The antitrust laws seek to prevent cartels, anticompetitive conduct by monopolies, keep markets from becoming monopolistic by barring mergers that would create undue concentration, and generally preserve and encourage competition. The Sherman Act and the Clayton Act form the primary basis of our antitrust laws. The Sherman Act prohibits agreements that create or further cartels such as agreements among competitors to fix prices or divide territories as well as agreements that unreasonably restrain competition. The Clayton Act prohibits mergers that may substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly. It also imposes limits on agreements that limit the buyer’s freedom. The Robinson-Patman Act that amended the Clayton Act imposes limits on price discrimination. Most states also have antitrust statues and statutes that cover trade practices. Even more relevant in today’s global economy, the EU and most other countries in the world have antitrust laws as well. Hence, the basic rules governing competition are now global in reach.
Antitrust lawyers work both in law firms and in government. On the private practice side, some law firms specialize in plaintiffs’ antitrust claims–often in the form of class actions. These firms usually do other kinds of complex plaintiffs’ business litigation in the securities and consumer areas as well. Other antitrust lawyers work in mid-size to large law firms that have departments specializing in antitrust issues. These lawyers represent businesses, either advising clients about the antitrust risks associated with various business practices, getting clearance from the government on the antitrust aspects of a merger or acquisition, or representing businesses in antitrust litigation (often defending these firms, but frequently suing on their behalf). Law firm clients range from small businesses to multi-national corporations. Finally, there are a few small, specialized antitrust firms that do counseling and government advocacy.
Antitrust lawyers who work for the government work either for state offices, like the state attorney general's office, or for the two federal agencies that enforce antitrust law– the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. They investigate and review mergers, acquisitions, and business practices that potentially violate the antitrust laws; negotiate deals and compliance issues; and may litigate complex, high-profile cases. In addition, a number of other government agencies ranging from the Federal Communications Commission to the Department of Agriculture need lawyers who understand antitrust law because these agencies have regulatory responsibilities that require an understanding of competition issues.
Antitrust lawyers who represent businesses must be able to provide counseling to help their clients understand antitrust risks, and they must also be able to help their clients accomplish their goals. Plaintiffs’ antitrust lawyers and government lawyers also need to understand the underlying business issues in order to have an appropriate understanding of the competitive issues involved in any investigation or litigation. In addition, antitrust lawyers must have the skills required of litigators, including the ability to undertake detailed legal analysis and handle complex litigation. Antitrust lawyers also need exceptional writing skills and strong oral advocacy skills. Finally, antitrust litigation requires detailed analysis of the market and of various factors that influence the market, like pricing, goods, services, and competition. Thus antitrust lawyers must be able to grasp economics and the interplay between economics and law. Today, many antitrust issues also involve claims that patent or copyright law immunizes or justifies otherwise anticompetitive conduct. Hence, the well-trained antitrust lawyer should have a firm grasp of both patent and copyright law. Similarly, a patent or copyright oriented lawyer ought to have a good appreciation of antitrust law and its implications for the use of “intellectual property.”
These are the core courses that — at a minimum — employers expect a student interested in this specialty to have.
Students interested in this practice area should consider including one or more of the following courses as electives.
- Advanced Legal Writing
- Administrative Law
- Business Organizations I
- Business Organizations II
- Introduction to Intellectual Property (the basic course as well as Patent Law and Copyright Law)
These courses deepen or broaden the skills and substantive information that a lawyer in this field needs and may also provide advanced courses for students interested in a specialty within this area of practice. [Students should also consider including some upper-level courses outside of the Law School (limit is 6 credits) that focus on the analysis of markets and public policy or market structure and conduct.]
(Note that whether a particular course is scheduled depends on faculty availability and student demand.)
Clinics, Internships, and Externships
The Consumer Law Clinic represents low- and moderate-income consumers in individual and class action lawsuits in federal and state courts. The Clinic operates year-round and is open to students who have completed their first year of law school. The Consumer Law Clinic trains students in all aspects of civil litigation.
The Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic is a transactional course providing students the opportunity to work with startup businesses and entrepreneurial clients. Legal issues include creating and maintaining the corporate entity, and providing basic legal advice on contracts, intellectual property, employer-employee matters, tax, and other issues facing the startup business. Experienced business law and corporate attorneys provide guidance and supervision.
Students work in various civil units (including the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Unit) of the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The program offers law students a unique opportunity to gain hands-on experience in public advocacy and litigation. Externs practice trial, appellate and administrative law with some of the state's most well-respected litigators, working on matters of statewide importance.
The Judicial Internship Program places students with trial and appellate judges throughout Wisconsin, including placements with the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the federal district courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Wisconsin. Student work varies but always emphasizes research and writing.
Student Organizations and Related Activities
There are three student journals (Wisconsin Law Review, Wisconsin International Law Journal, Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society) that give students an opportunity to assist with and contribute to the Law School's scholarly publications. These publications provide invaluable training in legal research and writing.
Mock Trial provides real trial experience at a competitive level. Students participate in nationwide competitions that give them opportunities to give opening and closing statements and to direct- and cross-examine witnesses. For the student interested in litigation it is an invaluable experience to learn skills you may not get in the classroom.
Moot Court is a mock appellate advocacy program that provides invaluable experience for students in brief writing and oral advocacy. Students participate in nationwide competitions. For the student interested in litigation it is an invaluable experience and an excellent way to develop strong oral communication skills.
Here are some of the full-time faculty who teach or have an interest in this subject area: