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Mark F. Nowak, Partner at Thorp, Reed & Armstrong, Enjoys the Autonomy of Being a Lawyer [By Kenneth Davis] Civil trial lawyer Mark Nowak has had an interest in politics and government since he was very young, and he said that interest ultimately led him to consider a legal career.

“It was probably around elementary school,”

Nowak represented Allegheny Airport

Nowak also successfully represented a large

he said. “And it related to some of the things

Authority when it sought to demolish the old

Korean contractor in an action to recover

that were occurring-presidential politics-

Pittsburgh International Airport. A historic

amounts on a letter of credit for a $320-

and on the news, I saw people like Bobby

preservationist opposed the demolition and

million project in Israel.

Kennedy and others who were lawyers

tried to have it stopped. The matter went

who were also politicians. So my interest

before Justice David Souter of the United

In addition to running his practice, Nowak is

primarily was in politics and government,

States Supreme Court in May of 1999.

general counsel for his firm. He said that as general counsel, he spends a good portion of

and I always saw law as a flexible degree and one that could be used in lots of different

“We had a motion that was decided by

his time representing his firm on ethics issues,

ways, including politics.”

Justice Souter to essentially impose a

conflict issues, contract review, and risk

bond requirement for an injunction to

issues, such as suits against the firm. Nowak,

Nowak added that his grandfather, who was

stop the demolition,” Nowak said. “They

who has served as his firm’s general counsel

a local councilman, also contributed to his

couldn’t post the bond, so the demolition

for a little over a year, said the job is taking

growing interest in politics and law.

continued, and we were able to build. We

up a bit more of his time than he originally

were able to demolish the old airport,

anticipated and that nearly half of his time is

“My grandfather had been involved in

and now there are a number of offices

now spent on general counsel matters.

politics,” he said. “And he was a fellow I

there; so that land has been reused and

spent a good deal of time with and talked to

developed into productive use.”

him about politics and government. So he was a bit of a role model, although he wasn’t

Nowak added that the new airport is not far

a lawyer.”

from its old location.

Those talks paid off. Nowak is now a

Nowak was also involved in the petition three

partner at prominent law firm Thorp,

years ago that made the City of Pittsburgh a

Reed & Armstrong’s Pittsburgh office. He

distressed city under Act 47.

handles civil cases, with a concentration on construction litigation. Nowak principally

“Essentially, a control board was put in place

represents owners, contractors, architects,

to assist the city in becoming economically

engineers, public agencies, and insurers in

viable,” Nowak said. “And I represented the

public, private, commercial, industrial, and

Pennsylvania Department of Community and

institutional construction projects ranging

Economic Development. I mean, the city

in value from $200,000 to $320 million. He’s

understood that that’s what had to happen.

also co-chair of the firm’s construction

There were a number of other citizens and

and land use practice group, is a member

other groups who didn’t feel that that was an

of the Academy of Trial Lawyers, and has

appropriate remedy to assist the city, but we

prosecuted cases in state and federal courts,

were successful.”

as well as before government agencies.

PAGE 

Nowak also handles mediations and arbitrations for construction-related cases. He has served as mediator and arbitrator on major public construction projects in the Pittsburgh area. Furthermore, Nowak is on the American Arbitration Association (AAA) Construction Master Arbitrator Roster, which consists of the 100 most qualified and experienced arbitrators with construction industry experience. He serves on the AAA Mediation Panel, as well. Nowak has also done a great deal of political work over the years as a volunteer. He said the volunteer work usually involved providing counsel on Election Day to various campaigns in Western Pennsylvania. In addition, he’s involved in a number of nonprofit groups and charitable organizations and is dedicated to giving back to the community.

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Nowak studied government as an undergrad

“That’s one of the aspects that you always

“I would say to pursue outside the work

at Franklin and Marshall College in

have to continue to do if you want to be a

environment involvements that develop you

Lancaster, PA, and graduated in 1979. He

successful lawyer,” he said.

as a person. Oftentimes, it brings joy or fun into your life, but it may also have a work-

then entered Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, GA, and earned his law

Nowak said that one of his biggest influences

related benefit. It may assist in elevating

degree in 1982.

has been former Thorp Reed partner John

your own personal profile but also the profile

Bingler, who retired in 1998.

of your firm.”

Assistant County Solicitor for Allegheny

“John was a very dynamic guy who had all

Nowak was born in Homestead, PA, and grew

County. As Assistant County Solicitor, he

kinds of involvements,” Nowak said. “He was

up in neighboring West Mifflin. His wife,

represented the government in civil litigation

a Navy Seal, a U.S. Attorney, a public safety

Tina, is an anesthesiologist, and they have

matters and also handled some prosecution

director, President of the Allegheny County

three sons: Ben (20), John (18), and Patrick

related to environmental matters.

Bar Association, and has been nominated for

(14). Nowak enjoys the outdoors; he’s

the federal bench. He was a man recognized

done some kayaking and is on the board of

In 1986, he joined Thorp Reed as an associate,

by other lawyers as a lawyer’s lawyer. So

directors of Venture Outdoors.

and he became a partner in 1991. He said one

he set a high standard and was a very good

of the reasons that he joined the firm was that

example on how to conduct yourself and the

Nowak discussed some of the professional

it enabled him to continue his involvement in

kind of goals you should strive for.”

goals he’d like to accomplish in the next few

After law school, Nowak worked as an

years:

community work as well as politics. Nowak said others who have influenced “In fact, it was encouraged,” Nowak said.

him include Thorp Reed senior partner Dan

“Well, at some point before I retire, I

“So I came over to Thorp Reed, and at the

Carney and Judge James McLean, whom

would like to go back into public service-

time, my wife and I were having our first

he worked under when he was Assistant

work for the government again, federal

child, and it seemed like a good time to

County Solicitor.

government probably at some point, maybe in Washington, DC,” he said.

change, and I came over and have been here ever since-20 years.”

Nowak discussed what he believes are some of the most important issues facing the legal

He discussed what he enjoys most about

ON THE NET

community today:

his job:

Thorp, Reed & Armstrong “I think one of the issues is maintaining

www.thorpreed.com/html/index.html

“I think I enjoy the practice of law,” he said.

civility and professionalism in the practice,”

“I really do enjoy construction cases; I enjoy

he said. “I think supporting the judiciary

American Arbitration Association

being able to be a mediator and resolve

when they come under what I consider

www.adr.org

cases, and I also enjoy the autonomy of being

often to be unfair attacks. I think promoting

a lawyer and having some ability to make

pro bono legal work, particularly for legal

Emory University School of Law

decisions about what I do and how I do it.”

services organizations, is also important.”

www.law.emory.edu/cms/site

Nowak said one of the most difficult

He had the following advice for young

challenges of his job is business

lawyers:

development.

PAGE 


Mark F. Nowak, Partner at Thorp, Reed & Armstrong, Enjoys the Autonomy of Being a Lawyer