Law360 MVP: Wilkinson Stekloff’s Beth Wilkinson

Law360, New York — Wilkinson Stekloff & Eskovitz PLLC’s Beth Wilkinson only co-founded her firm a year ago, and she and her team have already scored major victories defending Georgia Pacific from a $10 billion antitrust suit and winning the first two trials in the high-stakes Xarelto litigation, securing her a place as one of Law360’s 2017 Trials MVPs. The story is available here.

Her biggest accomplishment this year:
Wilkinson said that despite the many trial and motion victories her young firm has notched up this past year, her biggest accomplishment is undoubtedly the founding of Wilkinson Stekloff itself back in January.

“The building of our firm and the incredibly talented people we’ve managed to get together to work on these cases has been nothing short of amazing,” Wilkinson said. “We started with 17 lawyers and now we’re at 40, and we’re already taking on big, bet-the-company cases that people normally think only BigLaw can handle.”

That being said, Wilkinson said she is particularly proud of her team’s work on winning the first two trials in the sprawling litigation against Johnson & Johnson and Bayer AG over their blockbuster anti-coagulant drug Xarelto, which plaintiffs allege can cause internal bleeding.

Wilkinson and her team recently lost a third trial, but she’s confident they’ll prevail in the long run.

“We won the first two and then lost the one in Philadelphia due to extreme misconduct on the part of plaintiffs’ lawyers, and we’ve already submitted briefing asking for a new trial,” Wilkinson said. “Xarelto is Bayer’s leading product, it serves a life-saving function. So it’s very important to the client and to patients, and we’re honored they chose us to represent them in this case.”

Her biggest challenge this year:
Wilkinson said the ZeniMax Media Inc. trade secrets suit against Facebook and Oculus has been the most difficult case she’s taken on this past year.

The case had already been underway for years by the time Wilkinson Stekloff was brought in, and it hinged on highly technical concepts. Facebook ultimately lost and was hit with a $500 million verdict, but Wilkinson said that’s not too shabby considering ZeniMax had been asking for $6 billion.

“It was an extraordinary result, and as I have been predicting all along and still believe, I think the verdict will still be reduced quite significantly because I think we’ll be able to show there’s no basis for at least half of the claim,” Wilkinson said.

What motivates her:
Wilkinson said she grew up watching Perry Mason and has wanted to be a trial lawyer ever since. That early love of the law sent Wilkinson on a career path that saw her do a stint in the army, successfully prosecute the Oklahoma City bombers while at the U.S. Department of Justice and then spend years honing her trial skills at Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP.

Now that she’s co-founded Wilkinson Stekloff, however, Wilkinson said it’s the firm that keeps her going more than anything else.

“I get to work with some of the brightest and most thoughtful people I’ve ever met,” she said. “Every day they all get up and try to do their best for our clients, and our clients have been very appreciative of the work we do.”

“So when you love your work and you’re surrounded by others who do as well, I don’t really think you can ask for much more in life,” she added.

Her advice to other attorneys:
“I think finding a place where you can showcase your skills and exercise your own judgment is essential to becoming a good trial lawyer,” Wilkinson said. “Working with great people can teach you a great deal, but if you’re allowed to get up on your feet in a meeting or get out into the courtroom, that’s how you really start to hone those skills.”

“I see how quickly the lawyers at our firm grow because they’re running matters themselves and making decisions,” she added. “There’s nothing like finding a place that will let you exercise your judgment — it’s like exercising a muscle for an athlete. It’s quite different watching someone do it versus doing it yourself, and I think that’s essential whether you’re working at the government or in private practice.”

— As told to Ryan Boysen

Law360’s MVPs are attorneys who have distinguished themselves from their peers over the past year through high-stakes litigation, record-breaking deals and complex global matters. A team of Law360 editors selected the 2017 MVP winners after reviewing more than 1,000 submissions.