn back to executing our strategy for ongoing cases and investigations. Add in my pro bono projects and my duties as chair of our Recruiting Committee, such as campus visits and career development initiatives, and the day fills up quickly!
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
In law school, I would recommend taking federal courts, administrative law (particularly if you envision practicing in Washington, DC), and accounting for lawyers, as well as focusing on legal writing and argumentation. If you have an opportunity to clerk for a judge, take it: It will provide incredibly valuable insight into the strategic decisions that trial lawyers have to make and how judges perceive them—both positively and negatively. Also do not underestimate the value of public service. If you end up in private practice, every experience will add to your perspectives and judgment.
The best way to set yourself up for long-term success is by gathering as much information as possible about the various opportunities in the legal industry. Engage with attorneys in the practice areas you are interested in, from coffees and lunches with your law school’s alumni to reading features such as this article. Also take advantage of additional resources that firms offer to give you a glimpse into various practice areas. For example, Latham recently launched a series of Virtual Experience Programs with InsideSherpa that give students a taste of the kind of work they would be exposed to in BigLaw. These free programs provide the opportunity to complete an online internship, which allows you to receive feedback on simulated legal tasks and gain real-world experience. For more details and to sign up, please head to www.lwcareers.com.
What do you like best about your practice area?
The best part of my practice is the tangible impact it has on the lives of real people. Even disputes between two large business concerns are fundamentally different to how two groups of people view a particular issue. Vindicating a contractual right, seeking redress for a civil wrong, or defending against criminal liability will have an impact on those people in some way. Pro bono work, in particular, has a profound impact as it carries with it the potential to change the trajectory of an individual’s life. And I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to play some small role in that transformation.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area?
Litigation is—by definition—adversarial. But I disagree with the notion that lawyers on the opposite side of a hotly contested litigation are unable to maintain a cordial working relationship. The best litigators I know maintain great relationships with the attorneys on the other side of the table. They go to great lengths to ensure that differences of opinion about the law or facts do not descend into personal animosity. Civility, compassion, and thoughtful deliberation translate into excellence in the courtroom—and in life!
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
One of the things I most value in my senior associates is the ability to spot talent and interest and pass down projects that let our more-junior team members rise to a challenge. In a large litigation, for example, the more-junior members of my teams comb through the documents to find anything noteworthy. As the people most knowledgeable about the documents and the facts, the junior associate will prepare outlines for depositions, including binders of the most significant documents. And, of course, this same associate should attend the depositions to assist with game-time decisions that arise. Through this process, the associate becomes the legal and factual expert on particular issues as the case evolves.
What kinds of experience can summer associates gain at this practice area at your firm?
Different summer associates will have different experiences depending on the nature of the matters they support. If the case of a litigation matter is in its preliminary stages, summer associates may have the opportunity to prepare pleadings, conduct legal research, review and analyze documents for witness interviews, and prepare witness outlines, for example. If a litigation matter is heading to trial, summer associates will have the opportunity to assist the trial team. In fact, just last summer, a summer associate played a key role during a damages hearing in federal court. Her research on remedies was critical to our success in the matter.