John D. Adams Partner

Drawing on his deep experience in private practice and senior government service, John represents corporations, boards and executives facing significant legal and reputational risk in criminal, regulatory, civil and congressional proceedings.

He has resolved complex, high-stakes matters through innovative settlements and successfully tried cases both as a federal prosecutor and against the Department of Justice. In addition to his investigations practice, John is often called upon to brief and argue appeals in courts across the country and has argued appeals in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th and 11th Circuits.

Prior to joining McGuireWoods, John served in positions of significant responsibility throughout the government. As Associate Counsel to the President of the United States, he represented the Office of the President in congressional investigations and other sensitive matters. His primary responsibility included handling issues arising out of the Department of Defense and State Department. In addition, he coordinated with the Department of Justice on litigation implicating the Office of the President. And as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, he tried cases ranging from fraud to violent crime and managed complex grand jury investigations involving fraud, public corruption and other matters.

John served as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from 2006 to 2007 and to Judge David B. Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit from 2003 to 2004.

Prior to becoming an attorney, John served as a U.S. naval officer, deploying to the Persian Gulf. He led damage control operations on a Ticonderoga Class Cruiser and served as executive officer of a warship assigned to the Naval Special Warfare Command.

John has at various times served as an adjunct professor of appellate and trial advocacy and he serves as Trustee and Vice President of the VMI Foundation. Active in firm leadership, John has previously led McGuireWoods’ firmwide recruiting efforts and as a past chair of McGuireWoods’ Government Investigations & White Collar Litigation Department, he led the department to recognition by Law360 as a “Practice Group of the Year.” He currently serves on the firm’s Board of Partners.


Obtained complete declination from the Department of Justice, following an initial charging decision, for a major chemical company in a high profile environmental matter.  

As lead trial counsel, obtained a full acquittal on 11 counts for a bank executive following a 10-week jury trial in a case brought by the Department of Justice, while all co-defendants were found guilty on multiple charges.

Represented a major financial institution in an investigation by FinCEN, resulting in a favorable outcome. 

Successfully represented one of the world’s largest financial institutions, leading a large-scale investigation involving the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Department of Justice and other federal regulators.

Led representation of a major grocery chain in a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice and other federal agencies into food mislabeling issues, with no charges brought forward after the Department indicated charges were likely.

Successfully represented a Department of Justice official in a congressional investigation.

Led representation of the board of a healthcare company investigating the conduct of a senior executive officer.

Led successful representation of a major national wireless carrier in years-long dispute with FCC, multiple state attorneys general and other federal regulators.

Successfully represented the general counsel of major American corporation in investigation of food and drug labeling issues, with no claims brought forward.

Led representation of a major chemical manufacturer in a years-long investigation by environmental regulators that resulted in no claims brought forward.

Represented a leading international defense contractor in years-long Department of Justice investigation into contracting issues with no claims brought forward.

Successfully represented a partner at a major international accounting firm into allegations of tax fraud with no claims brought forward.

Resolved a years-long case by the Department of Justice and Department of Commerce against an importer on terms highly favorable to client.

Successfully represented a financial adviser in a years-long criminal investigation involving FINRA and the Department of Justice with no claims brought forward.

Developed and led an innovative litigation and crisis management team for one of the world’s largest financial institutions that allowed them to avoid significant legal, political, and reputational risk.

Resolved a years-long criminal investigation into activities related to the mortgage foreclosure crisis at one of the nation’s largest banks with a noncriminal settlement.

Resolved a grand jury investigation into accounting practices at a major, national accounting firm with no charges brought forward.

Led an internal investigation related to money-laundering activity at one of the nation’s largest banks that concluded with no adverse action to the institution.

Defended multiple corporations, boards and executives in various congressional and grand jury investigations that are not publicly available.

  • University of Virginia School of Law, JD, Managing Editor, Virginia Law Review, 2003
  • Virginia Military Institute, BA, Economics, Distinguished Graduate, 1996

Member, Lewis F. Powell, Jr. American Inn of Court

  • Hon. Clarence Thomas, U.S. Supreme Court, 2006-2007
  • Hon. David B. Sentelle, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 2003-2004
  • District of Columbia
  • Virginia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia
  • U.S. Supreme Court

Selected for inclusion in “Legal 500 United States,” Corporate Investigations and White-Collar Criminal Defense, 2020-2023

Selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, Criminal Defense: White-Collar, Woodward/White, Inc., 2022, 2023, 2024

Selected for inclusion in America's Leading Lawyers for Business, Litigation: White-Collar Crime & Government Investigations, Virginia, Chambers USA, 2012-2023

Named to "Legal Elite," Criminal Law, 2012-2013, 2015, 2017-2022; Appellate Law, 2016, Virginia Business

Named to “Virginia Super Lawyers,” Criminal Defense: White Collar, Civil Litigation: Defense, Appellate, Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters, 2012-2018, 2021

Selected for inclusion as a "Leading Lawyer," Corporate Investigations And White-Collar Criminal Defense, Virginia, Legal 500 US, 2016-2018

Named a "Local Litigation Star," Benchmark Litigation, 2018

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