Lawyer Limelight: Megan Jones of Hausfeld

Hausfeld partner Megan Jones excels at litigating enormous antitrust cases in court while also handling the nuances of negotiating settlements. She has secured hundreds of millions of dollars for classes of plaintiffs in a variety of industries, from rubber chemicals to polyester staple to municipal bonds. A champion for women in her field, Jones is the founder and creator of a biannual conference for women plaintiffs’ attorneys to network and discuss best practices to pave the way for other women to lead class actions. She is a proud product of public schools “K through J.D.,” graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law and is based in the firm’s San Francisco office.

Lawdragon: Can you describe for our readers the focus of your practice?

Megan Jones: My practice for two decades has focused on private antitrust enforcement on behalf of victims. Day to day, this consists of designing and executing discovery strategy, deposing witnesses, and working with economists to create models to show what happened in the industry.

Part of working on the plaintiffs’ side of antitrust cases also focuses on building strong teams of lawyers from different law firms, as courts often require different law firms to work together on antitrust cases that span years. Combining the efforts of multiple law firms is similar to running a company, where I have to design the strategy, formulate the objectives, deploy the right talent and ensure execution. Part of what I do best is effectively pair the incredible talent from the many law firms on my side with the strategic goals of the case, for example, matching key deposition takers and brief writers with the more challenging witnesses and motions. In one case, I marshaled the work of 80 law firms to a successful outcome.

Given my two decades’ of experience in antitrust cases, I am also battle-tested if certain of those teams do not perform as expected or the litigation itself takes an unexpected turn. I am energized by the challenge of getting the job done, or handling the unexpected litigation outcome.

LD: What do you enjoy most about this type of antitrust work?

MJ: Antitrust cases are always fact intensive: not only do you have to figure out the challenged anticompetitive conduct, but you also have to understand the economics of an entire industry.  Each case is like a puzzle, but without that helpful picture to guide your efforts. I like this part:  I start by methodically piecing the industry and the challenged conduct together. My happiest place is in the evidence, and I will relentlessly spend hours on the hunt for the threads of the case. Surrounded by documents and testimony, I start to construct what happened from the ground up, testing it with witnesses at every turn. By the end of the case, I have mastered the facts, law and the economics.

I leverage my skills by embracing new technology, such as new review tools, using case-specific iPads in court, setting up electronic “binders” in the cloud, or finding new apps to transform my trial preparation. Harnessing technology not only saves money and time, it improves my ability  to better cross-examine witnesses. In one instance, I used an online document repository during a live deposition to verify the veracity of a witness’ statement. I was able to develop the record that resulted in the production of a case-breaking document – because I could search for a specific term of art in real time, and develop a line of questions based on specifics.

LD: Is there a particular part of the litigation process that you find especially interesting or satisfying?

MJ: I think the phase of the case that interests me most is negotiating settlements. For the last two decades, I have learned by doing. Being at the settlement table so many times in so many different cases, each with different counsel, has taught me the necessity of creativity, the power of skillful draftsmanship of the agreement itself, the requirement of having a blueprint to get to a good deal, and how to manage personalities.

I love how creative the settlement process can be, and when it works well, how both sides ultimately end up collaborating to get to a deal. My favorite instances are when both sides realize – usually after intense questioning and drawn out negotiations – that they have found common ground: you can see the light go on, and then it is all about capturing that moment in writing. Importantly, I have learned it can take 20 years to build a reputation and ten minutes to ruin it. I have personally seen what happens when parties bend facts, or argue over terms that have no impact on the deal itself all in the name of “tactics.” It is my philosophy that what matters most is ongoing trust and respect for my adversaries, for this negotiation and the next.  I would rather parties disagree, and settlement talks end, than compromise on these values.

LD: How would you describe your style as a lawyer?

MJ: I am often the lawyer that proposes the new idea, or takes on the project that others thought was impossible. I like to take the hard depositions, write the brief with the new legal theory, or figure out how to distill complex facts and legal theories into simple explanations.

My experiences, both the good and the bad, over two decades have shaped me into a more resilient lawyer. As a woman in a predominantly male dominated field, I have had my share of moments that make me shake my head. At the helm of large, complex antitrust cases, I often have to navigate through unchartered waters and face the best defense lawyers in the country, forcing me to up my game with each encounter. As a lawyer who works on contingency, I constantly strive to do more with less, while never sacrificing quality.  Each of these experiences has shaped me, and made me a better lawyer that courts and counsel can trust and rely on.