Michael J. Adams

Partner - Not admitted in North Carolina, motion for admission in North Carolina pending; admitted in Virginia

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  • Harvard Law School, LLM, 2013
  • Georgetown University Law Center, JD, 2002
  • United States Naval Academy, BS, 1996
  • Not Admitted in North Carolina
  • Virginia

American Bar Association

American Society of International Law

Contributing Editor, Lawfare Blog

After 20 years as a national security advisor in the U.S. Navy, Michael now serves as a strategic cybersecurity, data privacy and technology counselor to clients across industries.

Most recently, Michael served as Deputy General Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His background offers clients rare legal and technical insight into current and emerging cyber risks — particularly related to critical infrastructure.

During his three-year tenure with the Chairman and Joint Chiefs, Michael counseled the country’s top military officers, civilian advisors and Congress on international and national security law affecting military operations, including cybersecurity, privacy, information governance and technology. He developed a legal and policy framework to combat emerging cyber threats and served as a first-responder and key military advisor during significant U.S. and international cyber events, including the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures by North Korea. He also served as the U.S. government’s primary representative, negotiator or speaker on law and operations for events in Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, the Maldives, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, Singapore, Switzerland and the UK.

Before joining the Joint Staff, Michael was deputy general counsel for U.S. Pacific Command and NATO’s ISAF Joint Command, as well as general counsel for Naval Special Warfare Development Group and special operations task forces conducting national missions. In each of these roles, he served as a special advisor on cybersecurity, intelligence, and sensitive technical operations. Among other accomplishments, he helped design a cyber architecture and command structure unique to forces in the Pacific theater; advised on the research, development, testing, evaluation, procurement and implementation of special operations technology and assets; and developed groundbreaking analysis that enabled the multimillion-dollar procurement of classified technology that became the leading tool for counter-terrorism missions.

In 2015, Michael co-taught a national security law course at Harvard Law School on maritime and territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. He has also lectured at Oxford, Columbia, Georgetown, the University of Virginia, and New York University Law Schools.

Michael’s experience also includes intellectual property, investigations, labor law and litigation.

In the News

Mike Adams
T: +1 704 373 8847F: +1 704 444 8747201 North Tryon Street
Suite 3000
Charlotte, NC 28202-2146
T: +1 703 712 5135F: +1 704 444 87471750 Tysons Boulevard
Suite 1800
Tysons, VA 22102-4215
While in government service, Michael:

Advised on international and state-specific laws, policy, and regulatory regimes for 47 nations conducting military operations in Afghanistan, including matters involving cybersecurity, data privacy, emerging technologies, and government contracts.

Served as special counsel for sensitive, strategic investigations and personnel actions, and led multiple complex investigations involving loss of life and activities facing international scrutiny. Considered a leader in risk assessment, consequence management, evidence, due process and public affairs.

Served as prosecutor and defense attorney for the government; national security litigator; represented more than 400 clients; led more than 100 federal trials; handled 50 labor hearings and negotiated more than 200 tort claims seeking millions of dollars from the U.S. government.

Served as advisor for complex investigations and labor disputes involving employment termination, federal grievances, arbitration, litigation and settlements.

Advised on special operations, intelligence, counter-terrorism and maritime security. As a judge advocate, parachuted into the maritime domain and served as the afloat legal advisor for successful hostage rescue operations executed under orders of the president of the United States.

