A Q&A with Steven Molo and Jeffrey Lamken
Described as ‘Bright, Highly Informed and Gutsy’, MoloLakmen LLP has rapidly established its position as a leading face in the fight against complex litigation. As they celebrate their recent win in the Business Worldwide Legal Awards 2015 for ‘Best Litigation Firm, USA’, we spoke to the firm’s founders Steven Mole and Jeffrey Lamken to find out more about their winning dream team.
“A knack for delivering high-profile victories.”Crain’s Chicago Business
Please tell us a bit more about MoloLamken LLP
Jeff: MoloLamken is a law firm focused exclusively on representing clients in complex litigation. We represent corporations, boards, funds, investors, inventors, and individuals in complex business litigation, white collar criminal and regulatory matters, and IP litigation across the United States. Our clients are across the globe and frequently our matters have a cross-border component.
Steven: Jeffrey and I developed national reputations based on our courtroom successes while partners at large full-service firms where we both held leadership positions. With an abiding belief that complex litigation is most effectively handled by smaller teams comprised of smart, highly experienced lawyers focused on results rather than process, we formed the firm in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
What experience did you both bring to MoloLamken?
Steven: The civil commercial matters I have handled include those involving issues of antitrust, breach of contract, fraud, shareholder rights, structured products and derivatives, insurance, RICO, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, insolvency and restructuring, defamation and privacy, securities, banking, and consumer fraud. My cases frequently involve class actions as well as individual suits.
Criminal matters have included those involving issues of antitrust, mail, wire, bankruptcy and securities fraud, health care fraud, insurance fraud, environmental crimes, obstruction of justice, tax fraud, and other complex crimes. I also frequently conduct internal investigations for management, boards, and audit committees.
Additionally, I have served as trial counsel in intellectual property matters including patent, trademark, trade dress, trade secret, and copyright cases.
Jeff: I have argued 21 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and briefed dozens more on a wide range of topics, including administrative law, civil rights, criminal procedure, energy law, intellectual property, and telecommunications law.
Before founding MoloLamken LLP, I headed BakerBotts’ Supreme Court and Appellate Practice in Washington, D.C., and served as an Assistant to the Solicitor General in the United States Department of Justice.
What services do you provide?
Jeff: We provide experienced advocacy before judges, juries, and courts of appeal, including the Supreme Court of the United States. We also represent clients in regulatory and criminal investigations and conduct internal investigations.
Our services include complex civil litigation, which involves handling complex civil matters in federal and state courts. Our civil experience is broad and encompasses most types of sophisticated litigation.
We handle white collar criminal matters, as well as criminal and regulatory investigations, for companies and individuals in federal and state courts and before federal and state administrative agencies.
An increasing number of commercial disputes today are resolved through the use of various forms of arbitration and other means of “alternative dispute resolution.” We bring the same advocacy skills to these matters that we bring to matters in trial and appellate courts.
We have a great deal of experience in conducting internal investigations for corporations and other organizations. And in addition to our hands on experience, one of our partners co-authored the long-standing leading treatise on the topic, Corporate Internal Investigations, and has been recognized as an expert in federal court, where he has testified on the topics of corporate prosecutions and internal investigations.
Intellectual Property and Technology is another string to our bow and the types of intellectual property matters our attorneys have handled include patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret disputes. Our experience runs the gamut from representing a Fortune 500 computer and software company appealing a denial of a reissue patent on its data-transfer technology to defending a rock star against allegations of copyright infringement.
From time to time businesses or individuals may seek a greater understanding or second opinion on litigation in which they are involved or in which they may be contemplating becoming involved. Our lawyers have experience in providing such advice – sometimes working with existing counsel or sometimes consulting with the client privately apart from existing counsel. We can also advise clients who come to us and ask simply, “do I have a case?”
What sets MoloLamken apart from other firms?
Steven: Our strength lies in the intellect, creativity, and tenacity of our lawyers and our experience in applying those traits to achieve great results for clients in serious matters. Our lawyers are courtroom advocates, not merely paper litigators. We possess years of collective experience acting for plaintiffs and defendants in high stakes disputes
Recent economic circumstances have caused many to question how legal services are delivered. Those questions were at the forefront of our thinking when we founded the firm. Our structure and way of practising reflect the new realities brought on by client concerns over quality, unpredictability of cost, and insensitivity to the business effects of litigation.
