The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Anna Pletcher, Partner—Antitrust & Competition
Anna Pletcher is an experienced litigator and former federal prosecutor who represents clients on a broad range of antitrust issues, as well as sensitive white collar and corporate investigations.
Prior to joining O’Melveny, Anna served for 10 years as a trial attorney for the United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division, where she investigated and prosecuted a variety of complex cases, including price fixing, bid rigging, market manipulation, fraud, and money laundering. Anna also served as a special assistant United States attorney in the Major Crimes unit in San Francisco and as assistant chief of the United States Department of Justice, Antitrust Division San Francisco office.
During her decade-long tenure as a prosecutor, Anna worked closely with various components of the federal and state criminal justice systems, including the FBI, United States Probation, and the California Attorney General’s office. Recognized for her exemplary work, Anna received the Assistant Attorney General’s Award in 2014, 2011, and 2007.
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
I represent clients in criminal and civil antitrust litigation, advise on competition-related issues, and guide clients facing white collar prosecutions and investigations. In each aspect of my practice, I am able to draw on my decade of prosecutorial experience to help my clients plan and execute their best strategies.
What types of clients do you represent?
I represent corporations and individuals in a variety of different industries, from technology to consumer goods to entertainment.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
I work on antitrust cartel cases, defending corporations and individuals that are being investigated for price fixing, bid rigging, or market manipulation. On the civil litigation side, I represent companies that are defending against antitrust lawsuits. I also advise companies on how to create policies that will minimize their risk of antitrust violations.
And I do a significant amount of pro bono work. I am involved in a habeas corpus matter dealing with a juvenile offender and a case helping a teen immigrant get asylum. I am also assisting a family that was separated at the border, and I am volunteering with a restorative justice program for youth.
How did you choose this practice area?
I fell into antitrust by accident. When I was clerking, I saw an advertisement for the DOJ Honors Program. There are very few entry-level opportunities at the federal government and even fewer in San Francisco. But the Antitrust Division’s San Francisco office was hiring honors attorneys at the time. I had never taken an antitrust class, so I scrambled to read the Sherman Act and some case law. With that and my background in investment banking, I was extremely fortunate to get the job. And I loved it from the very first day. It was meant to be!
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
On a typical day, I may have a call with a client to discuss the status of their case. I often review and edit drafts of briefs and correspondence that associates have been working on. I often have conferences with associates to guide them through their projects. I read articles and news reports so that I can stay up to date on the latest developments in antitrust law. Since I came to private practice directly from the government, I am also working on building my business. I go to conferences, speak on panels, write articles, and network with potential clients and other attorneys in the field.
I also volunteer in my community. I am president of the Association of Latino Marin Attorneys and a volunteer judge for Marin County Youth Court, a restorative-justice-based diversion program for youth. I often have responsibilities for these organizations that I fit into my typical day.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Trial skills are important. Antitrust trials are few and far between, but getting that trial experience is key. Taking a trial advocacy course and participating in moot court are great ways to start developing those skills in law school. Writing is also critical. Most people are not born great writers. It takes time and practice to build that skill. Writing for a journal, clerking for a judge, or participating in a law clinic are good ways to start. Reading is just as important as writing. I recommend editing peers’ work, reading whole cases as opposed to annotated versions in textbooks, and just reading widely. In the antitrust space, there are some interesting popular books out now, including Tim Wu’s The Curse of Bigness and Matt Stoller’s Goliath. And then there’s the cult favorite, The Informant, which describes the famous prosecution of the lysine price-fixing cartel and was made into a movie featuring Matt Damon.
What do you like best about your practice area?
I love that antitrust law is continually changing. The Sherman Act is a statute of few words, but an enormous body of jurisprudence has developed around it through the common law. As societal values change and new technologies develop, antitrust law adapts with it.
What misconceptions exist about your practice area?
For several years, I taught a course at Berkeley Law on white collar crime. Students were always very curious when we got to the section on criminal antitrust because the field was something of a mystery to them. Antitrust has a reputation for being complex and esoteric and has not, until recently, been the subject of much discussion in popular culture. However, with the rise of tech giants and increased media attention—even presidential candidates debating antitrust policy on national TV—knowledge of and interest in the field is growing. I think there is an increasing understanding that antitrust law plays an important role in the health of our economy and our democracy. Antitrust is intellectually interesting, but it is also very meaningful. I hope more new attorneys consider it as a career!
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
Antitrust work is litigation. As in any litigation practice, junior lawyers would be conducting legal research, drafting memos, reviewing documents, managing discovery, and drafting motions and briefs.
What are some typical career paths for lawyers in this practice area?
Many attorneys in private antitrust practice have worked for the government at some point in their careers. A typical path is to work two to five years in a firm, move to the government, and then go back to private practice. The DOJ Antitrust Division and the FTC are the two federal antitrust enforcers. States also have antitrust enforcement authorities. It is helpful to have worked at one of these agencies because antitrust cases, both on the criminal and civil side, are complex and unique in many ways. Understanding how the government builds an antitrust case provides useful insight when advising clients.