WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a nationwide competition, Bloomberg Law honored Wilkinson Stekloff partners Moira Penza and Rakesh Kilaru in its inaugural edition of They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40, recognizing them as “stellar young lawyers” who “represent the best of the future of the legal profession.”
In choosing whom to honor, Bloomberg Law spent months reviewing nominees’ records of success for their clients, as well as leadership contributions to their firms and communities, their thoughts on what they’re most proud of as attorneys, lessons learned as first-year attorneys, how they define success, their most influential mentors, and feedback from clients. Moira and Rakesh stood out as top-notch litigators, “innovators and pro bono advocates.” The group of honorees was also recognized for their diversity and inclusion efforts, investing “time into making the legal profession a better reflection of our world.”
Moira Penza was recognized for her trial work at Wilkinson Stekloff, including her June 2021 defense of Altria at a bench trial before the FTC arising out of Altria’s minority investment in the e-vapor product JUUL, where Moira conducted the examinations of the science witnesses. In addition, Bloomberg Law highlighted Moira’s prior work as a federal prosecutor where she successfully led the groundbreaking investigation and racketeering trial of Keith Raniere, leader of the cult-like group Nxivm. Asked how she defines success, Moira explained, “there can be no definition of success as a trial lawyer that does not include winning” but it is important that every win is “obtained with grace and integrity and maintaining the respect of those you interact with—judges, juries, colleagues, clients, witnesses, and yes, even opposing counsel.”
Rakesh Kilaru was recognized for his broad-ranging practice at Wilkinson Stekloff, which in just the last year includes successfully representing Judge Emmet Sullivan in mandamus proceedings arising out of former White House advisor Michael Flynn’s criminal case, as well as lead roles in the firm’s representations of Altria, the NCAA, the NFL, and the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake in putative class actions. Asked a similar question about success, Rakesh noted that “litigation is a results-driven business, and so the easy answer is whether we win and/or whether our clients are happy with the outcomes we deliver.” But he also emphasized his focus on making decisions the right way: “Are we being appropriately inclusive, by considering the views of everyone who has something to contribute and ensuring that our whole team has bought into our decisions? Did we see around the corners and avoid fire drills in the process of preparing a brief, an oral argument, or a witness? And was there anything the other side or the Court did that we hadn’t prepared for? These are ideals I strive for.”
Founded in February 2016, Wilkinson Stekloff has grown to nearly 40 lawyers and has quickly established itself as the leading trial boutique firm in the country. The firm has tried over a dozen cases to verdict across the country, winning the vast majority, and has won several other pre-trial victories in bet-the-company cases.