Deneen C. Howell is Co-Chair of both Williams & Connolly’s Employment Counseling and Litigation practice group, where her focus is on counseling clients regarding executive employment and internal investigations, as well as its Transactions and Business Counseling practice group. She is a highly skilled negotiator with broad experience advising senior executives, former government officials, authors, broadcasters and journalists as well as privately held businesses and non-profit organizations largely centered on employment and other personal services matters.
Deneen advises corporate clients on a wide array of legal issues, including employment-related matters, restrictive covenant and internal investigations, mergers and acquisitions, course-of-business transactions, settlement agreements, intellectual property, commercial speech, and First Amendment issues.
She also regularly advises former government officials in connection with their professional, academic and publishing pursuits following government service, including Presidents, Cabinet Members, White House officials, Senators, Representatives, Department of Justice, Department of State and other agency officials as well as representatives of state and local government, whether it be serving as a consultant, senior advisor, board member or senior executive to corporations, joining a law firm, writing their memoirs, running academic institutions or joining faculties, undertaking paid speaking engagements, serving as contributors to media outlets, or some combination of the above.
In her publishing practice, apart from non-fiction, Deneen also has a thriving practice representing authors of literary fiction, thrillers and romance.
Deneen has an extensive executive compensation practice where she represents top executives, fiduciary board members and advisory board members at public and privately-held companies, and media organizations, and negotiates and structures both executive employment and severance agreements. In addition, she regularly negotiates employment agreements for senior administrators, academics and coaches from various institutions of higher learning as well as major foundations, libraries and trade associations. Deneen also represents senior executives of professional sports teams and, in her media practice, she represents on-air and off-air talent, including anchors, correspondents, reporters, writers, editors and producers, negotiating employment agreements with their networks, cable companies and local stations.
In 2018 and 2019, Chambers USA recognized Deneen as a member of Williams & Connolly’s “renowned” media and entertainment practice. Chambers notes that the team is expert in the publishing field and “sought out by leading authors and politicians to negotiate book deals.” Deneen also has been honored as one of Savoy magazine's Most Influential Black Lawyers (2018) and has been selected as one of the top 500 lawyers overall (Lawdragon magazine, 2018-2021).
When advising authors, Deneen helps to craft book proposals, pitch book ideas and negotiate resulting publishing and ancillary agreements. Throughout her practice, Deneen has represented such non-fiction authors as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Senator Tammy Duckworth, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Amanda Knox, Congressman John Lewis, Col. Oliver North, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and David Plouffe.
Her skills also range beyond political memoirs and into the literary world where she represents fiction authors, including Alex Berenson, Mary Higgins Clark, Khaled Hosseini, and James Patterson, and children’s book authors as well as musicians, restauranteurs and other public figures, including Lidia Bastianich, Jewel, Herbie Hancock and Barbra Streisand.
In her executive compensation practice, Deneen has represented C-suite executives, general counsels, fiduciary board members and advisory board members at organizations such as Airbnb, AT&T, Axios, Bank of America, BitFury, the Brunswick Group, Discovery, FleishmanHillard, Hilton Hotels, Google, Lyft, PepsiCo, Politico, RLJ Equity Partners, Snap, Ralph Lauren, Uber and Viacom.
Deneen’s higher education practice has included senior executive employment agreement and head coach negotiations for at such institutions American University, Baylor University, George Washington University, Georgetown, Harvard, Case Western Reserve, University of California - Davis, Columbia University, Drexel University, Franklin & Marshall College, George Washington University, Kalamazoo College, Meharry Medical College, Morehouse, University of Pennsylvania, Pitzer, University of Southern California (USC), Spelman College, Tulane, the University of Miami and Vanderbilt.
In her practice advising executives as they join not-for-profit organizations, Deneen has represented senior executives serving the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation, the Huntington Library, the March of Dimes, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the ACLA, ASCAP, the Business Roundtable, the Private Equity Growth and Capital Council and the Managed Funds Association. Her representation of senior executives of professional sports teams has included the Baltimore Ravens, Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets and the Philadelphia 76ers.
In her media practice, Deneen regularly negotiates employment agreements for her clients at ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, Discovery, ESPN, FOX, MSNBC, NBC, NPR and WETA. Deneen also represents print journalists such as Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles.
Deneen’s pro bono work has centered on contract negotiations for, and advice and counsel to various non-profit organizations, including the National Military Families Association and the Air Force Aid Society and the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Fund (VVMF). Her pro bono work for the Folger Shakespeare Library led to an invitation to join its Board of Governors.
Born in Philadelphia, Deneen grew up in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and graduated cum laude from Yale University in 1993. She spent a year working in the New York District Attorney's office as an investigation coordinator in the child abuse bureau before going to Stanford Law School, where she received her J.D. and was President of the Stanford Law Review. After law school, Deneen became corporate counsel to the Times Mirror Company, a Los Angeles-based news and information company whose holdings included the Los Angeles Times. There her responsibilities included employment-related matters, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, commercial speech, and First Amendment issues.
She is and has been a member of a number of firm committees and currently serves as Chair of the firm’s Budget Committee.
- Negotiated various publishing agreements for fiction and non-fiction authors, most recently including Secretary Madeleine Albright, Lidia Bastianich, Alex Berenson, Mary Higgins Clark, Senator Tammy Duckworth, Khaled Hosseini, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and James Patterson.
- Negotiated various agreements for broadcasters, journalists, contributors and executives with diverse media outlets, including ABC, CBS, CNBC, CNN, Discovery, FOX, MSNBC, NBC, NPR, and Viacom.
- Advised various former government officials in connection with their professional pursuits following government service, including Presidents, Cabinet Officials, Senators, Representatives, White House, Department of Justice and other agency officials as well as representatives of local government.
- Negotiated employment agreements for senior executives of AT&T, Bank of America, BitFury, Discovery, FleishmanHillard, Google, Lyft, PepsiCo, Purdue Pharma, PWC, Snap, Uber and Viacom.
- Negotiated employment agreements for senior administrators of various colleges and universities as well as foundations, most recently including American University, George Washington University, Morehouse College, The Mellon Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
- Negotiated exclusive representation agreements with various speakers’ bureaus, including Washington Speakers Bureau, Harry Walker Agency and Leading Authorities, Inc.
- Represented a North American energy producer with respect to employment policies, employment terminations, and restrictive covenant agreements.
- Represented a financial services network in connection with workplace relocation, employment terminations, employee retention agreements, and executive compensation.
- Represented an American legal organization with respect to employment policies, executive compensation, and employment terminations.
“500 Leading Lawyers in America,” Lawdragon magazine, 2018-2021
“Media & Entertainment (DC),” Chambers USA, 2018-2019
“Most Influential Black Lawyers,” Savoy magazine, 2018