Pittsburgh-based Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney has brought aboard Hank Pool, former deputy general counsel of longtime client PNC Bank, as senior counsel in its financial services practice.
Pool said that, having surpassed the nominal retirement age of 65 after spending 14 years in-house at PNC, he believed it was time to let some “new blood” take over his role with the financial institution.
But Pool said he wasn’t yet ready to give up the practice of law and Buchanan Ingersoll was the only firm he wanted to join.
“There was no other choice,” Pool said. “This is where I wanted to come to continue my legal career.”
Pool began at PNC as a senior lawyer for the corporate and institutional bank in 1999 and became deputy GC in 2001.
Before joining PNC, Pool was a member of the management committee at Pittsburgh-based Tucker Arensberg.
During his time at Tucker Arensberg, Pool said, he competed with Buchanan Ingersoll for financial services work but “the level of competition was the type where we respected one another.”
When he joined PNC, for which Buchanan Ingersoll is the primary commercial documentation firm, Pool worked closely with the firm and particularly with its financial services chair, Cal Harvey.
Pool said his role at Buchanan Ingersoll will primarily be to help maintain and facilitate the firm’s relationship with PNC.
“I have close relationships with any number of people within the legal department and on the business side of PNC so that will clearly be part of my focus,” Pool said, adding that he also expects to be involved in counseling other financial institution clients as well.
Buchanan Ingersoll CEO John A. “Jack” Barbour said Pool is a “total class act” and “the kind of lawyer you would want to have with your law firm under any circumstances.”
“The fact that he has such intimate knowledge of lending and of how loan officers and in-house counsel at other banks and financial institutions think is icing on the cake,” Barbour said.
While Pool intends to work closely with existing Buchanan Ingersoll clients, growing his own client base is not a priority, Pool said.
“If I build a book of business, that would be kind of an ancillary benefit, but it’s not what my focus would be,” Pool said.
According to Pool, what he offers the firm, beyond his close contacts at PNC, is the unique insight of an attorney who has worked as both in-house and outside counsel for a large financial institution.
Barbour agreed, saying Pool will be able to offer a viewpoint regarding how clients think that lawyers who have spent their entire careers in private practice may not have.
“We have a wide and a deep core of very skilled lending lawyers and what Hank brings is that perspective of having been inside the bank for years and years,” Barbour said. “It’s just a different perspective that helps us do our job better for our clients.”
Pool also said he plans to spend four months out of the year in Florida, where the firm added more than 90 lawyers when it merged with Tampa-based Fowler White Boggs in March.
Pool said that, while he is not licensed to practice in Florida, he plans to serve as a resource for Buchanan Ingersoll lawyers while there.
While Barbour said the current business transactional climate is still “tepid,” both he and Pool agreed it is on the upswing as the economy slowly improves.
But while some have blamed this slow return on banks’ reluctance to make loans in an uncertain economy, Pool said well-capitalized banks have not frozen lending.
The real issue, Pool said, is the amount of capital that remains on the sidelines, as borrowers have been timid about actually “pulling the trigger” on transactions for which they’ve received financing.
“It’s true that, as the economy improves, there will be a greater desire for borrowers to come to banks for money,” Pool said. “But the counterpoint to that is the banks that have been well capitalized have been willing to lend. What borrowers have been doing is signing up for lines of credit but not really drawing them down.”
“PNC and a lot of banks want to make loans but, while the underlying activity is better than it was, it’s still not at any sort of boiling point,” Barbour said.
Pool is the latest of several in-house lawyers to return to private practice this year.
In January, Pittsburgh-based Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott hired Gary D. McConnell, former vice president and associate general counsel of Bayer Corp., as a member in its products liability, mass tort and commercial litigation practices.
In March, James D. Garraux, the former GC of U.S. Steel, joined the Pittsburgh office of Fox Rothschild, and Joe Lincoln, former senior counsel of GE Capital, the financial business arm of General Electric Co., joined the Philadelphia office of Reed Smith.
Pool’s move also comes about seven months after longtime Reed Smith global managing partner Gregory B. Jordan announced he was leaving the firm to serve as PNC’s general counsel.