Natalie Moritz is managing chief counsel—litigation for The PNC Financial Services Group, responsible for all aspects of PNC’s litigation group, including the management of all litigation, the negotiation, structuring, and implementation of the group’s alternative fee arrangements, and the resolution of PNC’s class actions, intellectual property litigation, securities litigation, mergers and acquisition litigation, and restrictive covenant matters. Before joining PNC, Natalie was a partner at Reed Smith, LLP in the commercial litigation and regulatory litigation groups. Natalie graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1990, Order of the Coif and Summa Cum Laude, and earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987, Cum Laude.
Marie DeForest Garcia (MDG): Before we talk about business development, let’s discuss your background. What has been your career path to your current role?
Natalie Moritz (NM): I started as an associate in a Wall Street law firm. Instead of initially joining one practice group, I was able to split my practice and do some corporate work, along with litigation. Fairly early on, I joined the litigation group and my practice focused exclusively on commercial litigation. After a few years, I moved back to Pittsburgh and joined a medium-sized firm, but found that it was not a good match for me. I then joined Reed Smith. I was a partner with Reed Smith in their litigation group for 10 years until 2010 when I joined PNC as senior counsel for litigation.
My move to PNC was serendipitous. I enjoyed practicing law and frankly had not thought much about an in-house role. But at the time, PNC was building out their in-house department. A mentor of mine was close with the general counsel of PNC and asked me if I would consider joining PNC. The role that I took on was a good fit. I was promoted to chief counsel for litigation in March 2016.
Today, I manage all litigation against PNC and its affiliates except for some areas, such as consumer lending and employment cases. I have a team of 10 employees who are instrumental in making our department successful. In addition to handling the litigation against the company, my team also handles e-discovery and document retention, employee restrictive covenants, and third-party processes against the bank. I also spend a good amount of time on reporting responsibilities as PNC is a public company.
MDG: Is there a particular moment that has defined your legal career?
NM: The most defining point in my career was a time period more than a particular moment. It was really hard to work full time, and as a partner, when I had three young children. My decision to stick it out and push through was not easy but looking back, it was the right decision for me. At the time, I was exhausted. I felt that I was not giving 100% at work or at home. It seemed like I was failing on all fronts. I even tried working an 80% schedule, but that was not a good fit.
Many working mothers struggle like I did. For me, my husband was an instrumental part of my continuing to work full time. He was very supportive and felt that I would not be happy in the long run if I stopped working. I don’t know that I fully appreciated his sentiments at the time, but he was right. If I had taken a break from working, I am quite sure that I would not have the role that I have today.
My advice to women in situations like mine is to push through. Stick out the hard years. It does get better. And you are doing a much better job (both at work and at home) than you think you are. Also, use the advantages of technology. Today, there is much more of an ability to work remotely. No one has to know where you are at all times. You could be fitting in a conference call at home on your cell phone before family dinner or finishing a brief after putting your children to bed. You can be doing your work even if you aren’t sitting at your desk in your office.
MDG: From a business development perspective, what do you value the most in outside counsel?
NM: I value really smart, capable lawyers who are solution-driven. Some of our legal issues can be complex. In addition to finding counsel that is intellectually capable, I find it important to find counsel that also understands our business needs. For most businesses, the decision to pursue litigation involves many factors with varying priorities. Having counsel that partners with me to come up with the right legal solution for the particular case is essential. For example, we had one legal issue that was constantly recurring. But it wasn’t economical to pursue full-scale litigation in every case. We found counsel that fully understood the issue, had limited conflicts and so we could turn to them often, and who worked with us to determine what scale of litigation was appropriate for each case. Now, when the issue arises, I have counsel that can immediately handle the issue.
MDG: What marketing strategies by outside counsel do you think work best in getting your attention?
NM: In my opinion, marketing works best when it is an organic growth strategy. I don’t find cold calling or legal alerts from counsel that I am not familiar with particularly helpful.
When I become involved with new counsel, it is usually by an introduction from someone I work with internally or as outside counsel. I trust the person that provides the recommendation. After the introduction, if I am interested in working with the new counsel, I allow the relationship to evolve organically. I might give the new counsel one matter. If the new counsel provides quality work and in an efficient manner that meets my business needs, then additional work will come. That leads to trust with that counsel, and I will likely continue to turn to them when litigation arises.
MDG: What strategies do you recommend to outside counsel that has an existing relationship with a client and is looking to cultivate and build the client relationship?
NM: I have a core group of counsel that I tend to turn to. I have a good relationship with them and within reason, I try to accommodate what they are asking me to do. If they want to have lunch to introduce their colleagues to me, I will go if my schedule permits. If they want me to introduce them to people, I will make the introduction. I have a level of trust and respect for the counsel that I work with and this leads to further connections with them. The firms that I work with do go out of their way for PNC over and above what other firms would do, and I try to reciprocate when I can.
In addition, partners that are outside counsel should think about building a diverse team. Be purposeful in giving the underrepresented, such as minorities and women, client relationship roles on your team. They should be given the opportunity to learn how to cultivate client relationships and build business. One way of keeping women in the pipeline is to be purposeful about providing them with significant opportunities. I am being more purposeful in looking at the makeup of outside counsel teams on my litigation matters. I think many businesses are also including this as a factor in their selection of outside counsel.
MDG: What are three tips that you would give to a lawyer who wants to be a successful rainmaker?
NM: I think that what you can do to be a successful rainmaker depends a lot on the size firm that you are with. In a big firm, it is my belief that you have no choice. If you want to be a successful associate and then partner, you have to align yourself with a mentor in your firm. You need a partner as a mentor that will help you get good experience doing work for important clients of the firm. Bringing in business from outside of the firm can be difficult at a large firm because of conflicts. So it is my belief that your best chance of success is to align yourself with a partner at your firm that is invested in your career.
For lawyers at medium or smaller-sized firms, I think your focus, particularly in the early years of your career, should be about developing relationships with people in your community. Become someone who is perceived, over time, as a leader in your community. What you choose to become involved with should be an interest of yours, as this will help you stay invested. Whether your interest is helping the homeless, animals, or the arts, become involved. In five, 10, 15 years, you will have a network that you can draw upon for networking and for business.
MDG: What else? Is there anything that I haven’t asked you about that you believe is important to rainmaking success?
NM: Women should not be shy about asking for business. If you have a real relationship with someone who is in-house, you should be direct about wanting business. Asking for business puts you at the top of the person’s mind. If that person likes and values you, they will make an effort to get you something that they wouldn’t have if you hadn’t specifically asked. Let me assure you, your male peers are asking for business and other opportunities. You need to be your own advocate and do the same.
About the Author
Marie DeForest Garcia is a partner with DeForest Kocelnik Yokitis & Berardinelli, focusing her practice on commercial litigation and white-collar defense matters. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.