Wilkinson Stekloff Partner Moira Penza Named Law360 Rising Star for Trials

Washington – Wilkinson Stekloff Partner Moira Penza was named one of Law360’s 2020 Rising Stars.  The award recognizes Moira as a lawyer “under 40 whose accomplishments transcend” her age and describes how she “knocked it out of the park last summer when she prosecuted the leader of a shadowy New York self-help group [Nxivm] for sex trafficking in a six-week trial, then went to private practice and was hired to lead Allergan into an antitrust battle.”

In an interview with Law360, Moira discussed her role as lead prosecutor in the Nixvm case and the challenges she faced during trial.  “Managing that role in a case that I was so invested in, having brought it from start to finish and having come to care for the women who had been victimized, [was] really like being thrown in the deep end.  So when I survived and it could not have gone better . . . I felt, ‘OK, I was born to do this.’”  Speaking about the challenges of prosecuting high-profile men for sex-based offenses Moira discussed how she overcame the misconceptions many individuals have about how victims are supposed to act by strategically ordering the witnesses so that jurors would hear from an expert about victim behavior before a key witness, who had continued to interact with the defendant after he assaulted her, testified.  “It really blunted it for the jurors,” allowing them to “understand why she behaved the way that she did without undermining her credibility.” 

Recalling one of her proudest moments as an attorney, Moira referred to a longtime pro bono case and the moment Sam Hamilton, a man she had represented for years, walked out of prison after 30 years.  Now a successful reentry advocate at Brooklyn Defender Services, Mr. Hamilton has been a continued “inspiration” to her. 

Currently, along with Wilkinson Stekloff founding partner Beth Wilkinson, Moira is leading the firm’s independent review of the Washington NFL Member Club’s culture, policies and allegations of workplace misconduct and the pro bono representation of Summer Zervos in her defamation case against President Donald Trump.  Moira is also part of the Wilkinson Stekloff team representing Altria in a series of private antitrust lawsuits arising out of Altria’s investment in JUUL.   

Founded in February 2016, Wilkinson Stekloff has grown to nearly 45 lawyers and has quickly established itself as the leading boutique trial firm in the country. The firm has tried over a dozen cases to verdict across the country, won several high-profile jury trials, and won several other pre-trial victories in bet-the-company cases. Benchmark Litigation has twice named Wilkinson Stekloff “Boutique Firm of the Year,” calling the firm a “litigator’s dream shop.” In addition, Vault has ranked Wilkinson Stekloff as a premier midsized law firm and a leader in selectivity, compensation, and diversity; Law360 selected Wilkinson Stekloff as a “Best Law Firm for Female Attorneys”; and our attorneys have received recognitions ranging from Benchmark’s “Trial Lawyer of the Year” to Law360 “Rising Stars.”