WilmerHale Women: Trial LawyersWilmerHale Women
A Patent Victory for a Pharmaceutical Innovation
In a case that exemplifies the firm’s record of protecting healthcare innovation, a team led by Partners Bill Lee, Lisa Pirozzolo and Chris Noyes achieved a win in patent litigation for GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). GSK filed suit against six defendants, alleging that their proposed generic products would infringe GSK’s patent covering the chemical compound dutasteride, the active ingredient in GSK’s enlarged-prostate treatments, Avodart and Jalyn. After a three-day bench trial, the US District Court for the District of Delaware rejected the defendants’ various invalidity arguments and held that GSK’s patent was not invalid. The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court decision in February 2014.
“We were pleased that the district court and Federal Circuit decisions recognized GSK’s substantial contributions to and investment in the development of dutasteride, which can significantly improve the lives of patients who need it,” says Lisa.
Lisa Pirozzolo, Partner
Co-Chair, Intellectual Property Litigation Practice
Member, Management Committee
A Long-Fought Victory for the NCAA in Libel Suit
A WilmerHale team headed by Partner Felicia Ellsworth achieved a win for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in May 2016 when a jury in Massachusetts found for the defense after a seven-day libel trial. The plaintiff, a former SUNY Buffalo men’s basketball head coach, sought $25 million in damages.
The victory capped more than a decade of litigation between the two parties. Beginning in 2003, the coach filed multiple lawsuits against the organization after an NCAA disciplinary board determined that he had violated NCAA rules during his tenure. Through discovery in this litigation, the coach obtained an internal NCAA memo that, he claimed, contained a libelous statement about him, which led him to file suit against the NCAA and three of its officials in 2013.
After navigating the case’s circuitous path between federal and state courtrooms, the WilmerHale team secured a major win when, in March 2015, the Massachusetts Superior Court dismissed the three individual defendants as well as many of the plaintiff’s claims, leaving a single libel claim as the only remaining count in the case. When this claim proceeded to trial, a 14-person jury cleared the NCAA.
“We were very pleased to obtain a total defense verdict for the client. The jury’s verdict meant that the plaintiff could not prove that the statement at issue was defamatory or false, or that the NCAA had written it with the intent required for liability,” says Felicia. “Although any one of these findings would have been sufficient for a defense verdict, the jury found for the NCAA on all three issues. That means the jury agreed with us at every turn—and that we did our job.”
Client: National Collegiate Athletic Association
Felicia Ellsworth, Partner
Vice Chair, Litigation Department
A Rare Acquittal in Federal Criminal Antitrust Case
In a stunning late-2018 victory in the Southern District of New York, a WilmerHale team led by Partner Heather Nyong’o won an acquittal for Rohan Ramchandani, a former London-based foreign exchange trader at Citigroup, who faced up to 10 years in prison had he been convicted on criminal antitrust charges.
In 2015, five banks pleaded guilty and agreed to pay steep fines as a result of US and UK government investigations alleging illegal activities by former traders. US prosecutors indicted Rohan Ramchandani and two other former foreign exchange traders in 2017 for illegal price-fixing. The charges were based principally on the traders’ communications in an online chatroom, which the government claimed they used to fix prices in the $5.1 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market over a period of six years.
During the two-week trial, Heather and Partner Anjan Sahni (as trial counsel), alongside counsel for the other two defendants, methodically chipped away at the government’s case. While the government relied mainly on the chatroom communications, the WilmerHale team dug into vast amounts of trading data to mount a thorough and convincing defense. Further, in one strategic move, Heather made the decision to call a fact witness, who explained how chatrooms actually supported competition by helping to obtain better prices for customers. The jury took less than five hours to deliver its verdict to acquit all three defendants—an extremely rare outcome in a federal criminal case.
“For years, Rohan waited patiently to clear his name,” says Heather. “His steadfast resolve inspired the whole WilmerHale team—which was a tremendous group of lawyers—to fight tenaciously on his behalf.”
Client: Former Citigroup trader Rohan Ramchandani
Heather Nyong’o, Partner
Partner-in-Charge, San Francisco Office
A Novel Trial Approach Saves T-Mobile Merger
In a landmark antitrust trial, Partner Hallie Levin led a WilmerHale team to a resounding victory for clients T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom. Attorneys General from 13 states and the District of Columbia sought to enjoin the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, but, in a February 2020 decision, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York unambiguously rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments and credited the testimony and evidence presented by T-Mobile’s legal team.