Defense Superior Service Medal, 2016

Bronze Star, 2008

Judge Advocates Association Career Armed Services Attorney Award based upon his outstanding professional accomplishments, service to community, service to the legal profession, and development of legal and military professionals, 2016

U.S. Special Operations Major General William Garrison Award for exceptionally meritorious service in advancing the rule of law in the Special Operations Forces community during a career, 2008

Recognized in a tribute to service by current and former senior government attorneys, Just Security, New York University School of Law, 2017

Speaker for multiple engagements amongst States, governments, and private institutions focused on international and national security law, cybersecurity, data privacy, and security operations
Speaker, "Cybersecurity: Finding Stability in Uncertainty," Compliance in the Real World — A Practical Roundup of Today’s Top Issues, October 25, 2017
Speaker, "Security Issues for Fiduciaries and High-Net-Worth Families," New Developments in Wealth Planning, McGuireWoods LLP Complimentary Seminar, October 24, 2017
Speaker, "Security Issues for High-Net-Worth Families," 12th Annual Fiduciary Advisory Services Seminar; Issues Confronting Institutional Fiduciaries, October 4, 2017
Speaker, "Cybersecurity," 2017 Round Up: Texas Association of Life & Health Insurers, September 25, 2017
Speaker, "Data Privacy & HIPAA," 12th Annual Healthcare Provider Conference; Healthcare Finance and Growth, September 12, 2017
Speaker, "Creating Cybersecurity Momentum," CLE: Ethics and Compliance, McGuireWoods LLP Seminar, August 29, 2017
Speaker, "When Compliance Programs Fail: Truth and Consequences," Compliance in the Real World; A Practical Discussion About Today’s Top Issues, McGuireWoods LLP Conference, May 17, 2017
Speaker, SEC Compliance and Disclosure Update, McGuireWoods LLP SEC Practice Complimentary Webinar Series, April 18, 2017
Cybersecurity Featured Speaker, "Tallinn Manual 2.0 on the International Law Applicable," Cyber Operations Symposium, Austin, Texas, 2017
Speaker, "Hybrid Conflicts and the Transnational Legal Landscape," U.S. Special Operations Command Legal Conference, Tampa, Florida, 2016
Speaker, "Hybrid Conflicts and the Transnational Legal Landscape," U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command Joint Legal Conference, Stuttgart, Germany, 2016
Speaker, "The Law of Targeting," Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2015
Speaker, "National Security Outside of Armed Conflict," Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C., 2015
Speaker, "Assessing State Responsibility in Hybrid Conflicts," The Chairman’s Legal Symposium on Hybrid Conflict, Arlington, Virginia, 2015
U.S. Delegate to Expert Meeting, Explosive Weapons in Populated Areas, Geneva, Switzerland, 2015
Speaker, "Jus Extra Bellum," Joint Staff Operational Law Seminar, Arlington, Virginia, 2015
Speaker, "The End of the U.S. 'War on Terror': Exploring How this Conflict Might End and the Implications," American Society of International Law Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., 2015
Workshop Leader on Cybersecurity and Use of Force, Transatlantic Workshop on International Law and Armed Conflict, Oxford, 2015
Presenter: Cybersecurity and Use of Force, International and National Security Roundtable Meeting of Experts, Columbia Law School, New York, New York, 2014
Speaker, The Legal Foundations for U.S. Government Activities Inside and Outside of Armed Conflict, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C., 2014
Speaker, "Targeting," Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C., 2014
Speaker, "Jus Extra Bellum," The Center on Law and National Security, New York University, New York, New York, 2014
Speaker, "Law and Policy Applicable to Cyberspace Operations," Joint Staff Operational Law Seminar, Arlington, Virginia, 2014
Speaker, "Legal Justifications Inside and Outside of Armed Conflict," University of Virginia School of Law-International Committee of the Red Cross Roundtable, Charlottesville, Virginia, 2013
Speaker, "Law and Policy Applicable to Cyberspace Operations," Interagency Lawyers Cyber Training, Maryland, 2013
Speaker, "Information Operations Law" and "Counter-Piracy," Defense Institute of International Legal Studies-Indian Armed Forces Engagement, Kochi, India, 2012
U.S. Delegate to International Symposium on Counter-Piracy and Escort Operations, Nanjing, China, 2012
Speaker, Defense Institute of International Legal Studies-Indonesian National Armed Forces Engagement; Information Operations Law, Jakarta, Indonesia, 2011