Deborah P. Kelly

District of Columbia

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP
1050 Connecticut Ave. NW
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036

Tel: 202.585.6541


Deborah P. Kelly represents employers in virtually all areas, from multibillion-dollar high tech and financial services companies to nonprofit associations and other law firms.

Deborah helps her clients adopt best practices that minimize the risk of litigation. She designs and leads in-person training for boards of directors, managers, human resources professionals and other employees. While these trainings focus on the importance of understanding and preventing discrimination, they are peppered with enough war stories, memorable visuals and humor to make attendees both learn and enjoy the process.

Her popular workshops address topics such as antidiscrimination (including state-compliant sexual harassment training), wage and hour, and how to handle professional versus private issues around social media. She also counsels boards of directors, including publicly traded companies, about complex C-suite employment matters in a way that deals with the matter without bad publicity or ripple effects on stock value.

In litigation, Deborah handles the full gamut of employment matters, including non-competes, trade secret litigation, breach of contract, wage and hour, and all forms of discrimination. Deborah has tried cases to jury verdicts in federal and state courts as well as in arbitration forums.

Before joining Manatt, Deborah practiced at two prominent national law firms, including one where she headed its employment practice, was chosen for two four-year terms on its executive committee and served as the firm’s deputy general counsel.

Deborah teaches Employment and Labor Law at American University Washington College of Law and spent almost a decade in academia before becoming a lawyer, serving on the political science faculty at American University and the University of Maryland. Deborah also worked at The Brookings Institution, where she researched perspectives of the criminal justice system for a book on congressional oversight of federal administrative practices.

In recognition of her professional contributions, Deborah is a Fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and has regularly been recognized as a top employment lawyer in publications ranging from U.S. News to Chambers Leading Guide for Businesses.

  • Linda Campbell v. Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP (US District Court, Southern District of Florida) (2019-2021)
  • 40 Ventures LLC v. Minnesquam LLC et al. (Minnesota District Court, Hennepin County) (2019)
  • Yeh v. International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Worker’s Union and Norberg (D.C. Superior Court) (2017–2019)
  • Negash v. Hawkins, et al (U.S.D.C. E.D. Va.) (2017)
  • Omwenga v. United Nations Foundation (U.S.D.C. D.C.) (2015–2021)
  • Citrin Cooperman & Company v. Pamer and Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman (Supreme Court of New York, New York County) (2017)
  • Sivage v. Booz Allen (D.C. Superior Court), summary judgment granted on all claims that survived motions to dismiss) (2011–2014)
  • Campos v. Environmental Defense Fund, represented EDF in EEOC claim brought by a former employee, later filed in U.S.D.C. Colo. (2015–2017)
  • Warrior Sports, Inc. v. Under Armour (U.S. District Court, District of Maryland)
  • EEOC v. Huntington Ingalls (U.S. District Court, Eastern District, North Carolina)

Note: Deborah has tried many cases to verdict before an arbitrator but such cases cannot be listed due to confidentiality.

  • Washingtonian’s Top Lawyers Hall of Fame, 2022
  • 500 Leading U.S. Corporate Employment Lawyers, Lawdragon, 2020–2022
  • Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll, District of Columbia Courts, 2018–2021
  • Elected Fellow, College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, 2016
  • Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, Labor & Employment (D.C.), 2006–2022 (individually ranked)
  • The Best Lawyers in America, 2007–2023
  • Washingtonian’s Top Lawyers, 2013–2022
  • Washington D.C. Super Lawyers, 2009–2023
  • Elected Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America, 2017

Technology, new regulations and globalization are fundamentally changing the workplace—and presenting companies with more challenging decisions than ever regarding their workforce.

Given the complexities of today’s labor climate, building a relationship with a legal team that can guide you through new developments, explain your options clearly and help you make thoughtful, informed decisions is key. Our team works closely with you, often serving as an extension of your in-house human resources and legal departments.

  • Terminations and reductions in force
  • Employment agreements and executive compensation
  • Discrimination and harassment policies
  • Wage-and-hour law
  • Trade secrets and unfair competition
  • Investigations and audits
  • Workplace security
  • Leased workers and temporary employee agency issues

Our clients are diverse, ambitious and business-savvy. We work with some of the most successful people and firms in the U.S. and beyond.

Manatt is a multidisciplinary, integrated national professional services firm known for quality and an extraordinary commitment to clients. We are keenly focused on specific industry sectors, providing legal and consulting capabilities at the very highest levels to achieve our clients’ business objectives.

Our groundbreaking approach—bringing together legal services, advocacy and business strategy—differentiates us from our competitors and positions us to provide a unique and compelling value proposition. We strive to be essential to our clients.

From our roots in bankingentertainment and government, we work with clients from industries as diverse as health carefinancial servicesmediatechnologyretail and consumer productsreal estate, and energy. Our practice mix and deep understanding of the industries that drive the U.S. and global economies benefit clients as we resolve complex and potentially enterprise-threatening disputes, help finance their operations and expand their businesses, and navigate the maze of law and regulation governing virtually all commercial activity.

Our strong presence in America’s most important business markets enables us to address and exceed client expectations. Our largest offices are strategically located in Los AngelesNew YorkPalo AltoSan FranciscoOrange CountyChicagoWashington, D.C., and Boston. Our state capital offices in Sacramento and Albany provide connections to government decision makers and to solutions that are unavailable from our competitors.

Beyond this energizing work, we are deeply committed to diversity, to public service, to involvement in the communities we serve and to excellence in all we do.