This team developed the crucial strategy, unusual for antitrust litigation, that focused on the credibility of T-Mobile’s executives and argued, through the extensive use of T-Mobile’s normal course-of business documents, that the plaintiffs’ theories were inconsistent with T-Mobile’s longstanding “Un-carrier” business model.
“As a trial lawyer, I was always convinced that, despite the predictive nature of antitrust law and its emphasis on economic analysis, the real-world facts should and would matter here,” Hallie later told The American Lawyer Litigation Daily. “And the real-world evidence in this case is unambiguously that New T-Mobile will enhance, not lessen, competition.”
In finding for WilmerHale’s clients, the court relied heavily on the testimony of T-Mobile’s then-CEO, John Legere, and its then-President and current CEO, Mike Sievert—who were questioned by Hallie during the trial—finding that the trial evidence “credibly presented by T-Mobile executives” reflected “a company [New T-Mobile] reinforced with a massive infusion of spectrum, capacity, capital, and other resources, and chomping to take on its new market peers and rivals in head-on competition.”
Clients: T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom
Hallie Levin, Partner
Meet Women Trial Leaders
Career Highlights: The vice chair of WilmerHale’s Litigation/Controversy Department, Felicia has netted wins in complex commercial litigation in both state and federal courtrooms. Major industry publications routinely recognize her, and she earned The American Lawyer Litigation Daily’s “Litigator of the Week” title in 2019 for her work as trial counsel to Harvard in the case challenging its use of race in undergraduate admissions.
Trial Wisdom: “The ability to think and act quickly on your feet is so important as a trial lawyer. You need to avoid knee-jerk reactions, but at the same time, if an unexpected issue arises, you should take a beat to think about it, and then have the confidence to exercise your judgment and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’”
Read Felicia Ellsworth’s biography.
Career Highlights: Vinita has developed a broad practice as a trial lawyer. She represents clients in a wide variety of industries—from pharmaceuticals to consumer products to financial services—in both patent and trademark litigation. In one particularly hard-fought case, she helped to persuade a jury to find for a small biotech company accused of infringement by a much larger competitor—a victory that kept her client from going out of business.
Trial Wisdom: “Before a trial, I do a lot of reading. It’s critical to be fully up to speed on everything in the record. For example, if I’m going to be doing the examination of a witness, I want to know everything that witness has said in a case. I make sure I’m not going to be surprised by anything.”
Read Vinita Ferrera’s biography.
Career Highlights: Rachael, who vice-chairs the firm’s International Arbitration Practice, has led international arbitration hearings around the world, including in disputes arising under M&A agreements, construction and infrastructure contracts, and technology licensing and transfer agreements. Chambers Global, which regularly recognizes her, says she “knows the arbitration process backwards and forwards and makes really good strategic calls.”
Trial Wisdom: “Every case is different, and a good advocate will adjust to the arbitral seat, the governing law, the nationalities of the arbitrators and the commercial context. But good advocacy always comes down to anticipating the hard questions and walking the arbitrators through every step of the analysis they need to reach the result their client is seeking.”
Read Rachael Kent’s biography.
Career Highlights: Hallie has led an array of trials in federal and state courts and before arbitral tribunals. In 2019, she coled the team that represented T-Mobile and Deutsche Telekom in the landmark antitrust trial in which Attorneys General from 13 states and the District of Columbia failed in their effort to enjoin the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint. Ms. Levin examined critical witnesses at trial, including T-Mobile’s then-current CEO and current CEO. She was named Litigator of the Week by The American Lawyer Litigation Daily and was honored as a 2020 Winning Litigator by The National Law Journal for her work. The win was reported worldwide, including in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Trial Wisdom: “Turn off the PowerPoint, step away from the podium, look each juror in the eye. Repeat. You will never establish a relationship of trust with jurors if you’re talking at them, not to them.”
Read Hallie Levin’s biography.
Career Highlights: For nearly 20 years, Sonal has represented the world’s leading technology and life sciences companies in high-stakes patent and technology disputes. As a first-chair trial lawyer, her experience spans all aspects of trial practice, from opening to closing, pre-trial to post-trial, and everything in between.
