Ryan D. Frei Partner

Ryan serves as co-chair of the firm's energy disputes practice. He is a versatile commercial litigator who assists clients in navigating their most challenging business disputes, from pre-litigation counseling through trial and appeal. Most of his engagements arise out of complex contracts within regulated industries, and many involve allegations of fraud or other tortious conduct. He has been with McGuireWoods since 2006, following a one-year clerkship with then-Chief Judge James R. Spencer of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Ryan represents clients in state and federal courts across the country. Recent representations involved energy supply and services, government contracting, construction, supply-chain design, securities, mortgage origination practices, financial services, wireless services, commercial real estate, insurance coverage, D&O and fiduciary matters, fraudulent conveyances, healthcare services, and agribusiness.

He regularly practices in — and has deep knowledge of — the Eastern District of Virginia, known as the “Rocket Docket” for its swift handling of litigation. Ryan recently first-chaired a team that won a combined judgment and fee award of nearly $25 million in a coal supply and services contract dispute in the E.D. Va., following victories on summary judgment and at trial. The 4th Circuit fully affirmed on appeal.

A past participant in the National Trial Advocacy College, Ryan has substantial bench and jury trial experience, including several multiweek trials. He has coordinated and participated in numerous mock jury and focus group exercises.

In addition to his litigation and pre-litigation counseling, he represents individuals in government investigations and conducts legal and regulatory compliance audits on behalf of Fortune 100 and 500 companies related to financial services, antitrust and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) — throughout the United States and abroad.

Fluent in Spanish, Ryan uses his language skills to assist clients whose legal needs cross international borders. He maintains a robust pro bono practice and received McGuireWoods’ annual Pro Bono Award in 2016.

During law school, Ryan was the senior notes and comments editor and a member of the executive board of the University of Richmond Law Review. He earned CALI Excellence for the Future Awards in Contracts (Section Honor) and International Business Transactions; placed first in the Walter Scott McNeill Legal Writing Competition two years in a row; and served as chief justice of the Honor Council. He also received the T.C. Williams Law School Scholarship Award, presented to the graduating student who made the most significant contribution to legal scholarship. He won the J.G. White Prize for Excellence in Spanish for his undergraduate work at Cornell University, supplementing his studies with full Spanish-language immersion at la Universidad de Sevilla, in Seville, Spain.

Ryan publishes and presents CLE seminars on a variety of commercial litigation subjects.



Representative Trial Experience

Represented major utility in bench trial in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, arising out of coal supply and services dispute regarding six interrelated contracts.  Obtained the full amount of damages sought, resulting in a combined judgment and attorneys’ fee award of more than $24.5 million.  The Fourth Circuit fully affirmed on appeal. 

Served as part of trial team in multi-week jury trial in California state court, representing national wireless provider in class action jury trial on the issue of economic damages arising out of customers’ early termination of wireless contracts.

Represented one of the nation’s largest pork producers in multi-week jury trial in a private nuisance action brought in Missouri state court involving one of its hog farms.

Represented corporate and individual clients in bench and jury trials in Virginia state courts arising out of a wide range of business and consumer disputes.

Representative Motion Practice Experience

Argued summary judgment on behalf of major utility in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Obtained summary judgment on a $2 million component of client’s contract claims and defeated defendant’s $20 million counterclaim in its entirety.  The Fourth Circuit fully affirmed on appeal. 

Researched and drafted Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss initial and amended complaints, defending one of the nation’s largest financial institutions in a lawsuit brought in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia alleging fraudulent investment advice and breach of fiduciary duty. Plaintiffs opted to file an amended complaint rather than oppose the initial motion to dismiss, and then voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit just days before their opposition to the motion to dismiss their amended complaint was due.  The case was never re-filed. 

Briefed and argued plea in bar on the basis of mootness in defending a cardiology practice in an action for injunctive relief and monetary damages in Virginia state court. The court sustained the plea in bar and dismissed the complaint in its entirety.

Briefed and argued demurrer to a multi-count complaint seeking compensatory and punitive damages based a variety of contract and tort theories in Virginia state court, obtaining dismissal with prejudice of all but one count in the complaint, as well as the claims for punitive damages and the imposition of a constructive trust.

Researched and drafted plea in bar on the basis of the statute of limitations, triggering voluntary dismissal of a trespass and nuisance action in Virginia state court involving allegations of groundwater contamination. The case was never re-filed.

Other Representative Litigation Experience

Represented government contractor defending against 80-count complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  Plaintiff alleged an illegal bid-rigging scheme and asserted a variety of tort and statutory claims rooted in allegations of tortious interference and conspiracy, seeking approximately $300 million in damages.  Obtained complete summary judgment resulting in dismissal of all counts.