The value proposition we offer is simple:
First, we listen. Rather than begin by telling clients the answer, we take time to understand the problem. Then we develop a strategy all agree will be the most likely to bring about a successful result.
Second, we bring experienced judgment to every level of the representation. Our team consists exclusively of people who can contribute meaningfully from the start. We do not have a summer associate program or look to hire recent law school graduates.
Third, we are focused on the value our representation brings to clients and results. And we structure fee arrangements that reward them.
Fourth, we are committed to using technology and alternative staffing structures that allow us to draw on needed subject matter expertise on a case-by-case basis and allow us to focus on what we do best — develop and execute on winning strategies as advocates.
We continue to look for ways to improve upon the delivery of our services and, as a growing organization, we remain open to adopting alternative approaches that make us better and benefit our clients.
Legal fees associated with large or international cases can often be substantial, particularly when calculated on a ticking meter basis. How have you ensured that your fee structures remain competitive?
Jeff: We always look to establish fee arrangements that provide clients with predictability and reward us for efficiency and results. While we will enter into hourly billing arrangements with clients if we believe it right to do so, our strong preference is to find a way to reach a professional commercial arrangement centered on value rather than time spent on a matter.
As a team of highly experienced lawyers who have achieved great results for clients in the past, we are able to focus and be more efficient and effective than firms that place competing demands on frequently changing personnel.
We favor sharing risk with our clients and look to understand their goals in a matter, then structure a fee arrangement that is fair and that recognizes the value in achieving those goals. There are many ways in which such fee arrangements can be structured, subject to rules of professional responsibility. Flat fees, percentage holdbacks, milestone payments, and partial contingencies are just some of the ways to achieve a fair and predictable fee.
I’m sure every case brings with it new challenges, so how do you ensure you always have the ‘best in class’ people for the job? Do you outsource or collaborate with other specialists?
Steven: We believe complex litigation – at every stage – is best handled through a collaborative effort undertaken by the firm and the client. Whether mapping out a discovery plan, developing an investigation strategy, preparing for trial, or analyzing issues for an appeal, our emphasis is on teamwork and communication. We draw on a broad range of skills within the firm, and if the matter warrants it, we will draw on expertise outside the firm from established resources.
We are intimately familiar with, and fulfill, our obligations concerning electronic discovery. But unlike many firms, we recognize that the most efficient, cost-effective way to handle much of that work is to partner with outside vendors – who can provide state-of-the-art technology and systems – rather than have our own staff, junior lawyers, or contract attorneys perform the work at a substantially higher price.
Jeff: Our core team is engaged where we provide the greatest value and if we, along with the client, believe that additional resources are needed, we will find the best possible people and the most cost-effective solution to fill that need rather than have lawyers performing work for which they may not be the best fit.
MoloLamken operates from offices in New York, Washington D.C and Chicago. Do you handle cases from outside the United States?
Steven: Yes, we frequently represent clients who are based outside the United States but are involved in U.S.-centered or cross-border disputes or investigations. This includes work for foreign sovereigns. We provide the same excellent representation to those clients as we do to our U.S.-based clients, often teaming up with leading lawyers from other parts of the world.
What about some of your recent successes?
Steven: We are very proud to have obtained a key victory in April for investors in four RMBS trusts worth in excess of $4 billion. Hon. Charles Haight, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, ruled the cases can move forward against WMC, a mortgage loan originator owned by GE.
Jeff: Also internationally, we successfully defeated sanctions sought against foreign government. Judge Kimba Wood of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York denied a motion for sanctions, including an adverse inference, brought by the international mining company, Thai Lao Lignite, against our client, the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. MoloLamken was retained to represent the government of Laos after the issue of sanctions arose. The case arises under the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “New York Convention”) and implicates the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. This is the first time that the Lao government has been a party to litigation in the United States. Related proceedings are occurring in the U.K., France, Malaysia, and Singapore.
With such a solid and impressive performance record to date, do other firms call on you for assistance?
Jeff: We have been involved in some of the most complex legal issues in the U.S. courts over the past 20 years. Frequently, the firm is asked to work with other counsel in representing a client after a matter has been pending and the need for additional courtroom experience becomes apparent.