Trial Wisdom: “As a trial lawyer, my job is to arm the jury with the facts and the narrative and legal framework to apply those facts. Juries see through bluster, name-calling and distractions. I want the jury to know that I am giving them the facts that matter (and only the facts that matter) and to know that they can trust my explanation for why those facts matter. When I am before a jury, nothing matters more than my credibility and that of my client.”
Read Sonal Mehta’s biography.
Career Highlights: Heather leads WilmerHale’s California Cartel Enforcement Group and is partner-in-charge of the San Francisco office. Chambers USA calls her a “very talented trial lawyer” who is “absolutely brilliant” and knows “how the antitrust division thinks.” She honed her skills as a trial attorney in the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in San Francisco, where she handled some of the most significant investigations and criminal prosecutions brought by the agency.
Trial Wisdom: “At WilmerHale, we’re not known as chest-beating trial lawyers—but our opponents should never mistake that as a weakness. We take a sophisticated approach that allows us to pivot between trial and resolution as needed to find the right outcome.”
Read Heather Nyong’o’s biography.
Career Highlights: Lisa, co-chair of the firm’s Intellectual Property Litigation Practice and member of the firm’s Management Committee, has led multiple trial teams in patent infringement disputes for leading life sciences and medical device companies. Chambers USA—which has recognized her for the past decade—notes that she is “held in high regard” and that she is “praised by her clients for her courtroom skills.”
Trial Wisdom: “To effectively represent our clients in court, we need to tell their stories well. When we get a new patent litigation matter, one of the first things we do is interview the people who developed the technology involved to understand how they came up with their invention—what problem they were trying to solve, what hurdles they faced, how they were able to succeed and how their invention helps patients.”
Read Lisa Pirozzolo’s biography.
Career Highlights: Emily has tried more than 20 cases in federal courts and administrative tribunals and has briefed and argued dozens of federal appeals. Her practice focuses on criminal and civil government enforcement matters, particularly in the healthcare and financial services industries. She has successfully persuaded the government to drop or to forgo charges against corporate and individual clients on multiple occasions. Emily honed her skills as a trial attorney in the Department of Justice, where she served as an assistant US attorney in the District of Massachusetts for more than a decade.
Trial Wisdom: “Deliver as promised and the jury will trust you. Demonstrate your mastery of the case and the courtroom, focus on the facts that matter most, and present those facts in a clear, cogent way. It makes all the difference.”
Read Emily Schulman’s biography.
Career Highlights: Mindy, who focuses on patent litigation and other IP and business disputes, has achieved many notable trial victories involving complex technologies. Recently, she led Comcast to an outright victory in an expedited patent infringement case in the Northern District of California, involving 10 patents. "The Denver office partner-in-charge, Mindy was named to Law Week Colorado's Top Women Attorneys list in 2020 and 2017 and was the magazine's 2018 Top Litigator."
Trial Wisdom: “I worked as an engineer before law school, then built up nearly 15 years of trial experience as an attorney. That combination of experience makes me particularly effective at advocating for our technology clients. Lawyers with backgrounds like mine are one reason WilmerHale has such a strong patent litigation practice.”
Read Mindy Sooter’s biography.
Career Highlights: Cindy, who focuses on patent and trade secrets litigation, has served as lead or co-lead trial counsel in more than 20 trials. She has successfully tried cases in technologies ranging from wireless devices, semiconductor chips and computer storage to medical devices and pharmaceuticals. Law360 honored her as one of only two IP litigators selected for its inaugural list of Top Female Trial Attorneys.
Trial Wisdom: “It’s all about the story—even in a technical patent case. Our job as trial lawyers is to keep digging until we find a compelling story we are excited to tell.”
Read Cindy Vreeland’s biography.
Career Highlights: Amy draws on a deep understanding of the complexities of Hatch-Waxman litigation and the trial process to secure business-critical results for clients. Amy has led several Hatch-Waxman cases involving multiple generic challengers that have resulted in successful judgments or settlements for her branded pharmaceutical clients. She also played a significant role in a jury trial involving design patents that resulted in a substantial damages award for her client.
Trial Wisdom: “Preparation is the key. As a patent litigator, you need to truly understand the facts so that you can communicate complex ideas to lay judges and jurors. I’ve always been amazed at how well non-scientists can grasp the important information if it is presented correctly.”
Read Amy Wigmore’s biography.