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Sept. 6, 2022

Introducing Women of NM: Transactions

Featuring: Rita Piel

Baltimore partner Rita Piel assists clients ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies in all areas of business and intellectual property/technology law including drafting business documents, running M&A deals and providing strategic counseling. Rita regularly works on mergers, acquisitions, IPOs, recapitalization, business formation, contract drafting and negotiation, stockholder and member agreements, financing and investment documents, employment and real estate matters. She serves as the lead attorney in structuring and executing M&A transactions, including stock and asset deals, de-SPACs, and IPOs, closing over 100 transactions ranging in value from under $1 million to $3.5 billion. Rita also helps federal, state, and local government contractors with all of their legal needs, including drafting, reviewing, and advising on proposals, drafting and negotiating subcontractor, teaming, and licensing agreements, working on M&A for government contractors, and overseeing bid protests.

Why M&A?

There is nothing more professionally satisfying to me than helping business owners sell at the right time or grow by acquisition to realize the fruits of their hard work. I am proud to have long-standing relationships with many of my clients, some of whom I formed as new entities when we were both just starting out. Over the years, I have worked with businesses on planning, strategy, and execution of their business goals throughout the entire business life cycle, from formation to sale, including assisting with fund raising, hiring of employees, creating form contracts, engaging service providers, signing leases, and protecting their intellectual property. M&A is the culmination of a business’s success and I love being part of the excitement. Whether I’ve worked closely with a client for 10 years or I’m helping a new client on a transaction, I enjoy using my outside general counsel experience in reviewing and drafting documents to maximize the value of the transaction to my client and minimize risk and exposure in light of the most recent market trends and forecasts.  

What are some of the traits that you admire the most amongst your peers?

I can always tell if a deal lawyer has real depth and breadth of experience in working with businesses or if they only do M&A transactions. Understanding the unique values and challenges of each business provides perspective into getting deals done practically and efficiently without getting stuck in the weeds of unimportant minutia. I commend colleagues who are able to see big picture and can also draft and negotiate documents well. Equally important to vision and execution is keeping the practice of law fun! I admire peers who don’t take themselves too seriously. Life is short; having a good sense of humor when we’re finalizing an Asset Purchase Agreement at 3 am is clutch.

What is one piece of advice you would give to individuals who want to get into this industry?

Get into a practice area that is exciting and interesting to you, find mentors who care about your professional development and can teach you about being a good lawyer, grow and adapt to changes in your life and responsibilities, and keep yourself balanced professionally and personally with healthy habits and boundaries.

What’s one piece of advice that greatly impacted you and your career trajectory?

I have a few trademark phrases I say to my children regularly. One of them is “advocate for yourself”, which is based on advice I received from my parents when I was 4 years old and we first came to America from Ukraine, not knowing any English and having no contacts. Advocating for yourself as a child means identifying your needs and wants, figuring out who can help you and how to effectively express your message, and executing on a plan to accomplish your goals, without waiting for someone else to try to figure out what you might want. The methods for self-advocacy evolve and become more complex as you grow, but the fundamental meaning is always the same. As a lawyer, I regularly advocate for myself by figuring out how I measure my success, identifying where I want to grow, learn, and develop professionally, writing a plan that includes realistic milestones, and finding the path forward with flexibility to change while maintaining accountability to myself.

What inspired you to become an attorney?

Ever since I figured out at age 9 that I couldn’t realize my dream of becoming an astronaut due to terrible motion sickness on long car rides, I decided I wanted to become a corporate lawyer. I felt strongly about the ideals of fairness and the rule of law embodied in the U.S. Constitution. Also, I really enjoyed arguing with my brothers! Until my third year of law school, I was laser focused on this career path: through high school where I was on the Mock Trial team, at Duke University where I was on the pre-Law track, majoring in Political Science and earning a Markets and Management (Business) certificate, and into University of Maryland School of Law where I took as many business law and intellectual property courses as possible and worked as a student attorney in the Business and Intellectual Property Clinic to help start-up businesses.

In my third year of law school, in addition to my regular law school course load, I was invited to take an MBA course at The Robert H. Smith School of Business called New Markets Growth Fund, which allowed me to work for a venture capital fund. I became inspired by the entrepreneurs receiving funding for their businesses and decided to create my own start-up. I invented and patented a consumer product, created a business plan, assembled a diverse team, drafted the necessary business documents, and began pitching to investors. It was at the moment when the first angel investor offered us a substantial check to become a partner in the business that I realized I needed to make a choice. I had to go all-in on either the entrepreneur or lawyer track. While being an entrepreneur was equal parts thrilling and frightening, I really missed sleeping. Also, being a lawyer felt much less risky. To this day, I remember the roller coaster ride of entrepreneurship and I admire all of my entrepreneur friends and clients for being much braver than I am!


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