John K. Villa is a partner at Williams & Connolly who served on the firm’s Executive Committee from 2002 through 2017. John is Co-Chair of the firm’s Financial Services and Banking Practice Group. He focuses on corporate, securities and financial services-related litigation (both civil and criminal) and legal malpractice defense.
The Financial Times writes, “John Villa, of Williams & Connolly in Washington, has a reputation for being the lawyer that law firms turn to when in a spot of bother.” The American Lawyer has called him “perhaps the premier [legal] malpractice defense lawyer in the nation.” The Washington Post reports “John Villa of . . . Williams & Connolly [is] the lawyer and firm that lawyers and law firms turn to when they’re in trouble,” and describes him as “a litigator who has gained national prominence with a somewhat rare specialty: defending top-flight law firms in trouble.” John was named to The National Law Journal's list of "100 Most Influential Lawyers in America" as "the first lawyer that other attorneys and law firms turn to when caught up in the S&L and banking scandals." In its 2014 list of "6 Firms to Have on Speed Dial if Malpractice Trouble Hits," Law360 puts Williams & Connolly and John Villa first. He has represented a substantial number of the largest law firms in the United States, but does not disclose his clients.
John was listed as one of the top 100 trial lawyers in America by Benchmark Litigation. He has argued before every federal court of appeals and the highest courts of three states and appeared in the federal or state courts of more than twenty states.
The PLC Global Counsel’s Handbook calls him “an exceptional banking, financial and corporate governance litigator.” In 2012-20, Chambers identified him in Tier 1 nationally for Financial Services Regulation: Banking (Enforcement and Investigations), among the leading lawyers nationally in Securities Litigation (2012-17) and Tier 1 in the District of Columbia for General Commercial Litigation and Securities Litigation (2012-18). Chambers says “John Villa is the ‘first name to come to mind for financial services litigation matters’” and identified him as lawyer who "deserves special recognition" for his prowess in the financial services area and his "excellent reputation" in the DC litigation Bar.
Though all cases vary and none is predictive, John’s lead trial experience includes a $1.6 billion confidential arbitration in 2013 arising out of the largest Ponzi scheme in history. The result was a complete victory for the client. John is regularly recognized as one of the leading trial lawyers in the nation. In 2009, The American Lawyer named him “Litigator in the Spotlight” - “Lawyers’ lawyer, John Villa of Williams & Connolly scored three big wins for law firm clients this spring.” The following year, naming him “Litigator of the Week” for a favorable Second Circuit decision, The American Lawyer writes “John Villa [has] made a career of getting law firms out of big trouble.” The American Lawyer has described his successful trial victory in In the Matter of USAT … as “the longest trial arising from the savings and loan crisis” – a “trial that stretched over 18 months” and resulted in a decision that “exonerated [his client] on all counts” “a crushing defeat for the federal agency that brought the case.”
John is a prolific writer, and, among other publications has authored the following treatises: Banking Crimes: Fraud, Money Laundering and Embezzlement (2 vol.) (Thompson), Bank Directors' and Officers' and Lawyers' Civil Liabilities (Wolters Kluwer), and Corporate Counsel Guidelines (2 vol.), (co-published by Thompson and Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC)). He has also co-authored a casebook, Professional Responsibility: Representing Business Organizations, published by WestAcademic in June 2016. John has been the chairman of, or a speaker on, more than 230 professional conferences on issues involving legal malpractice and ethics, the duties of corporate counsel, banking litigation, directors and officers liability, money laundering and other related topics.
John serves as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law School, teaching a professional responsibility course entitled "Counseling the Corporation in Crisis." He has also taught Professional Responsibility at Columbia Law School (2019) and a similar course at Duke Law School’s WinterSession (2018-20). He previously served as a trial attorney (Honors Program) in the United States Department of Justice, and a special assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney's Office in the District of Columbia. John was a recipient of the Attorney General's Special Commendation Award for Outstanding Service. He is a graduate of Duke University and the University of Michigan an editor of the Michigan Law Review.
John is a member of the Board of the Washington National Cathedral, and has recently served on the Boards of Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the National Capital Area, and the Society for Orphan Armenian Relief (SOAR).
John’s biography has appeared in Who's Who in Hispanic America.
"100 Most Influential Lawyers in America," The National Law Journal
“Financial Services: Regulatory Enforcement & Investigations (Nationwide),” Chambers USA, 2007-2020
"National and Local Litigation Star," Benchmark Litigation, 2012-2021
“Washington, D.C. Banking and Finance Lawyer of the Year,” The Best Lawyers in America ®, 2017, 2020
“Litigation: General Commercial (D.C.),” Chambers USA, 2004-2018
“Securities (D.C.),” Chambers USA, 2013-2018
“Washington, D.C. Corporate Governance Lawyer of the Year,” The Best Lawyers in America ®, 2018
Recognized as one of The Best Lawyers in America ®, 2006-2021
“Securities: Litigation (Nationwide),” Chambers USA, 2007-2017
“Washington, D.C. Ethics and Professional Responsibility Lawyer of the Year,” The Best Lawyers in America ®, 2016
“Top 100 trial lawyers in America,” Benchmark Litigation, 2014
"Washington’s Best Lawyers," Washingtonian magazine, 2004, 2007, 2011, and 2013
“Litigator of the Week,” American Lawyer, 2010
“Litigator in the Spotlight,” American Lawyer, 2009
"Leading Dispute Resolution Counsel" in Washington, D.C., PLC Global Counsel Dispute Resolution Handbook, 2004-2005
Other Government Service
Trial Attorney, United States Department of Justice, 1973-1977
Special Assistant United States Attorney, District of Columbia, 1975-1976
Recipient, Attorney General's Special Commendation Award for Outstanding Service, 1975