Boom Times for Lawyers as Washington Pursues Big Tech

The tech firms are also bringing antitrust experts in house. Amazon, Facebook and Google each have dozens of in-house lawyers. In January 2020, Amazon hired a former F.T.C. lawyer, Amy Posner. In April 2020, Facebook hired numerous government officials, starting with another longtime Federal Trade Commission lawyer in the competition bureau.

“What’s striking is the number of people going to work directly for tech companies from the agencies,” said William Kovacic, a former chairman of the F.T.C. “That reflects a real change.”

The opportunities to work for tech clients, or the tech companies themselves, drew a big audience at a recent mock trial held by the American Bar Association. The workshop centered on a fictional big search engine called Knowsmore, which was being sued by a smaller search engine that wanted to charge for more privacy features. The event was one of the best-attended workshops put on by the A.B.A. over the past few years, said David Reichenberg, a lawyer at Cozen O’Connor and the association’s litigation committee co-chair.

“Every year there is more and more interest among the members to learn more about tech and antitrust,” he said.

There is also more work for lawyers who want to take on the big companies, or represent the government itself. Two law firms reached an agreement last year to represent the State of Texas in its lawsuit against Google. And last month, another firm joined with the attorney general in the District of Columbia to sue Amazon.

But many of the biggest and most prestigious firms are working for the Silicon Valley giants.

Jonathan Kanter, a longtime antitrust lawyer who has been rumored as a possible nominee to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division, built his career largely around working for the rivals of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple. His client list included both big companies like Microsoft and News Corporation and smaller firms like Yelp and Spotify.

In 2016, he moved to Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a prominent corporate litigation firm. But last year, Mr. Kanter’s work criticizing Big Tech started to present conflicts with other parts of the firm’s sprawling portfolio, said two people with knowledge of the matter. Specifically, his practice was at odds with work being done by Bill Isaacson and Karen Dunn, two lawyers the firm had just hired who are known to represent Apple and Amazon, said another person with knowledge of the situation.

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