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Margaret Zwisler loves a good courtroom battle. “I like the competition,” says Zwisler, the global co-chairwoman of Latham & Watkins’ antitrust and competition practice. “You always either win or lose one way or another. It’s like being paid to be a professional athlete in some ways.” For 31 years, Zwisler, 58, has batted cleanup for clients in a wide range of industries — from pharmaceuticals, contact lenses, and artificial teeth to automobiles, insulation, and smokeless tobacco. Her list of clients includes Avery Dennison, Masco Corp., and Singapore Airlines. Her specialty is antitrust litigation, and she both tries cases and manages class actions. “At this point she has unmatched experience as a litigator and a trial lawyer in her specialty,” says Ralph Savarese, once chairman at Howrey and now a legal consultant. Zwisler spent 29 years at Howrey before moving to the D.C. office of Latham in 2005. The previous year she scored a big win for longtime client Ford Motor Co. A consumer class action alleged that Ford had conspired with other major car manufacturers — including General Motors, Honda, Mercedes-Benz, and Nissan — to prevent Americans from purchasing cheaper vehicles from Canada. The plaintiffs alleged that the automakers retaliated against the Canadian dealers who sold the cars for export. Zwisler got the case dismissed, citing the Supreme Court’s Illinois Brick rule that only direct purchasers of a product can bring suit under federal antitrust law. John Thomas, then senior counsel at Ford and now of counsel at Bryan Cave, says that throughout the case Zwisler played a key role in keeping all the defendants and their high-powered counsel on the same page. “She spoke to the substance of the issue and didn’t rely on her reputation or her firm’s reputation,” says Thomas. “People could see that she knew exactly what she was talking about, that she’d been through similar things in other cases, and she knew what was likely to develop.” Laura Shores, a partner at Howrey, worked an antitrust conspiracy case with Zwisler in 2001 in which they represented orthodontics producer GAC International. At trial, Zwisler won a directed verdict for GAC on the ground that the plaintiffs had failed to present evidence of a conspiracy. “What Peggy was able to explain to this judge was exactly why the principle she was articulating was the rule to follow,” says Shores. “She has a style of arguing in which she turns herself into a schoolteacher.” Shores adds that Zwisler’s courtroom demeanor also “has a tremendously positive effect on the jury.” Zwisler began her legal career as a secretary and later a paralegal at Chicago law firms. At the firm now known as Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, she worked with trial lawyers, and soon enough she, too, was infected with the litigation bug. While attending law school at George Washington University, she worked as a law clerk at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She graduated in 1976 and then applied to the litigation practices of the big D.C. firms. But as a woman in the mid-�70s, she found many doors barred, with some firms simply stating, “We don’t have women in our litigation department.” It was Howrey, which specialized in antitrust law, that gave her a chance. Savarese, who hired her, says that despite the obstacles women faced making it into the courtroom in those days, Zwisler never stopped moving forward. “She was undaunted by all of these challenges and met them head-on with courage and integrity and effectiveness.” Much the same way she represents her clients to this day.

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