Name: Michael Nita
Title: Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Ports America Group, Inc.
Firm Background: Michael was a partner with the firm’s corporate group in the Florham Park office from 1997-2006.
Can you provide a brief overview of your work at Faegre Drinker?
I joined Shanley & Fisher in September 1988 directly from Villanova University Law School. I was promoted to Counsel in 1997 and became a partner at Drinker Biddle in 2000. I remained with the firm until 2006. I was a member of the Corporate & Securities Group, primarily performing securities work and commercial transactions for public and private companies. I also worked in related areas, including private placements and financing transactions, and also was the zoning board attorney for the Township of North Brunswick, NJ for 10 years.
Are there any skills or lessons you learned during your tenure at the firm that have proved particularly valuable in your career or in life?
I was fortunate to work with many excellent attorneys during my years at the firm and I think you take away the best from each of them. In particular, I spent my beginning years working for Dan O’Connell and Jim Freis who were not only excellent attorneys, but also great persons and mentors. Many of the lessons in those early years still resonate today, including “think before doing.” Jim used to say that a client may not always appreciate the skill and effort that went into complex drafting, but they will always know if you misspelled the name of the company. That still holds true in today’s time of e-mails and texts to maintain discipline in detail, message, grammar, etc.
Can you describe your current role and path to get there?
I am Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Ports America Group, Inc. Ports America is the largest stevedore and terminal operator in the United States. While my role encompasses many areas, there are several primary areas in which I typically engage on a consistent basis. For example, equipment purchases, and lease financing, of large cargo handling equipment including ship-to-shore cranes. Other significant examples are terminal construction and development projects and financing transactions, including three tax-exempt public bond financings. I have learned much about the business from our equipment and construction engineers, site managers and our tax, finance and accounting folks. During my time at Ports America, I have worked with many participants in the supply chain, such as equipment manufacturers, port authorities, shipping companies and railroads. One can physically view the results of one’s efforts by visiting the terminals and seeing the equipment and personnel unloading vessels and moving cargo onto trucks and rail.
How has COVID-19 impacted your role? I imagine the company has been greatly impacted.
As with many companies, COVID-19 has had its impacts but perhaps in a different manner. Initially, the economic shutdown caused a slowdown in the company’s business. However, as e-commerce and overall purchases of goods quickly rebounded, the company’s business rebounded and as a terminal operator and stevedore, we are in the middle of a busy import/export network. Our people are well experienced and skilled in the maritime business and providing necessary services to get vessels unloaded and the cargo out to the transportation outlets.
Looking back on your career to date, what advice would you give to your younger self?
Better separation of life from work. Constantly thinking about deal issues, documents and deadlines at all times ends up permeating and impacting the times when you should be maximizing enjoyment away from work. Easier said than done, of course. Work days are long, but years go by quickly. We had a great group of colleagues at the firm that spent time together in and out of work. You can see those friendships have lasted by the people that return for the alumni events that the firm sponsors and our alumni managers put together.
How do like to spend your time outside of work?
Outside of work, I like to be outdoors biking, hiking and playing some golf. Knee surgeries and some age tend to limit other higher impact physical activities. Other activities that take up an ample amount of free time are the stock and bond markets and horse racing.