Donna Melby is one of the nation's premier business trial attorneys. A Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, the American Board of Trial Advocates, the International Society of Barristers, the Litigation Counsel of America and the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, she has successfully tried multiple cases to jury verdict in state and federal courts across the country, international and domestic arbitrations, and court trials across a broad range of complex civil and employment-related cases. Her practice includes class and individual actions, employee mobility, whistleblower, race discrimination and all discrimination matters, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, contract, conspiracy, Equal Pay Act and complex business litigation of all types.
Listed annually in Best Lawyers in America and every year since 2002 by the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal as one of the "Top Women Lawyers in California," Donna excels at "bet the company" litigation. She is regularly included in the "Top 100 Lawyers in California" and "Top Labor and Employment Lawyers" in California by the Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal. The National Law Journal featured Donna as one of the "Most Influential Lawyers in the United States"; Lawdragon included her among its list of "500 Leading Lawyers in America."
A member of Paul Hastings Employment Law and Litigation Departments, her nationwide trial and litigation practice reflects a pattern of significant, repeated client victories, year after year, in the federal and state courts across the United States. As lead trial counsel, she has served in the defense of 23 nationwide cases in seven different federal judicial districts, opposite no less than 10 law firms in seven different states; these cases involved claims of race discrimination, hostile work environment, conspiracy, contract and other claims. Her clients have overwhelmingly prevailed on summary judgments, and were awarded fees and sanctions, including on anti-SLAPP motions. These victories followed on the heels of wins on motions to dismiss, on motions to sever and on motions to transfer venue, which effectively split 23 misjoined cases into 23 individual cases; many of these were transferred to district courts across the United States. In many of these cases, Donna's clients also received dismissals with prejudice-virtual walkaways after years of litigation---without monetary payments.
Donna counts CEOs, general counsels, law firms, Fortune 50 corporations and boards of directors and executives among her clients. The depth and breadth of her trial and counseling experience, including her notable success in expeditiously and creatively solving the most difficult problems companies face-often preventing full-blown litigation-, make her uniquely suited to step into problem cases, frequently on the eve of trial. Her caseload includes "me too"-threatened litigation involving CEOs, general counsels, executives and law firm partners. Donna is a regular and trusted advisor to boards of directors and senior executive leaders on leadership, organizational change and "bet the company" problems.
For 10 years Donna served as co-chair of the Paul Hastings Employment Law practice in Los Angeles, as chair of the firm's Women's Initiative and as chair of Global Diversity. Paul Hastings' Employment Law practice has been named Labor & Employment Litigation Firm of the Year by The American Lawyer.
Ms. Melby recently completed a three-year term as a member of the California Judicial Council, the policy-making body of the California Judiciary, the largest in the United States. She served as the only lawyer on the California Judicial Council's Executive and Planning Committee, Litigation Management Committee, PCLC and other committees. Immediately prior to service on the California Judicial Council, Donna served as a member of the board of directors of the National Center for State Courts for six years, followed by three years as co-chair of the National Lawyers Committee for the National Center.
Donna is the sole California lawyer to serve by appointment of the conference of chief justices on the Civil Justice Initiative Project (CJI), a national initiative focused on improving the delivery of justice in the civil courts across the United States. The CJI authored "A Call to Action," a white paper approved by the Conference of Chief Justices in 2016.
In addition to her early invitation to fellowship with the nation's premier trial lawyer organizations, which limits membership to the top 1% to 5% of trial lawyers, Donna is former national president, national vice president and national president-elect of the American Board of Trial Advocates, the first woman elected to serve. She is a past trustee of the ABOTA Foundation and the first female president, vice president, and president-elect of the Los Angeles Chapter of ABOTA.
Donna is the recipient of the Warren Burger Award, the highest honor bestowed by the National Center for State Courts in recognition of individuals who have volunteered their time, talent and support to the improvement of the administration of justice in the state courts of the United States through extraordinary contributions of service and support to the National Center for State Courts. In 2018 Paul Hastings honored Donna with the Leonard Janofsky award for legal excellence in employment law.
Accolades and Recognitions
Order of the Coif: Loyola Law School
Fellow: American College of Trial Lawyers (Vice Chair: Judiciary Committee; Membership Committee, Trial Competition Committee)
Fellow: College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
Fellow: International Society of Barristers
Senior Fellow: Litigation Counsel of America
Warren Burger Society: Induction by the National Center for State Courts (2017)
Leonard S. Janofsky Award for Excellence in Employment Law (2018)
American Board of Trial Advocates: National President (2005), National President-Elect (2004); National Vice President (2003); National Board of Directors, Foundation Trustee (by invitation)
American Board of Trial Advocates: Los Angeles Chapter President (2004); Chapter President-Elect (2003); Chapter Vice President (2002); Member National Board of Directors; Member Executive Committee, Los Angeles Chapter (by invitation)
"Fifty Most Influential Women in the United States": The National Law Journal
Best Lawyers in America
"Top Women Litigators" (2002-2018: 16 years in a row), Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journal: Donna Melby has been recognized every year by the Los Angeles Daily Journal as one of California's top women litigators.
