Antitrust law governs the way businesses interact in the marketplace. It seeks to protect competition. It encourages firms to pursue success by developing and selling better and cheaper products and services, not by working with their competitors (collusion) or by harming rivals (exclusion) in order to raise prices, lessen product quality, suppress innovation rates, or otherwise harm consumers and other buyers. Most antitrust cases are civil matters, but some (mainly cartel cases brought by the Justice Department) are criminal violations.
Many antitrust lawyers work for government antitrust enforcement agencies, particularly the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. but also in antitrust divisions of state attorneys general offices and in regulatory bodies abroad. Most of these lawyers investigate possible violations, though some may litigate court challenges or work on policy issues. Other antitrust lawyers work in private practice, typically in firms providing legal services for corporate clients (which may be antitrust plaintiffs or defendants) or in law firms that specialize in plaintiffs class actions. Still other antitrust lawyers work in-house, in corporate general counsel’s offices. In the corporate law firm setting, antitrust lawyers may act as counselors, advising clients on how to comply with the antitrust laws, advocates before the enforcement agencies, and litigators. Some practice antitrust law full time, while others do so as an adjunct to a more general corporate or litigation practice, to an intellectual property practice, or to a regulatory practice in industries such as communications, energy, health care, financial services or transportation.
In our curriculum, antitrust law is the foundational course. We also offer two electives: an advanced antitrust course and a class on international and comparative antitrust. There are no prerequisites for taking antitrust, but students without much exposure to the way businesses work might benefit from taking business associations in advance or concurrently. Students interested in antitrust practice may benefit from understanding the litigation process even if they never end up in the courtroom, so should consider taking civil trial advocacy. The other related courses, on intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions, white collar crime, communications law and economic regulation, and health care mergers and acquisitions, may provide valuable background for certain practice settings.