40 Under Forty Feature – Desiree Moore

Interviewed by Kenny Matuszewski

Now celebrating its 21st Anniversary, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin’s 40 Under Forty recognizes rising stars in the legal community. Past winners come from all practice areas and settings, including the government, private practice, and in-house. The one thing they all share is their commitment to excellence and dedication to the legal profession.

Creativity, ingenuity, and a passion for helping others are in Desiree’s bones. It started when she wrote her first book in 2012, titled Thrive: A New Lawyer’s Guide to Law Firm Practice. The book’s target audience was law students and new lawyers and published by the American Bar Association (“ABA”). At the time, the ABA did not have a robust marketing department, so Desiree used social media to promote her book on her own. While social media was in its infancy at that time, she soon realized that clients would be using this platform.

Soon after, Desiree asked the partners at her firm, K&L Gates, to establish a practice area focusing on social media. While she was still an Associate at the time, Desiree did not let that stop her, much like how she did not let the fact that she was a first-time author stop her from publishing her book. Once Desiree has an idea, she steadfastly works to execute her vision. So, Desiree called the global managing partner of the firm, the same partner who contributed to the forward of her book. He immediately realized the significance of Desiree’s proposal and approved it.

But unlike her peers, Desiree did not teach her clients how social media platforms worked and how to use them. Rather, she focused her efforts on figuring out where problems could arise for businesses using social media. She soon found out that they could range from disgruntled company employees posting trade secrets on social media to someone impersonating the CEO. These types of problems were not taken lightly, since companies’ social media accounts and reputations were on the line when these types of issues occurred.

In order to develop her new practice, Desiree worked with her partner in the Miami office, Elisa D’Amico, who leads the firm’s pro bono Cyber Civil Rights Legal Project for revenge porn cases. Desiree and Elisa combined the skills developed by the pro bono team with Desiree’s social media knowledge. Ultimately, this allowed Desiree to develop her social media practice, and eventually they built the digital crisis practice.

Because the nature of Desiree’s work is time-sensitive, it requires 24/7 support. As a result, whenever Desiree’s clients are online, so is she. In addition to being time-sensitive, digital crises are emotionally challenging; Desiree understands that she will not be able to alleviate her clients’ problems simply by telling them they will get through this. Instead, she has to guide clients with steady leadership and expertise.  While she has seen countless of these crises, for most of her clients, it is the first time they have faced any sort of crisis. As a result, Desiree uses her emotional intelligence to not only counsel her clients, but also tailor her advice to the unique situation each of them faces. 

Over the years, similar to technology’s exponential evolution, Desiree’s Digital Crises practice group has also grown significantly. After realizing that data breaches are also modern-day digital crises, Desiree expanded her practice to include cybersecurity and data breach responses. Recognizing that clients need certain kinds of support in certain situations, Desiree works with her colleagues in the technology transactions practice group whenever her client is facing a data breach. Thanks to her ability to handle time-sensitive matters and effectively work with her colleagues, Desiree has achieved significant victories for her clients in this area, to the point that data breach response work has now become a key component of her practice.

Similar to her practice area development, Desiree’s business development skills are also versatile. She often receives internal referrals from her colleagues at the firm for institutional clients concerned about crises from impersonation to infringement on social media to data breaches and more. Clients who have faced cybersecurity incidents in the past also refer her to their colleagues, such as vendors. Desiree is grateful for her firm’s global platform, which gives her the flexibility to develop her book of business in creative ways.

As a global law firm, K&L Gates has offices all over world. A few years ago, the firm’s American lawyers had the opportunity to work with American companies in their efforts to complete construction in time for the 2022 World Cup in Doha, Qatar. This work not only required ensuring the country could accommodate the players, managers and staff competing in the World Cup, but also the tourists who would be visiting the country to cheer on their favorite teams. After some discussion, Desiree and her husband Abe, a fellow partner at K&L Gates in the litigation group, moved to Doha together to work on these matters. Offering to go as a package deal, they found it was an opportunity they could not afford to pass up. Their prediction was correct, because it gave them the rare chance to work in complex, international arbitrations.

Desiree realizes how beneficial it is to have her husband also work at her firm. While Abe will joke that, unlike his wife, he prefers not to discuss work after working hours, the fact that he knows the people and circumstances she mentions when they do talk about their work is comforting. And when he does hear about Desiree’s work, Abe also cares deeply. No matter what, Desiree can always count on Abe to be a holistic partner, whether to serve as a practice partner for oral arguments or coordinator of school pick-ups. 

Along the way, Desiree had several supporters and sponsors. First, she recognizes the mentors she gained while she was in Doha, because she not only met attorneys who worked there, but also those from her home Chicago office. Originally from Southern California, Desiree also spent some time working both there and in Orange County. She personally knows attorneys from all over the world, and she would not have met them if she did not work at a global law firm. In the Chicago office, Bob Barrett, the Intellectual Property Practice Area Leader, and Michael Martinez, the Managing Partner of the firm’s Chicago office have acted as a support system; Michael Zanic in Pittsburgh has also been a sounding board and sponsor. Across the board, Desiree is incredibly grateful for the support she has received from the partners in her firm.

