Thomas E. Spahn Counsel

Tom practices as a commercial litigator. He regularly advises Fortune 500 companies on such high-stakes issues as properly creating and preserving the attorney-client privilege and work product protections when conducting corporate investigations, when hiring outside consultants, when dealing with the government, and during other daily and extraordinary situations. He also advises in-house counsel on ethics issues, including conflict of interest, confidentiality, and dealing with corporate wrongdoing.

Tom was selected as the 2013 and the 2020 metro-Washington, DC “Lawyer of the Year” for “Bet the Company Litigation” by The Best Lawyers in America (Woodward/White, Inc.). In 2018, Virginia Lawyers Weekly selected Tom for inclusion in the inaugural Virginia Lawyers Hall of Fame.

Tom has written a two-volume 1,500 page book on the attorney - client privilege and work product doctrine on a national level (all profits go to the non-profit Virginia Law Foundation).

Tom has made available a 300 page summary of the book, which you can access here. In 2021, Tom updated a 750 page compilation of key privilege and work product cases, which you can access here.

Tom has also written books on defamation and ethics issues facing in house lawyers. He has published several book chapters and more than 75 articles in Virginia and national publications on numerous topics. In January 2016, the ABA's Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division republished Tom's article entitled "The ABA's Puzzling Confidentiality Rule" after selecting it as one of only five "Best of ABA Sections" articles. The ABA similarly honored Tom’s article on “Litigation Ethics in the Modern Age” in 2004. 

Since 1988, Tom has spoken at more than 2,200 CLE programs throughout the United States, and in several foreign countries. In March 2009, Tom was invited to Reykjavik, Iceland, to discuss an ethics issue on Iceland’s leading news and interview show. In July 2012, he was invited to Erbil, Iraq, to participate in a panel assisting the Kurdistan Bar Association in establishing ethics rules.

Tom has served on the ABA Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, and on numerous Virginia State Bar and Virginia Bar Association committees. As chairman of the Virginia Bar Association Commission on Professionalism, he acted as principal drafter of Principles of Professionalism that have been endorsed by the Virginia Supreme Court and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, and commended by both of Virginia’s federal district courts. As chairman of the Virginia State Bar Committee on Publications/Public Information, Tom led the committee in developing public service announcements articulating lawyers’ benefit to society, which were extensively published in Virginia, and purchased by the bars of six other states and the Canadian Bar Association.

After personally reading, summarizing, and categorizing more than 1,600 Virginia Bar and American Bar Association legal ethics opinions, he made his work available to the public online.

Since June 2000, Tom has issued short email alerts every Wednesday afternoon describing attorney-client privilege and work product developments. You can access more than 1,100 of these "Privilege Points" and sign up to receive them here.

Tom has prepared a chart describing many of his ethics programs, and made his materials available for educational use. The materials total about 10,000 pages of analysis. You can access the chart and the materials here.


Representation of a Central Asian government in proceeding before a Special Court of Inquiry in New Delhi, India, investigating the deadliest mid air collision in aviation history.

Representation of an automobile manufacturer in connection with America’s worst drunk driving accident.

Representation of an equipment manufacturer in depositions in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Representation of a utility in litigation involving easement rights over one of America’s most popular walking and biking path.

  • Virginia

Named a "South Trailblazer," The American Lawyer, 2022

Selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers In America, Commercial Litigation, 2007-2023; Bet-the-Company Litigation, 2013-2023, Woodward/White, Inc.

Selected as the metro-Washington DC "Lawyer of the Year," Bet-the-Company Litigation, The Best Lawyers In America, Woodward/White, Inc., 2013, 2020

Named to "Virginia Super Lawyers," Business Litigation, Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters, 2006-2019

Selected for inclusion into the inaugural Virginia Lawyers Hall of Fame, Virginia Lawyers Weekly, 2018

Named "Legal Services of Northern Virginia Pro Bono Consultant of the Year," 2018

Named a Leading Author, Lexology Legal Influencers, Future of Legal Services – US; Q2 2019; Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4 2021; Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4 2022; Q1 2023

Named to "Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers," Business Litigation, Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters, 2007-2018

Named to "Legal Elite," Litigation, 2000; Civil Litigation, 2003; Legal Services/Public Service, 2004-2005; Civil Litigation, 2006; Civil Litigation, 2008, 2010, Virginia Business 

Recipient, commendation from The Northern Virginia Chapter of the Federal Bar Association in recognition of "outstanding and dedicated service," 2014

Recipient, Virginia Bar Association William B. Spong, Jr. Professionalism Award, 2010

Named to "Leaders in Law," Virginia Lawyers Weekly, 2008

Recipient, Virginia Bar Association Walker Award of Merit "in recognition and appreciation of exceptional leadership within the Bar," 2004

Recipient, Special Commendation from the Virginia State Bar for "his outstanding service to the bar," 2002

Recipient, Burton Foundation Award for Legal Achievement (for the article "Virginia Corporate Directors' Duties - A Recent History"), 2002

Recipient, Gardener G. DeMallie Jr. Continuing Legal Education Award, Virginia Law Foundation, Virginia CLE, 1999

AV Preeminent Rated, Martindale-Hubbell

  • Yale Law School, JD, 1977
  • Yale University, BA, magna cum laude, 1974

Member, The American Law Institute

Fellow, American Bar Foundation

Member, American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, 2004-2006

Fellow, Virginia Law Foundation

Member, Editorial Advisory Board, Legal Ethics, Law360, 2018 - present

Member, Chief Justice’s Working Group for Review of the Canons of Judicial Conduct for the Commonwealth of Virginia, 2017-2020

Member, Virginia Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee (re-established), 2015-2020

Member, 2001-2010; Chairman, 2005-2006; Vice Chairman, 2003-2004, Virginia Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee

Member; Standing Committee on Legal Ethics, 2004-2010; Special Committee on the Future of Law Practice, 2014-2015; Task Force on Legal Writing, 2013; Task Force on Emergency Legal Services, 2007-2012; Special Committee to Review Procedural Rules Governing Bar Disciplinary Proceedings, 2000-2002; The Joint Virginia State Bar and Virginia Bar Association Commission on Multidisciplinary Practice, 2000-2002; Member, 1994-2000; Reporter 1996-2000, Special Committee to Study the Virginia Code of Professional Responsibility; Faculty, Course on Professionalism, 1996-1999; Chair, Committee on Publications/ Public Information, 1996-2001, Virginia State Bar

Chair, Commission on Professionalism, 2006-2009; Chair, Professionalism Task Force, 1997-2000, Virginia Bar Association

Member, Digital Archive of the Birth of the Dot Com Era, Advisory Counsel (sponsored by the Library of Congress, and The Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland), 2005-2009

Former Member, Boyd-Graves Conference on Virginia Procedure

Former Member, John Marshall Inn of Court

Member; Chair, Committee on Admissions, 1987-1988; Chair, Committee on Continuing Legal Education, 1990-1991; Committee on Administration of Justice, 1995-1999, Richmond Bar Association

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