Susan K. Leader is a partner in the Los Angeles office and serves as the chair of the office hiring committee. She is a trial lawyer with a diverse civil litigation practice in federal and state courts, as well as arbitration involving complex business, high-profile, and oftentimes, bet-the-company commercial litigation. She has experience with disputes alleging wage and hour violations, franchise law, products liability, breach of fiduciary duty and business torts, as well as intellectual property claims in copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets and IP claims under the California Uniform Trade Secrets Act. She has also litigated cases involving trusts and estates. In addition, Ms. Leader has experience defending companies in False Claims Act (FCA) cases brought by qui tam relators or the Department of Justice.
Practice & Background
Ms. Leader has substantial experience in litigating and trying complex commercial matters in federal and state courts, and arbitration, from pre-filing through trial and post-trial law and motion. Her litigation and counseling experience includes work for companies in the telecommunications, hospitality, energy, retail, fitness, aerospace and entertainment industries, as well as representation of large trusts and estates.
Ms. Leader serves as the Treasurer for the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, is on the Complex Court Committee for the Los Angeles County Bar, and is also a member of the Board of Directors for Western Center on Law & Poverty. She serves as an instructor for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. In addition to teaching trial advocacy skills in Los Angeles, Ms. Leader traveled to Lagos, Nigeria with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy in 2016 to teach a one-week pilot program for the Public Defender’s office.
Ms. Leader received her J.D. in 2001 from the University of Virginia School of Law. In 1997, she received her B.A. magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
Ms. Leader’s recent engagements include:
- representing a Chinese film financing, distribution and production company in various disputes relating to film production
- representing a leading satellite service provider in defending twelve related single-plaintiff actions by technicians alleging joint employment and various wage and hour violations under the FLSA and California law
- representing a luxury hotel owner and ground lessor in a dispute against a well-known luxury hotel management company for contract claims involving a radius restriction in the hotel management agreement
- representing a multinational retail corporation as national coordinating counsel on nationwide products liability actions
- representing a large fitness center chain in arbitration concerning alleged participation rights in the $1.85 billion stock sale of the company; defeated claims of liability and awarded more than $1 million in attorney’s fees and costs
- counseling a leading telecommunications service provider in pre-merger integration planning and antitrust compliance
- obtaining summary judgment against the government on a $300 million FCA case involving the largest beef recall in history
- obtaining summary adjudication and attorney’s fees on behalf of the Estate of Theodore Forstmann, IMG and 24 Hour Fitness in an arbitration alleging unlawful gambling practices by Mr. Forstmann and breach of oral contract
- representing the trustees of a half billion dollar trust as defendants in a four-week jury trial focused on whether the trust had breached its promissory note and security agreement with plaintiff (a private third-party company); plaintiff sought $400 million in damages but a complete defense verdict was rendered
- serving as lead trial counsel on behalf of the defendant in a multimillion-dollar, bet-the-company case concerning misappropriation of trade secrets, trademark infringement and unfair competition, in which she obtained a complete defense verdict after a two-week trial
- representing a Korea-based client in a federal dispute against a large retail manufacturer regarding a breach of franchise agreement, in which she successfully defeated numerous motions to dismiss and obtained a multimillion-dollar settlement for the client
- representing a large out-of-state packaging company in a one-week breach of contract arbitration initiated by a local business represented by a large Los Angeles-based international law firm, in which she recovered attorney’s fees and costs
- serving as co-trial counsel on behalf of the defendant in a seven-week trial concerning alleged Cartwright Act violations and intentional interference with a prospective business advantage.
- Instructor, Trial Advocacy Skills, National Institute for Trial Advocacy (2016-present)
Awards & Accolades
- Inclusion in Daily Journal “Top Verdicts” of 2012 for “Top Defense Verdicts” in the successful and precedent-setting representation of the trustees in the $380 million suit filed by Zacadia Financial Ltd. in the case of the estate of the Herbalife founder.
- Presenter, “Arbitration 101,” Client Presentation, December 2017 and January 2018
- Panelist, “Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace,” Client Presentation, August 2017
- Co-Presenter, “Trends in Consumer Class Actions: How to Avoid Becoming a Target,” Akin Gump In-House CLE Series, October 2016
- Presenter, “Land Mines for In-House Counsel,” Akin Gump In-House CLE Series, May 2016