White collar crime
Tara Lee, Co-Chair of the firm's National Trial Practice, was named the 2017 U.S. Trial Lawyer of the Year by Benchmark Litigation. Her practice focuses on civil litigation, white collar, and investigations. She has received numerous awards for her skills and success as a trial advocate and has been consistently ranked as one of America’s leading lawyers by Chambers USA.
Experience: Tara’s litigation and investigations practice includes complex cases, multi-jurisdictional cases, class actions, and some of the highest profile civil litigation and white collar cases in the U.S. She has particular subject-matter expertise managing investigations, litigation, and risk for clients in the defense industry, for universities and colleges, and for entities expanding into the global marketplace and operating in emerging markets or unstable environments. She has testified as an expert witness on extraterritorial jurisdiction before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and has twice been invited to the United Nations to address UN Working Groups on matters concerning extraterritorial liability and contractors overseas. She has first-chaired rape, date rape, sexual assault, and sex and race discrimination trials as a criminal prosecutor, and handled civil sexual assault and harassment and racial discrimination litigation as both plaintiff and as a defendant, in individual and class action contexts. She worked as a defense lawyer at a university (the U.S. Naval Academy) during Congressional investigations into disparate treatment and harassment of women. She recently successfully defended sexual assault/harassment and racial harassment claims filed by hundreds of former students against USC, and successfully led a campus-wide internal investigation going back 30 years to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct at another major University. She is a sought-after lead counsel and spokesperson when clients are facing a crisis involving potential press coverage, and has successfully assisted her clients in forestalling threatened negative press coverage from major television and print media networks.
Academic positions: She taught Evidence Advocacy and Trial Practice at the UC Davis, California School of Law and at the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, and taught capstone courses in Leadership and Law while serving as a Resident Fellow at the US Naval Academy’s Center for the Study of Professional Ethics, now Stockdale Center. She is currently on the Board of Trustees at the US Naval Academy.
Additional awards: In addition to being named Benchmark Litigation’s Top Trial Lawyer in the U.S in 2017, Tara is also named annually to Benchmark’s Top 100 Trial Lawyers and Top 250 Women in Litigation Lists, and is named as both a National Practice Area Star and Local Litigation Star. She is also regularly named to Global Investigation Review's Top 100 Women in Investigations list. Tara has also been named as a Pioneer and Trailblazer in Litigation by The National Law Journal and as one of the Ten Most Innovative Lawyers in the U.S. by The Financial Times, and was featured as one of the top female Powerbrokers in Law by Law360. While serving in the Jag Corps, she was named the ATLA Outstanding Trial Lawyer and nominated for the ABA Military Lawyer of the Year Award.
Prior affiliations: Previously, Tara served as Co-Chair of DLA Piper’s Global Investigations practice as well as the Global Chair of the firm’s Cross Border Litigation practices. Prior to law school, she served as an officer in the United States Navy, and began her military career in 1991 as the first female officer ever assigned to HSL-45, a Navy SH-60-B helicopter squadron based in San Diego, California.
Education: Tara earned a B.S. from the U.S. Naval Academy, where she was nominated for USA Today’s Academic All-American honors, and earned a J.D. as a scholarship recipient at the University of San Diego (in the evening division while on active duty in the U.S. military), where her graduation awards included recognition as the the Outstanding Student in Trial Advocacy and Outstanding Student in Public Interest Law.
Pro bono: Tara regularly undertakes pro bono litigation and investigations. From 2004 to 2015 she represented a group of Somali victims of war crimes, genocide and human rights abuses perpetrated in the 1980s by the Barre regime. After several investigatory trips to Somalia, Tara drafted, signed and filed the US federal court complaints against U.S. residents Mohamed Ali Samantar, former Vice President and Minister of Defense, and Yusuf Abdi Ali, former military commander of the Gabiley region. The cases became the seminal U.s.appellate opinions in human rights law. In 2007, she argued to the Fourth Circuit that the Court should break with the weight of Circuit Courts then holding that foreign officials accused of war crimes and violations of international law do not have FSIA immunity in US courts. The Court so ruled, Yousuf v. Samantar, 552 F.3d 371 (4th Cir. 2009) and the resulting Circuit split ultimately led to a U.S. Supreme Court 9-0 ruling seminally recognizing the same. After a jury verdict against Samantar in ED VA, the case became the first court ruling worldwide acknowledging genocide by indiscriminate bombing as a violation of international law and holding the command responsible individual accountable. For her groundbreaking work on these cases, Tara received the Center for Justice and Accountability’s Partner in Justice award in 2015. Tara’s pro bono representation also currently includes several decorated U.S. military veterans, a Medal of Honor winner and a Silver Star recipient, in efforts to correct defamatory statements published about their Martine Corps unit’s heroic actions during the Vietnam War.
Last updated September 2019