When Desiree found out she won the 40 Under Forty award, she was incredibly excited and honored to represent her firm as a winner. The Chicago office of K&L Gates was founded in 2009, after merging with Bell Boyd & Lloyd. At first, the Chicago office focused on establishing its global presence and brand, because the firm as a whole was rapidly growing across the world. But the firm’s leadership also realizes the benefit of investing in its individual lawyers at the local level. This strategy not only paid off for Desiree, but some of her colleagues, who have now been honored in several publications across the city and state over the past few years.

Never one to rest on her laurels, Desiree soon added another ball to juggle: serving as K&L Gates’ Professional Development Coordinator, while still working as a partner. In other firms, the Professional Development Coordinator is a separate and full-time job from other positions in the firm. However, when the previous Professional Development Coordinator left K&L Gates, Desiree realized that she could use the experience she gained as an adjunct professor at Loyola University School of Law, where she has taught since 2008, and from writing her book to make an impact on young lawyers.

Once again, Desiree immediately excelled in the role. As the Director of Professional Development, she has developed programs that gained national attention, including the Mini-MBA, Pitch Perfect, and Women’s Mastermind. She started these and other programs by first asking what kinds of business development training she would have liked to receive when she was younger. But these programs were also developed because Desiree realized the business development game has changed in the twenty-first century. What senior partners did to obtain their book of business is either inapplicable or extremely difficult for mid-level and junior associates to immediately apply to their own practices. In order to create a more contemporary practice of law, Desiree has changed the rules of the game by helping young attorneys start at the same playing field when developing business. 

Despite such a busy schedule, Desiree also makes time to mentor and support women both inside and outside her firm. She believes it is important for women to support each other in order to level the playing field and because she feels good when she sees others succeed. Community is incredibly important to her, because eventually, once associates become partners, they must all work together as partners of the firm. Additionally, legal careers can be unforgiving. Job security in any position at a firm can be volatile and change on a day-to-day basis, especially if important clients leave the firm to work with another law firm. People who were once discarded might be relied upon later down the road, so to Desiree, it only makes sense to treat everyone with respect.

One piece of advice that Desiree gives to young lawyers is to pursue their dreams, even if those dreams have nothing to do with their legal practice. While it is difficult to balance, Desiree finds that the most successful people in the legal profession are those who create and find meaning outside their work. Desiree lives those words through her creativity, writing and cooking. Her love for cooking came from her Italian family. In Italian culture, food takes center stage at family gatherings, and Desiree is no exception to this rule. Learning how to cook from her mother, Desiree cooks for her family every night and considers cooking an important aspect of her motherhood. She considers cooking not only to be an edible art that showcases diversity of experience, but something that she has in her bones.

Desiree rediscovered her love of cooking and stories when she was on maternity leave a few years ago. Inspired by the children’s storybooks she read as a child and to her children, Desiree decided to write a cookbook. Much like her family gatherings, the stories she read shone a spotlight on food. So, she developed several recipes surrounding these stories. Three years later, Desiree published her second book, Foodie Tales: A Family Cookbook Inspired by Children’s Literature. A labor of love, portions of Foodie Tales’proceeds will be donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository and World Central Kitchen.

The best way to sum up Desiree’s career and life is a labor of love, whether it be in the legal profession, the publishing industry, the kitchen, or to others. But most importantly, Desiree has allowed attorneys around the world to rewrite the stories of their own careers and ensure they are able to live happily ever after.

About Desiree Moore:

Desiree F. Moore is a litigation partner and founding member and co-lead of the firm’s Digital Crisis Planning & Response (DCPR) client solution. She counsels corporations, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, sports leagues, and high-profile individuals in proactively planning for and effectively managing crises of varying magnitudes, including data breach, online defamation, harassment, impersonation, university and other education scandals, celebrity disgrace events, key person transitions and investigations, leaked confidential and proprietary information, and more. Desiree has been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and more on behalf of clients who are navigating high-pressure situations.

Desiree also regularly helps clients proactively identify and manage the risks associated with social media use. She counsels individuals and corporations alike on social media best practices, how to effectively implement regulations for social media use in and outside of the workplace, and how to implement disciplinary measures for unlawful social media use.

Desiree is also the firm’s director of professional development, where she oversees the implementation of innovative training and other programming for attorneys and staff globally, including programs that have gained national attention such as the Mini-MBA, Pitch Perfect, Ted-style Talks, and more. Desiree is actively involved in the firmwide Women in the Profession group and spearheads the Women’s Mastermind program, which supports the business development goals of women associates and partners.

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