"Top 50 California Employment and Labor Lawyers"; Los Angeles Daily Journal: Ms. Melby is regularly included in the list of California's top employment and labor attorneys and was recognized again on this list in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
"Top 100 Lawyers"; Los Angeles Daily Journal: In recent years Donna Melby has been recognized as one of the "Top 100 Lawyers" in the state of California in 2017 and in preceding years.
The Legal 500
"Top Los Angeles Lawyers" (Commercial and Employment Litigation) and "Top Women Lawyers": "Super Lawyers" by Los Angeles Magazine
"America's Top 500 Litigators": Lawdragon:
"Nation's Top One Percent": National Association of Distinguished Counsel;
"Top 10 Jury Trial Defense Verdicts in California": Los Angeles Daily Journal: recognized one of several jury trials as one of the most significant in California
"Champion of Justice": Loyola Law School: In September 2011, Ms. Melby was one of two California trial lawyers presented with the Champion of Justice Award by Loyola Law School Civil Justice Program for her exemplary service and dedication to the civil justice system and to the legal profession.
Prisoner's Rights Advocacy Award: Ms. Melby received the Prisoner's Rights Advocacy Award from the ACLU of Southern California for her pro bono advocacy and work in successfully litigating the rights of abused prisoners in the County of Los Angeles.
Rothschild Pro Bono Award: For her pro bono work for the Landmine Survivors Network, Donna Melby received the Rothschild Pro Bono Award. She remains committed to the pro bono work on behalf of many other clients
International Association of Defense Counsel (by invitation)
Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel (by invitation)
Highest "AV" Rating, Martindale Hubbell
Ms. Melby is a frequent speaker on trial practice-commercial and employment-, litigation, employment law, the civil justice system, the courts and judicial independence at judicial conferences and at bar associations across the United States.
Journalist Law School: Annual Panelist and Speaker at Loyola Law School and at Journalist Law School on Civil Litigation, Access to Justice, Judicial Independence and the Civil Justice System
NITA Faculty: Trial School and Deposition Work shops
Rutter Group: Civil Procedure Before Trial (annual Speaker on two-day Civil Procedure Workshop)
Rutter Group: Annually at California Judges Association annual meeting, including "Annual Advanced Civil Procedure Seminar"
San Diego County Bar Association: "Here and Now: Ethics and Civility in Today's Profession" (2016)
Consumer Attorneys of California: "Voir Dire"
CEB: "Voir Dire"; Opening Statements and Closing Arguments
ACI: "Retaliation Claims": A Primer and Best Practices (2017)
Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL) (2017):"Managing the Client with a Crisis Event" (2017)
RAND Corporation: "Discount Justice: State Court Belt-Tightening in an Era of Austerity"
Masters in Trial: Donna Melby has been an invited speaker and mock trial faculty member in more than 35 mock trial demonstrations across the United States and abroad on behalf of the American Board of Trial Advocates' Masters in Trial programs.
Trial School Faculty: International Association of Defense Counsel Trial School at Stanford Law School
Faculty: "ABA TIPS Trial School at the Judicial College," Sparks, Nevada
Faculty: Loyola Law School Trial Advocacy Class and Volunteer Coach to Trial Advocacy teams
19th Annual Women's Litigators Forum: WLALA
California Judicial Council; Executive and Planning Committee; Litigation Management Committee, PCLC Committee (2014-2017)
National Center for State Courts: Board of Directors, Executive Committee and Development Chair (2008-2014)
Chair: Lawyers Committee: National Center for State Courts: 2014-2017
Conference of Chief Justices: Civil Justice Initiative Council (2014-2015)
Board of Overseers: Loyola Law School
Board of Directors: Glendale Community College Foundation
Board of Visitors: California Western School of Law
Foundation Trustee: Foundation of the American Board of Trial Advocates
Faculty: Trial Advocacy: Loyola Law School
Fellow: Litigation Counsel of America (by invitation)
Resource Board: National Association of Women Judges
American Employment Law Council (AELC)
Executive Committee: Litigation section of the Los Angeles County Bar (past) and past member of the Los Angeles County Bar delegation to the State Bar of California. Legal Services Trust Fund Commission of the State Bar of California (past member) and counsel to the Legal Services Trust Fund Commission (past).
National Trial Competition Judge: Sponsored by American College of Trial Lawyers/Texas Young Lawyers
Journalist Law School: Ms. Melby was part of the leadership that facilitated the partnership between ABOTA and Loyola Law School, which contributed to the launch and continuing support of the first ever Journalist Law School, which is now in its fourteenth successful year.