Defended former diagnostic laboratory executive in $600 million bankruptcy adversary proceeding brought in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  The nearly 80-count complaint asserted tort, contract, and statutory claims centered on allegations of fraud, mismanagement, and self-dealing.  Served as lead defense-side representative (on behalf of dozens of defense counsel) in multi-month negotiation with Trustee’s counsel to achieve a pre-trial scheduling and discovery protocol.  Argued appeal to the District Court resulting in order clarifying client’s right to pursue a third-party contribution claim. 

Represented food distributor in complex breach of contract dispute brought in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, based on the design, construction, and installation of a supply-chain management and material-handling system.

Led nationwide witness preparation and deposition defense for more than a dozen former executives and high-level business employees of a large mortgage originator involved in mortgage-backed securities litigations brought in state and federal courts.

Represented hedge fund administrator and its former CEO in securities fraud class action brought in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Represented major insurance company in securities fraud class action brought in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Represented major insurance company in breach of contract class action brought in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Represented a soil scientist defending a breach of contract dispute in Virginia state court involving technical issues regarding soil percolation characteristics. In the middle of the final deposition, plaintiff's counsel indicated on a break that the plaintiff would be voluntarily dismissing his case based on lack of evidence.  The case was never re-filed.

Pre-litigation and Other Client Counseling

Advised solar and other renewable energy producers on contractual rights, obligations, termination and damages considerations, and potential litigation strategy.

Advised closely held companies and individual members and managers regarding rights and obligations in disputes with other members.

Advised individual and corporate clients on third-party discovery response obligations.

Government Investigations and Internal Audits

Represented former corporate executives in criminal securities fraud investigation led by the Department of Justice. 

Conducted pre-merger FCPA and anticorruption review of a global medical device manufacturer’s operations in Brazil and Colombia.

Conducted FCPA and anticorruption review of a major automobile manufacturer’s operations in Brazil.

Assisted major financial institutions with internal audits, including conduct of management and vendor interviews to ensure regulatory compliance.

Assisted global paper manufacturer with internal antitrust audits.

Pro Bono Work

Represented Colombian mother and son whose family was terrorized by the FARC and paramilitary groups across Colombia for two decades.  Obtained grants of asylum and green cards for both clients following years of contested U.S. Immigration Court proceedings.

Represented Nepalese mother who was robbed while performing humanitarian work in her native country.  Obtained an administrative “duress” exemption to the Patriot Act’s “material support bar,” which disqualifies from immigration benefits any alien who “affords material support” to recognized terrorist groups.  Later obtained green cards for the client and both of her sons.

Co-chair of Consumer Auto Fraud practice group for the Greater Richmond Bar Association’s “Triage’ initiative.

  • University of Richmond School of Law, JD, cum laude, 2005
  • Cornell University, BA, Government and Spanish, cum laude, with Distinction in All Subjects, 2002

Member, Virginia State Bar

Member, Virginia Bar Association

Member, Federal Bar Association (Richmond Chapter); Board of Directors, November 2018-Present

Member, Richmond Bar Association; Judiciary Committee, May 2018 - Present; Administration of Justice Committee, June 2015 – April 2018; CLE Committee, June 2013 – May 2015

Past Member, Junior Board of the Historic Richmond Foundation

  • Spanish
  • Co-author, "Complex Commercial Litigation," Lexology: Getting the Deal Through, 2020
  • Co-author, "United States," Getting the Deal Through: Complex Commercial Litigation, 2018, 2019
  • Author, "Get It Right and Get It in Writing," Boomer Magazine, April-May 2012
  • Author, "Carrying on the Tradition," Boomer Magazine, June-July 2008
  • Author, "Simple Living," Boomer Magazine, August- September 2007
  • Comment, Reforming U.S. Immigration Policy in an Era of Latin American Immigration, 39 U. RICH. L. Rev. 1355, 2005
  • Comment, Extracting Oil from Turmoil, 4 Rich. J. Global L. & Bus 147, 2004
  • Note, Does Time Eclipse Crime?, 38 U. RICH. L. Rev. 1011, 2004
  • Virginia
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia

Named to "Virginia Rising Stars," Business Litigation, Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters, 2013-2022

Selected for inclusion, The Best Lawyers in America, Commercial Litigation, Woodward/White Inc., 2020-2022

Named to "Legal Elite," Civil Litigation, 2019-2021, Virginia Business

Selected for inclusion in “Legal 500 United States,” Energy Litigation: Oil and Gas, 2021

AV Preeminent Rated, Martindale-Hubbell

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