The Storyteller

The appeal of a well-told tale inspired Kathryn Conde to become a commercial litigator

Published in 2007 Massachusetts Rising Stars — May 2007

Kathryn Conde loves to tell a good story. In fact, she remembers the exact moment that the art of storytelling lured her into the legal world. It was the early 1990s and Conde was on a conference call. As a number-crunching senior analyst for National Economic Research Associates in Washington, D.C., she was listening to lawyers discuss a case with her fellow economists. The attorneys were hung up on one point: “What kind of story do we want to tell at trial?”

And just like that, Conde realized she wanted to develop her knack for finding ways to translate economic calculations and sophisticated legal concepts into stories that captivate. “For a jury that is going to look at a difficult case in a very short space of time, it’s a very interesting challenge to put together a compelling story, obviously grounded in evidence and facts and numbers,” she says.

Today, Conde chronicles and presents a range of cases as a top Massachusetts lawyer in the field of economic litigation. A partner at Nutter McClennen & Fish, the 40-year-old Conde practices general commercial litigation, concentrating in antitrust, trade torts, trademark and copyright law. She brings life to otherwise dry material.

Conde shares details of a case in Montgomery, Ala., where her client, an independent provider of radiation therapy, almost went out of business because oncologists in the city established a competing radiation therapy center and stopped referring patients to her client’s facility. “There was collusion among all these oncologists to exclude new competition from the northeast,” Conde says, adding that the case was settled “on the courthouse steps” to the satisfaction of her client. “I find it really exciting to think about how markets work and how we can get them to work better.”

She tells about another case involving illegal tying. Her client, a new specialty Internet company (which was entering what had been a monopolistic market), was unable to buy an integral piece of hardware for its product because the one provider of the hardware had an affiliation with the only other competitor in the market. “I stepped in as antitrust counsel to make it plain that the company had to supply hardware to my client. There were significant antitrust penalties involved,” Conde says. The hardware maker relented. “My client was a startup, where antitrust laws actually work. My client’s company would not have survived without the supply,” she says. “Today, they are in the market and continue to compete, so that’s a good feeling.”

When Conde isn’t spinning her own stories, she’s fighting for others to be heard. She was the pro bono counsel for a case involving a student and school prayer in a Cleveland school committee meeting. It was an appellate case hinging on First Amendment issues and separation of church and state, in which Conde wrote an amicus brief to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case’s resolution? Conde’s story is short and to the point: “The court found for the student.”

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