michaelOf Counsel

Michael is an employment lawyer and commercial litigator with over 25 years of experience representing developers, banks, broker/dealers and others in the financial services industry. Michael’s employment practice is focused on wrongful termination and wage and hour counseling and litigation. He also provides counseling and litigation expertise to employers and employees on non-competes and in trade secret disputes related to employee hirings/terminations. Michael’s commercial litigation practice is centered on the representation of real estate developers and commercial property owners. He has represented clients pro hac vice in litigation matters in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Texas and Washington, and has extensive experience in FINRA, JAMS and AAA arbitration proceedings.

Michael joined in April 2007. He was formerly a shareholder in the Litigation Group at Steefel, Levitt & Weiss. While at Steefel, he chaired the Litigation Group from 1999-2001, and was a member of the firm’s Management Committee from 2001-2003.


Mr. Early received his B.A. from Stanford University in 1980 and his J.D. (cum laude, Order of the Coif) from the University of California, Hastings College of Law in 1983. While at Hastings, he was a Writer and Articles Editor for the Hastings Law Journal.


Mr. Early is a member of the State Bar of California and is admitted to practice law in the United States District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, Southern and Central Districts of California, as well as the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals.


  • Extensive experience providing counsel and litigating wrongful termination cases in federal and state court as well as in FINRA and JAMS arbitration proceedings, including the representation of Fortune 500 companies in high profile wrongful termination suits
  • Extensive federal and state court as well as FINRA arbitration experience litigating non-competition agreements and trade secret disputes related to employee transitions to/from competitors
  • Wage and hour counseling and litigation, including meal and rest break class action litigation
  • Representation of investment bank in three related claims by former employees for wrongful termination, defamation and breach of contract arising from allocation of IPO stock to hedge fund clients
  • Summary judgment in favor of lender on $100 million lender liability claim in Illinois federal district court arising from alleged breach of restructured agricultural loan agreement and simultaneous prosecution of complex foreclosure action in Idaho federal district court
  • Successfully negotiated resolution of claims by four major tenants of commercial building owner for breach of contract and fraud arising out of lease renewal negotiations
  • Defense on behalf of developers and retailers of CEQA challenges to commercial and mixed-use construction projects
  • Handled all aspects of mid-sized San Francisco law firm’s successful dissolution, including negotiated lease termination, bank forbearance agreement and litigation of claims by former partners for breach of partnership agreement
  • Appellate experience in California Courts of Appeal and in the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals in employment and commercial litigation matters

Litigation Achievements & Successes

  • Employment – O’Connor v. The Clorox Company, Eighth Circuit Docket No. 00-3856 (July 26, 2001) (rejecting ex-employee’s compelled publication defamation claim under Arkansas law) (briefed and argued in district court and on appeal)
  • Employment/Securities – Credit Suisse v. Grunwald, 400 F.3d 1119 (9th Cir. 2005) (compelling plaintiff’s wrongful termination, defamation and breach of contract claims to FINRA arbitration and establishing 1934 Exchange Act preemption of California’s ethics standards for arbitrators in NASD (FINRA) arbitrations) (briefed and argued in district court and on appeal)
  • Real Estate/Land Use – Citizens to Enforce CEQA v. Rohnert Park, 131 Cal.App.4th 1594 (2005) City’s Memorandum of Understanding with Indian Tribe not a “project” under CEQA (briefed and argued in superior court; briefed on appeal)
  • Real Estate/Lender Liability – Acequia, Inc. v. Prudential Insurance Company, 226 F.3d 798 (7th Cir. 2000) Lender’s application of land sales to debt not in violation of Bankruptcy Plan or prior settlement agreement (briefed and argued in district court; briefed on appeal).

Affiliations and Memberships

  • California State Bar
  • San Francisco Bar Association