Bloomberg Law
July 27, 2023, 9:00 AM

They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 - Anne Villanueva of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

Lisa Helem
Lisa Helem
Executive Editor
MP McQueen

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.

I served as the lead employment lawyer for Elon Musk in his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, Inc. and the $25 billion of related debt financing commitments. I negotiated the employment-related provisions of the purchase agreement, advised regarding various separation and release agreements and legal requirements and counseled Mr. Musk regarding a myriad of federal and state employment law requirements.

I am the lead employment attorney for Activision in connection with its $75 billion pending acquisition by Microsoft Corporation. The deal, signed last year, would be the largest-ever technology deal, the largest-ever gaming deal and the largest-ever acquisition by Microsoft, if consummated.

I managed the sell-side diligence and disclosure schedules regarding confidential workplace matters and the negotiation of the employment-related merger agreement provisions. I fielded and drafted employment-related responses to media inquiries and advised regarding employee communications and labor considerations after signing.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?

As a first-year associate, don’t be afraid to take initiative and dig into the unknown while asking questions along the way. When you stumble upon a novel and complicated issue or problem, take charge by conducting your own initial research and diligence rather than simply telling the senior attorney on a matter that you’ve never encountered the issue and deferring to his or her expertise.

Take the time to explore those legal issues in the first instance and anticipate next steps. Demonstrate to the senior attorney that you put careful thought and consideration into the issue. You’ll ultimately gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the issue at hand, and over time, you’ll develop research skills that will be critical for you whenever you encounter novel legal issues in the future.

How do you define success in your practice?

Success means delivering premier client service while inspiring and guiding junior attorneys along the way. In my practice, labor and employment laws are constantly evolving. Thus, providing premier client service entails staying abreast of the latest labor and employment law developments and trends, being able to anticipate future legal developments and trends and incorporating those legal developments into realistic and practical solutions that are tailored to each client’s existing and future needs.

However, providing premier client service is only one part of the equation for what I define as success. Success also means that I can demonstrate the traits of a strong female role model and mentor by teaching and inspiring junior attorneys, especially female attorneys, and attorneys from underrepresented communities. Success means allowing junior attorneys to have a safe space to ask questions and learn, while also instilling in them the confidence needed to be a great attorney.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?

I am most proud of having moved across the country at age 28, transferring from Skadden’s New York office to its Palo Alto office as a third-year associate to help build our Labor and Employment practice there. When I was presented with the opportunity to transfer to Palo Alto, I had never been to California and did not have an existing personal or professional network there at the time.

I had to not only learn new labor laws, but also adapt to a new culture and way of living. During the almost eight years that I’ve been based in Palo Alto, I’ve helped build a robust labor and employment practice. Along the way, I was promoted from associate to counsel to partner.

I led the labor and employment workstream for the world’s largest tech deals ever, including, for example, the impending sale of our client Activision to Microsoft for $75 billion and the sale of Twitter to Elon Musk.

I was able to contribute to Skadden’s culture and success by serving as a member of the Diversity Committee, Women’s Steering Committee and Hiring Committee for Skadden’s Palo Alto office and as a member of the Global LatinX Steering Committee.

Who is your greatest mentor in the law and what have they taught you?

My greatest mentor in the law is a retired Skadden female partner. She taught me that it’s possible to be an extraordinary attorney while wearing multiple other “hats,” including as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, confidant, mentor, colleague, role model, and trusted advisor, to name a few.

She also taught me that each “hat” encompasses its own unique set of challenges, but also presents opportunities for exponential growth and fulfillment. She helped me to recognize and embrace all of my own existing and potential hats and to wear them with confidence and pride. She taught me that being confident in all of the facets of my own authentic self is one of the most important ingredients in my personal recipe to success.

What are the two favorite songs on your summer playlist?

One of my favorite songs on my summer playlist (for many years) is “Yo No Sé Mañana” by Luis Enrique. It’s fun and upbeat and it reminds me of my abuela, who I remember singing and dancing to in the car and in the kitchen. My sister and I both love this song and the memories it invokes. Another favorite song on my summer playlist is very different from “Yo No Sé Mañana.” It’s called “Fast Car” by Luke Combs, which is a re-make of the original version of “Fast Car,” by Tracy Chapman. Its message about a working woman trying to make a better life for herself, is something I have found inspirational.

Anne Villanueva of Skadden and spouse hiking on Maui, Hawaii.
Anne Villanueva and Jonathan Hurtarte/Bloomberg Law

Anne Villanueva is editor of Skadden’s Labor and Employment Law Group’s Employment Flash publication. She is a member of the Palo Alto office’s Diversity and Hiring Committees and Women’s Steering Committee and a member of Skadden’s Global LatinX Steering Committee. In 2020, she was selected to represent Skadden at a virtual summit presented by client Intel Corp. meant to encourage diverse law students to consider technology law careers.

To contact the editors on this story: Lisa Helem at; MP McQueen at

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