John D. Padgett Partner

John is the office managing partner of the firm's Norfolk office and the founding leader of the Transportation Industry Team. He has extensive experience in providing a wide range of services to corporate and transportation clients.

He is experienced in counseling public and private businesses, partnerships and limited liability corporations with matters involving mergers and acquisitions, commercial real estate and operational issues. John also has experience with the transportation and terminal operating industries and has a unique perspective on maritime commerce.  

He has worked with a variety of enterprises at various points in their corporate trajectory, from early stage to maturity. He also advises corporations in the nuances of international trade and U.S. customs' compliance issues. Additionally, he provides litigation support to the firm's corporate and maritime clients. He has been selected by his peers as one of the best corporate and transportation attorneys in Virginia. His specific experience includes:

International Trade and Customs

John assists clients with the laws governing the assessment of customs duties and the administration of import and export laws and regulations, including classification, valuation and the assessment of customs duties. He also counsels clients regarding export laws and regulations, including classification, valuation, the use of foreign trade zones and anti-dumping and countervailing duties. He works with clients in the conduct of audits and the defense of civil penalty or liquidated damages proceedings commenced by the U.S. Customs Service and other agencies with jurisdiction over foreign trade, including clients who have violated the Customs' Service "informed compliance agreement."

Transportation Law

He has substantial experience in the transportation industry, including the representation of tug boat companies, freight forwarders, shipping companies, freight consolidators, trucking companies and international companies. He has advised clients with transactions involving the Shipping Act, COGSA, Harter Act, the Carmac Amendment, Pomorene Act and other federal and international treaties and conventions. His practice includes assisting clients in documenting international transactions and drafting charter and transportation agreements. John regularly handles litigation relating to cargo damage, charter disputes and transportation issues.

Emerging Growth and Private Equity

John has advised emerging growth companies from pre-incorporation to an appropriate exit strategy which could involve an initial public offering or sale of the enterprise. He has experience with a variety of transactions and operational issues, and can anticipate the hurdles a client may face in the future as well as help a client address these challenges in a creative and constructive way. He has industry experience in bio-tech, Internet, software, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and medical devices.

Admiralty and Maritime Matters

He has advised clients regarding the impact of maritime and admiralty law. He routinely represents a number of shipyards and tug boat companies and has an administrative practice before the U.S. Coast Guard. He has experience with cases filed under the Jones Act and general maritime law, and regularly addresses charter parties disputes and litigation issues relating to cargo and allision damage. He is a member of the Maritime Law Association and has been a lecturer at the Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute.

Banking and Financial Institutions

John regularly represents banks and financial institutions in structuring and documenting complex lending transactions. He has expertise in the federal Ship Mortgage Act and the Maritime Lien Act, and has provided assistance to numerous lenders in documenting and exercising remedies under loans secured by federally documented vessels. He recently assisted an international lender syndicate which needed to comply with the American Fisheries Act in order to perfect a lien against a large fishing fleet.

Commercial Real Estate

John has experience in the acquisition and development of real estate ventures, including office buildings, residential subdivisions and golf course developments. He was the principal attorney involved in developing the Stonebridge Landing planned unit development, Kings Landing planned unit development, the first traditional neighborhood development in Suffolk, and several industrial parks in the Hampton Roads area. He also represents several clients in acquiring mobile home parks throughout the United States.


Represented Daniels Enterprises Holding Company on the sale of its seafood harvesting and processing company to Canadian-based salmon farming company, Cooke Aquaculture. The deal required a structure that retained the ability of the purchasing entity to operate under a Jones Act fishing endorsement.

Lead outside counsel for transfer of largest private container facility in North America to the Virginia Port Authority in transaction valued at $750 million.

Acquisition and development of terminal facilities in Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama and several EU countries.

Participated in acquisition of warehousing and logistics operations for several companies operating in the mid-Atlantic and Gulf states.

Regulatory counsel for private equity fund acquisition of fleet operating in the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Represent publicly held companies in addressing import-compliance issues, including the protest of fines and penalties, audits and tariff issues.

  • Washington and Lee University School of Law, JD, Member, Washington & Lee Law Review, 1983
  • University of Virginia, BA, with Distinction, 1980

Appointed by the German government as Honorary Consul for Virginia’s Hampton Roads region

Past Chair, Tidewater Community College Board

Past Chair, Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, 2003

Past President, Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance

Past President, Norfolk Rotary Club

Past District Governor of District 7600 of Rotary International, 2017-2018

Past Chair, Hampton Roads YMCA, 2008-2011

Past Chair, Legislative Affairs Committee, Virginia Maritime Association

Past Chairman of the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV)

Member, Maritime Law Association

Member and former Port Director, Southeastern Admiralty Law Institute

Member, Association of Transportation Law Professionals

Chair, Board of Governors, Town Point Club

Member, Norfolk Forum Board, 2002-2009 

Coach, District 8 and Junior All-Star Team; State Runner-up 2010; Manager and Coach, 2005-2010, Naval Base Little League

Former General Counsel, Republican Party of Virginia

Member, Hampton Roads Norfolk Airport Task Force

Former President and Director, Hampton Roads Foreign Commerce Club

Member, Virginia Law Foundation

  • Virginia
  • U.S. Federal Court

Selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America, Corporate Law, Mergers & Acquisitions Law, Transportation Law, 2007-2023; Admiralty and Maritime Law, 2019-2023; Woodward/White, Inc.

Named a "Leading Lawyer," Transport: Shipping, Virginia, Legal 500 US, 2017-2022

Selected for inclusion in “Legal 500 United States,” Transport: Rail and Road – Litigation and Regulation, 2021, 2022

Named "Lawyer of the Year," Norfolk, Mergers and Acquisitions Law, 2021; Transportation Law, 2022, The Best Lawyers in America

Named a "Top Lawyer," International Law, Top Lawyers of Central Virginia, Coastal Virginia Magazine, 2021

Named to "Leaders in the Law," Virginia Lawyers Weekly, 2015 

Named a "Recognized Practitioner" in America's Leading Lawyers for Business, Transportation: Shipping: Regulatory, Nationwide, Chambers USA, 2015-2018

Recipient, Chair's Award for College Board Member Exemplary Service, Virginia Community College System (VCCS), 2014

Named to "Top Attorneys in Virginia," Richmond Magazine, 2013

Selected for inclusion in “Client Service All Stars,” Export Controls, BTI Consulting Group, 2013

Recipient, YMCA Order of the Red Triangle Award for Exemplary Volunteer Service (YMCA's Highest Honor)

Named to “Virginia Super Lawyers,” Transportation/Maritime, Business/Corporate, International, Super Lawyers, Thomson Reuters, 2011-2013

Recipient, Julian Hirst Leadership Award, 2006

Named one of the "Best Corporate Lawyers in Virginia," 2001, and one of the "Best Transportation Lawyers in Virginia," 2002, Virginia Business Magazine

Named to "Legal Elite," Virginia, Transportation and Admiralty Law, Virginia Business Magazine, 2006

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