No day is the same for Andrew Pruitt. As Volkswagen Group of America’s senior counsel of automotive product liability and litigation, he manages a very active and highly technical docket. The company’s cars have been around a long time, but the technology is changing every day, and he is one of many industry leaders figuring out how to navigate new legal realities.
It’s a fitting responsibility for a leader who’s no stranger to uncertainty and change. His legal journey started that way—in a place of not knowing.
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to be growing up,” Pruitt admits. “My path to law happened organically over time, and even when I graduated, I still didn’t know what I would do long-term with a law degree. In some ways my whole legal career has been a process of figuring it out along the way and just taking each new opportunity as it comes.”
After graduating from the George Washington University Law School, Pruitt was thrown into the deep end as a junior litigator at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. As a first-year associate, Pruitt was handed significant responsibility on complex, high-impact cases for major clients. It showed him what litigation was all about, how to handle the pressure of taking bet-the-company cases to trial, and how to stand tall in courtrooms among first-class trial lawyers.
“I was fortunate to get a lot of trial experience early on compared to some of my peers,” Pruitt reflects. But the challenge of litigating complex engineering disputes without formal scientific training also pushed him outside of his comfort zone.
“Science was never part of my background, so it was 100 percent learning as I go,” he notes. Even so, it was a challenge that he eagerly undertook: “I always loved learning, so I leaned into that aspect of it. Now I can see how it gave me the confidence and skills to help run a litigation docket for a huge company like Volkswagen.”
Those kinds of experiences continued to shape him as he moved into more senior roles. He became a partner at Kirkland & Ellis before going on to Crowell & Moring LLP. In addition to representing high-profile clients like bp, Disney, and GM—his first exposure to complex automotive litigation—he also had the opportunity to litigate in the US Supreme Court and even argue before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
While those cases were invaluable in honing his legal expertise, he found himself wanting more. Pruitt didn’t just want to help a client deal with a one-time crisis and then move onto the next case.
“I liked the idea of partnering with one client long term and getting embedded in the business, learning it from the inside out,” he admits. “When I was in private practice working with my clients, what I enjoyed most was being part of a team and working shoulder to shoulder with businesspeople, engineers, and experts. When a case ended, I felt myself wanting that teamwork to continue.”
That’s what brought him to Volkswagen in 2022. From day one, he was responsible for a managing a large docket of product liability and class-action cases. He also gets to counsel the business, helping leaders in the company figure out how to achieve their goals while mitigating risk on the front end. As a lifelong learner who loves a challenge, Pruitt is in the right place.
“What’s interesting about the automotive space is that the legal issues are exciting and complex in part because of cutting-edge technologies,” he notes. “I’ve been able to counsel on issues at the intersection of law and technology, including advanced driver assistance systems and even AI.”
Every in-house counsel has a certain philosophy that drives the way they interact with their business colleagues. For Pruitt, it’s being “a solutions-oriented person.” “Some on the business side might expect that when they go to legal, they’ll be told ‘no,’” he says. “But I think it’s important to make it clear that you’re there to help.”
Pruitt encourages young attorneys to be open to new experiences.
“If you asked me when I was in law school—or even five years ago—what I’d be doing today, I never would have guessed this,” he says. “It’s good to have a sense of what interests you, but you can never really plan out what’s going to happen. You have to follow the opportunities that come up and be willing to go out of your comfort zone.”