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They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 - Bina Palnitkar of Greenberg Traurig

July 14, 2021, 8:46 AM

Please describe two of your most substantial, recent wins in practice.
As national intellectual property enforcement counsel for UPS, I stopped a trucking logistics company from falsely representing itself as an affiliate of UPS. To achieve this, I waged a court battle revealing false names and disguises, along with other fraudulent activities akin to a TV legal drama. Our victory sent the important message to counterfeiters that the UPS brand will not be compromised.

Over the last two years, I have been part of the core national settlement team for medical device manufacturer BD/Bard. We have successfully resolved a large number of litigation cases in multidistrict litigations and remanded cases. This work involves setting strategy for and handling lawsuits from Plaintiffs’ firms on a daily basis that collectively represent high-stakes litigation for BD.

What is the most important lesson you learned as a first-year attorney and how does it inform your practice today?
The power of the phone call. In an era of rushed emails and texts with clients, colleagues, or opposing counsel, the sincerity of our voice and tone is often lost. Just pick up the phone. A call creates a real-life connection that cannot be established over another electronic medium. A large industrial client’s legal department once had serious problems overcoming issues with their medical safety department - specifically a department head who presented “unnecessary” roadblocks for three years. While the department head was located on the same campus, no one in the legal department had ever called her or met her – everything was done over email and it was highly contentious. I found it so odd that our biggest issue was so near physically, yet so distant in theory. My first move was to call her. We then met on campus, talked about our real lives and her issues, and over time everything became incredibly easier to handle. Today, I make sure to speak to each person I interact with (and see them if possible) at least once at the outset of our dealings. I have found this makes it easier to find common ground.

How do you define success in your practice?
A successful practice to me is one where I can be influential. Not the Instagram version or to further myself, but the kind of influence that supports a greater cause in people’s lives. For example, guiding an associate to understand that there are many ways to have a successful law career when she/he is struggling with work-life balance and finding it difficult to carve her path in “Big Law.” Or persuading a jury and a judge to see and agree with our view because we are the better lawyers with the better story. Showing a group of urban, public school children that they can think like lawyers every day with the Lawyers in the Classroom program. Or convincing skeptics that lawyers are their advocates, thereby breaking the stereotypes associated with the industry. A successful practice is one where I change and shape the lives of others to be better.

What are you most proud of as a lawyer?
I take pride in my art of flexibility. I have adapted to many different types of law in my practice, which is unusual in a big firm environment. My daily practice spans industries and legal disciplines, such as handling IP litigation and enforcement, handling medical malpractice claims, or settling 2,000 product liability lawsuits. I have also taken on outside general counsel roles to public tech companies and start up beauty companies. Once I went from a fifth-year associate on a trial to the lead trial attorney, with two partners as second and third chairs, while sick from a new pregnancy. It has taken time, but I have learned that there is no one way to be an effective lawyer, no set path you must follow, and no one practice that defines you.  After having three children while at GT, I was frequently asked the routine question, “How do you do it?” I answer, I just get up and go. If you see chaos coming, be flexible and embrace it.

Who is your greatest mentor in the law and what have they taught you?
My greatest mentor is a cowboy attorney from Central Texas with a twang that turns heads. Hugh Hackney was a senior partner when I began to work with him my first year at GT. He once told a 24-year-old me all the things he ascertained about me by researching my name online. This was his subtle way of saying, “Watch yourself kid, because everyone else will be.” Hugh believed in never burning bridges because the world is too small – a tip that has served me well as past adverse parties have sought me as their lawyer. Hugh taught me to gauge emotional IQ rather than just legal IQ in any scenario and to always simply tell a story, because people will decide right away if they are interested in you. I use each of his many timeless lessons to this day and pass them on as much as possible.

Just for fun, tell us your two favorite songs on your summer music playlist.
“Best Friend” – Saweetie ft. Doja Cat. - I love a great beat and especially this hip hop song where two ladies are proud of each other for their fierceness, written with the best wit and rhymes.

“Just Getting Started” – Jason Aldean - This is my tune for our summer road trips on county roads while gazing at a Texas sunset.

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