Forty-seven-year-old Brian Vertz has emerged rapidly as one of Western Pennsylvania's leading matrimonial lawyers, a key partner at Pollock Begg Komar Glasser & Vertz, by all accounts Pittsburgh's top divorce firm. Indeed, for Vertz - energetic and recognized for his broad experience, particularly in complex financial issues - it has been a remarkably steady ascent: For starters, Vertz has worked with renowned divorce lawyer David S. Pollock his entire career, and has thus benefited from a professional stability especially rare nowadays. Judges, lawyers and business executives throughout the Pittsburgh region already know Vertz professionally and socially, a huge advantage as he enters the sweet spot of his career. Vertz is justifiably proud of his journey: He and his brother were first in his family to attend college, developing a resourcefulness early on; he worked nights while enrolled at Pitt's unique JD-MBA program. Thanks to a serendipitous coincidence, he met Pollock as he was finishing school. Vertz grew up in rural Saline, Michigan, about five miles from Ann Arbor, but a world away from the famously progressive UM campus. "I was helping farm kids with their chores, and riding a dirt bike," he recalls. "My classmates viewed Ann Arbor as a town full of hippies." While contributing as a high school sportswriter for The Saline Reporter, he excelled in math and science, and assumed, on his parents urging, he'd pursue engineering. By his second year at Michigan (after declining a full National Merit Scholarship to Washington University in St. Louis to stay close to home) he was majoring in English while taking economics and business courses, feeding his diverse appetite for learning. "I could express myself well in written communication, but I was always comfortable in the quantitative disciplines." Though still unsure of his future, he applied to the University of Pittsburgh's graduate program in business and law, which turned out to be an ideal fit. He paid his way through grad school, for years working the midnight shift as a security officer at the famed William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh (guests regularly included teams in town to oppose the Steelers and the Penguins). "It was a good job for a young student." One day in the Allegheny County Bar Association office, Nikki Nordenberg (and wife of the school's current chancellor) grabbed one of Vertz's resumes as he stood over a photocopier; she forwarded it to Pollock, who hired the 24-year-old Vertz a few days later. It was "one of those small, life-changing and unforgettable" moments that charted Vertz's course. Over the years the Pollock team built a distinguished practice, first at Reed Smith and, later merging with the family law practice from Buchanan Ingersoll. Vertz says he was fortunate to gain courtroom experience "early and often," a foundation for his career, he says. And divorce law "was the perfect fit for my skills and personality."
By 2001 Vertz, with Pollock and his peers, had launched what's become Pittsburgh's go-to firm for complex contested divorce matters. Their Grant Street office, opposite the Allegheny County Courthouse, has for years been "in a constant state of expansion, the walls always moving." Today the firm has 15 lawyers, and with its practice dedicated to matrimonial law, it is the largest and most successful divorce firm in the region. Their clients range from independent professionals to executives from such Pittsburgh institutions as PNC, BNY Mellon, UPMC, Alcoa, and PPG Industries.
Today Vertz handles cases involving complex financial issues, as well as appellate work. In many respects Vertz, in his mid 40s, straddles the generational divide among matrimonial lawyers - like older lawyers his 20-year career has tracked the evolution of modern case law, yet like a younger lawyer he's adapted to and embraced new technologies and work styles. Away from the office Vertz is "a bit of a fanatic about the outdoors" - kayaking, hiking, camping, "anything non-motorized," he says. A tireless traveler, Vertz leads family and friends on tours of the California wine country, Washington, D.C. monuments, English National Trust gardens and Chicago nightspots. This summer he completed a trek of the Canadian Rockies.