This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nina Beattie who is a partner at Brune & Richard in New York City. Nina is an experienced litigator who focuses her practice on representing individuals and entities in white-collar criminal and regulatory matters. Many of her clients are from the financial sector both in the United States and abroad. She won an acquittal at trial for one of the defendants in the Bear Stearns hedge fund case and she remains at the forefront of representing clients in what is now a highly scrutinized industry. Nina graduated from Yale Law School in 1996 and before joining Brune & Richard, she clerked for a federal judge in the Southern District of New York, and worked at the Capital Defender Office. She has been recognized as a leading lawyer in her field by Chambers USA, which describes her as an “extraordinarily gifted lawyer who is very smart and tremendously hard-working.” She has also been repeatedly identified as one of New York’s top white-collar defense attorneys by Super Lawyers. Nina is a tireless advocate for her clients who are lucky enough to have her by their side and I am thrilled to introduce her to you.
What do you love most about being a criminal defense lawyer?
Getting to know my clients, mastering complicated fact patterns, and working in a very dynamic area of the law. Also, that the stakes are high – that what I do and how I do it matters a lot. Of course, that is also what keeps me up at night.
Much of your practice is focused on white-collar defense and representing clients in regulatory matters. What are some of the challenges you face in white-collar cases?
In a white-collar case, there are usually multiple governmental agencies (not to mention plaintiff’s firms) investigating the client. For example, in a typical financial fraud case, a lot of attention is often focused on the role of the United States Attorney’s Office or some other criminal prosecutorial agency. But often times, the SEC, FINRA or the CFTC is conducting its own parallel investigation or proceeding; and, today, various state agencies – such as the New York State Department of Financial services – as well as US Senate committees can be in the mix, too. In some of the more recent financial crime cases – such as those involving LIBOR and foreign currency manipulation – there have been international regulatory and prosecutorial bodies involved as well, which has added a new layer of complexity.
The challenge comes in when the various entities are not truly coordinated, as is often the case. If a client does agree to be interviewed or give testimony, it’s likely that he or she may end up giving statements multiple times over a number of years to various different entities and parties. Navigating the best course, knowing that there will be multiple competing considerations, can be quite challenging.
Do you think that women bring unique skills or attributes to defending the criminally accused?
It’s hard to say. There are a number of traits that I think are crucial for any successful criminal defense attorney to have. Some of those – such as being able to listen well, being empathetic, or being detail oriented – are often associated with women, for one reason or another. But plenty of men have those traits as well.
Have you had women role models and how has this impacted your career?
I have had women role models throughout my legal career, and they have been very important to me. When I graduated from law school, I clerked for the Hon. Kimba M. Wood of the Southern District of New York, and the experience of working for her still inspires me. She is both a brilliant and forceful jurist and a wonderfully kind and down-to-earth person. I try hard to emulate her.
What kind of struggles do you think that women in the field have to deal with that our male colleagues do not?
I was once told in a job interview that I couldn’t do the job because I had a child. I responded that I guessed he, the interviewer, didn’t have any children. He said that he had three children, but it was very different because he had a wife. In fact, he said, he had two wives, an ex-wife and a current wife!
I think having to overcome obstacles in life can make you a better advocate. You can’t let one individual’s foolish opinion stop you from succeeding. I focus on getting results for my clients and leave the rest behind.
What do you think it takes for a woman to succeed in this field?
Brains, fearlessness, attention to detail, perseverance, and the ability to speak in a way that moves people and convinces them of the righteousness of your position. There are, of course, also some negotiating skills involved that can require a more flexible touch. Knowing when to react and adjust, and when to stay the course, is always helpful.
What is your proudest moment in representing a client?
There is nothing like getting an acquittal in a criminal trial. But sometimes the proudest moments are the quiet victories. Convincing a prosecutor or regulator not to bring charges and delivering that news to a client is a real thrill that you can’t advertise, but it is incredibly satisfying all the same.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of career advice what would it be?
Find the time to keep in touch with your friends. I mean that both personally, because it’s healthy, and professionally, because often your friends are doing interesting work – legal or non-legal – that just might intersect with your own.
What do you consider your most valuable weapon in your defense arsenal?
Knowing the facts and the law better than my opponent has been key to my success. It gives me a lot of confidence when I go into a meeting or an argument to know that I am completely prepared. I find that having that foundation allows me to react quickly when I need to find a new way to get my point across or address an issue where, perhaps, the other side seems to be gaining traction.
Of the women criminal defense attorneys that you know and admire what made them stand out to you? What about them inspired you?
It is not easy, what we defense lawyers do, and often it does not make us popular. What inspires me is when I see a lawyer – male or female – really make a difference in an unpopular case, whether it is by forceful advocacy or by simply making the right judgment call.
Best advice you ever received?
When you are weighing a tough decision, make all the arguments on either side and then pick the right side, stick to it, and argue the hell out of it. Of course, if the facts change, one needs to recognize the need to adjust one’s tactics accordingly.