Women Worth Watching 2015
Robins Kaplan Partner Pursues Justice and Fairness with a Passion
Kellie Lerner represents both plaintiffs and defendants in some of the nation’s largest antitrust lawsuits. A Partner with Robins Kaplan LLP, her talent for sifting through large swaths of data to uncover antitrust violations has made her a champion for victims of anticompetitive conduct. For example, she filed a lawsuit against Abbott Laboratories over the pricing of its life-saving HIV medication and secured a settlement that benefitted nonprofits helping HIV-positive individuals. More recently, she led ongoing litigation against Merck, for falsifying data to protect its monopoly on the mumps vaccine; Keurig, for monopolizing its popular K-Cup market; and manufacturers of contact lenses, for conspiring to keep consumer prices artificially high.
“I think my biggest career leap was when I first took on the defense of an antitrust class action after a decade of prosecuting antitrust cases,” said Kellie. “Although it defies the industry norm of picking one side or another, I learned that representing clients on both sides of the “v” gives them a competitive edge because I understand first-hand how each side of the litigation thinks.”
“…I have always had a sense that I was exactly where I should have been…”
An equally passionate and effective leader in her community, Kellie sits on the Tri-State Area Advisory Board of Jumpstart, a nonprofit that provides language and literacy support to preschool children in low-income communities. She also sits on the board of directors of the Jewish Community Project Downtown, formed after the September 11 attacks to revitalize the Jewish community in lower Manhattan. She has devoted pro bono services to Kids In Need of Defense, AARP, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law.
At Robins Kaplan, Kellie serves as co-chair of the diversity committee, where she is piloting several innovative programs to enhance diversity at the firm and within the profession, and cementing her status as a valuable mentor and role model to the next generation of women and minority leaders.
Education: JD, Rutgers Law School; BA, Rutgers University
First Job: Sales Clerk at Scuffy’s Pet Center
What I’m Reading: “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl (to my sons)
The most important quality a woman leader should have is…
…the knowledge that there isn’t a definable skill set that, if mastered, will equip you to rise to the top. In a world where double standards still very much exist, I take Sheryl Sandberg’s advice and strive for authenticity over perfection.
The career advice I’d give my former self:
In the words of one of the leading diversity and inclusion experts, Dr. Arin Reeves, if the shoe doesn’t fit, change the shoe — not your foot.
Words I live by:
You must know where you came from to know where you are going.
The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…
…absolutely nothing. I am incredibly fortunate to work in an honorable law firm alongside talented colleagues who inspire me. Even in my darkest career moments, I have always had a sense that I was exactly where I should have been and that my hard work would ultimately be rewarded.
When I really need to focus on a project, I…
…close my office door, make a list of everything that needs to get done, and delegate tasks on the list that can be accomplished by other team members, so I can focus on the issues that truly require my full attention.
My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…
…when I first took on the defense of an antitrust class action after a decade of prosecuting antitrust cases. Although it defies the industry norm of picking one side or another, I learned that representing clients on both sides of the “v” gives them a competitive edge because I understand first-hand how each side of the litigation thinks.
Being a woman in my profession has been…
…for the most part, something that has worked to my advantage. I am sure I have missed networking opportunities on the golf course or at after-parties, but generally speaking, being a woman in a male-dominated field allows me to stand out for the diversity of perspective and experience that I offer my clients and case teams.
I’ve learned that failure is…
…something I can be pretty good at. I have a fairly strong track record of falling down and getting back up, which allows me to have the confidence to take important risks in my career. I try to always remind my sons that even Hall of Fame hitters fail two-thirds of the time.
I maintain a healthy personal life by…
…making weekly Friday night dinners with my family a non-negotiable event.
I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when…
…I worked on my first prescription drug antitrust litigation. The opportunity to work on an intellectually challenging area of the law where I could ultimately make a difference in the affordability of life saving medications for the people who needed them was incredibly gratifying. I am grateful every day that I get to work for clients, whether they are consumers or generic pharmaceutical companies, who are fighting to restore competition and lower prices for prescription drugs.