Change at the top of Pittsburgh's biggest law firms: Heather Zambelli, Cipriani & Werner

From the Pittsburgh Business Times: 10/19/2022

Since early 2020, six of the 17 biggest law offices in Pittsburgh marked a change at the top. More broadly, others among the 60 largest offices have new leaders, appointments occurring during the unprecedented challenges presented by Covid-19, which resulted in new ways of working and connecting. The majority have spent all or most of their careers at their present firms; a few are relative newcomers.

To provide an introduction to some and insights from all, we interviewed nine of the new leaders, with each providing responses to a series of questions. The nine selected represent some of the region's biggest firms, according to the Business Times’ list of the region’s largest law firms as ranked by the number of local lawyers.

Interview with Heather Zambelli, Pittsburgh managing partner, Cipriani & Werner PC

“Staying agile and leaning into those changes was critical.”

Heather Zambelli was appointed managing partner of Cipriani & Werner PC’s Pittsburgh office in July, three years after joining the firm from Post & Schell PC. Zambelli’s practice focuses on defending employers, insurance carriers and third-party administrators in workers’ compensation matters. Cipriani & Werner is Pittsburgh’s 37th largest law firm with 20 local lawyers.

What do you most want to accomplish as leader of your firm’s Pittsburgh office?

Continued growth. Cipriani & Werner started in the 1980s in Pittsburgh primarily as an insurance defense law firm. We now have 16 offices in nine states and regions. Locally, I want to continue to cultivate our insurance defense roots while also expanding with other practice groups to serve the needs of our clients.

What’s your biggest professional challenge in the next six months?

The pandemic obviously imposed abrupt and permanent changes impacting how we defend our clients and prosecute our cases. Some aspects of the practice are going to remain virtual. Staying agile and leaning into those changes was critical to the firm not only weathering the pandemic, but thriving. Supporting our attorneys through the completion of that transition is a priority.

What is the best thing about changes to your work environment due to measures taken since the pandemic erupted?

The flexibility in my schedule. I am a mom of a first grader, so the shift in my practice to more virtual events has allowed me to be even more present as a parent. I can more easily pop over to his school and be the class Mom for the Halloween party, run back to my office, throw on a blazer and appear for a hearing within the same afternoon.

How competitive is the Pittsburgh market from a hiring perspective?

We are at an advantage because our office is in Mt. Lebanon. Many of our prospects are interested in avoiding the commute into downtown Pittsburgh while still enjoying the benefits of a big firm. Mt. Lebanon is a bustling area with shops and restaurants, yet avoids some of the downfalls of being in the city center. So, although the market has tightened over the last few years, we are successfully staffing our needs and winning talent.

Are you increasing your role in the Pittsburgh community?

The same month that I began managing this office, I was also elected chair of the workers compensation section of the Allegheny County Bar Association. I like that role because I get to interact and voice my opinions with my fellow attorneys, the judges and the director of adjudication. Having a direct line of communication to those individuals is an important aspect of representing our clients.