Deborah P. Kelly

Deborah P. Kelly

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP

Recognized since 2008

Washington, District of Columbia

Practice Areas

Litigation - Labor and Employment

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Known for her straightforward, “cut-to-the-chase” approach to lawyering, 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.

Contact & Links


  • 1050 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 600
    Washington, DC 20036


  • American University, J.D., graduated 1988
  • University of Vermont, BS, graduated 1974

Bar Admissions

  • New York, New York, New York State Bar Association
  • District of Columbia, The District of Columbia Bar
  • Maryland, Maryland State Bar Association

Recognized in The Best Lawyers® in America 2023 for work in:

  • Litigation - Labor and Employment

Special Focus

  • COVID-19
  • Employment
  • Management


  • Chambers USA 2006 - 2013
  • The Best Lawyers in America 2007 - 2012
  • Super Lawyers Top 50 Women Lawyers in Washington, DC 2010 and 2011
  • The Project for Attorney Retention Awards 2009

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News & Links

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