Debra Fischer has practiced employment law and unfair competition/trade secret litigation for over 30 years, successfully trying cases in both California state and federal courts as well as in arbitration. Debra regularly counsels employers in all aspects of employment law compliance, risk avoidance, and crisis management. She is regularly called upon to give advice on trade secret and unfair competition issues that arise when employees change employment and handles the litigation that often ensues from such departures.
Debra also defends clients in a wide variety of employment disputes, including sexual harassment and wrongful termination suits. She has particular understanding of the financial services area, regularly representing accounting firms, broker-dealers, insurance brokers and companies, private equity firms, mortgage companies, and other financial institutions. Debra often handles employment disputes with high-level executives and other confidential matters involving high profile individuals. Debra’s appellate work includes successfully briefing and arguing cases in state and federal courts of appeal, including briefing in the US Supreme Court.
Debra is co-leader of the labor and employment practice’s Trade Secret and Unfair Competition Task Force. Before joining Morgan Lewis, Debra was a partner in the labor and employment practice of another international law firm, where she was the leader of the group as well as administrative partner of the firm’s managing partner team and chair of the committee on associates.
Debra has provided pro bono assistance to parents of children seeking to obtain better and more comprehensive health education in public schools, and currently serves as board Chair for the Forgotten International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing programs to alleviate poverty, particularly for women and children.
Obtained a complete defense verdict on behalf of an insurance brokerage firm and ten individuals after a two-month jury trial concerning claims for breach of fiduciary duty, aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty, breach of the duty of loyalty, intentional interference with contracts, and misappropriation of trade secrets. The Court also determined that the opposing party’s non-compete agreements were unenforceable and ultimately awarded clients $6.1 million in attorneys’ fees both on affirmative claims for declaratory relief and unfair competition and opposing parties’ failed tort causes of action that were submitted to the jury based on the prevailing-party attorneys’ fees provisions in clients’ contracts. This case arose from the 2014 departure of 75 employees from a competitor’s offices in Fresno, Salinas, and Walnut Creek, California.
Obtained a favorable verdict on behalf of an insurance brokerage after a two-week bench trial. The court concluded that California law governed the agreements at issue and that noncompete provisions and Illinois choice of law and forum selection provisions were unenforceable, and the court awarded client fees and costs as the prevailing party.
Successfully defeated multiple applications for temporary restraining orders and motions for preliminary injunction for insurance industry client in noncompetition/nonsolicitation litigation in various jurisdictions.
Obtained favorable ruling by Delaware Court of Chancery that California law must be applied to an employee agreement despite a Delaware choice-of-law provision, and denying request for injunction against client on the ground that enforcing the non-compete provision would violate California public policy favoring competition.
Obtained preliminary injunction after evidentiary hearing on behalf of health care services firm stopping employee from working for a competitor.
Defeated motion for preliminary injunction for financial services client in trade secrets litigation, resulting in public acknowledgement by plaintiff that client had done nothing wrong .
Obtained judgment after jury trial in favor of aviation company sued by former CEO for wrongful termination, fraud and alleged breach of an agreement to provide him with equity in the company.
Secured arbitration award including legal fees on behalf of client and its owner in matter brought against client’s former COO for breach of a settlement agreement that precluded the COO from maintaining company property, slandering the company or initiating released claims.
Won summary judgment in case filed in Los Angeles alleging wrongful termination, breach of contract and retaliation claims against well-known restaurant chain.
Successfully defended national publishing company in jury trial where plaintiff alleged wrongful termination, sexual-orientation discrimination and fraud.
Successfully defended national payroll company in court trial where plaintiff sought indemnity for claims against him by fellow employee; prevailed in counterclaim against plaintiff for taking kickbacks from vendor.
Obtained seven-figure settlement on behalf of mortgage company who sued former vice president and her new employer for theft of trade secrets and raiding.
Obtained summary judgment for Fortune 100 company in case filed by a former employee who claimed he was terminated for taking leave pursuant to the California Family Rights Act.
University of California, Berkeley School of Law, 1989, Juris Doctor
University of California, Davis, 1986, Bachelor of Arts, Political Science, Summa Cum Laude
Registered Foreign Lawyer in England and Wales
US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
US District Court for the Central District of California
US District Court for the Eastern District of California
US District Court for the Northern District of California
US District Court for the Southern District of California
Supreme Court of the United States
Awards and Affiliations
Recognized, Litigation – Labor and Employment, Century City, The Best Lawyers in America (2022, 2023)
Recognized, Litigation – Labor and Employment, Los Angeles, The Best Lawyers in America (2015–2020, 2024)
Ranked, Labor & Employment, California, Chambers USA (2014–2023)
Leading Lawyer, Intellectual property: Trade secrets (litigation and non-contentious matters),The Legal 500 US (2023)
Recommended, Intellectual property: Trade secrets (litigation and non-contentious matters),The Legal 500 US (2020–2022)
Recommended, Labor and employment: Labor and employment disputes (including collective actions): defense,The Legal 500 US (2018–2021)
Recommended, Labor and employment: Workplace and employment counseling,The Legal 500 US (2016–2018)
Recognized, Top Labor & Employment Lawyers in California, The Daily Journal (2021)
Recognized, Leaders of Influence: Labor and Employment Attorneys, Los Angeles Business Journal (2023)
Recognized, Most Influential Women Attorneys in Los Angeles, Los Angeles Business Journal (2018)
Recognized, Top Woman Lawyer, Best Lawyers (2016–2017)
Member, Practice Group of the Year, Employment, Law360 (2017, 2019)
Recognized, Super Lawyers, Employment and Labor (Southern California) (2002–2016)
Nominee, Women Making a Difference Award, Los Angeles Business Journal (2006–2009, 2012–2014)
Fellow, The College of Labor & Employment Lawyers
Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America
President, Board of Directors, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (past)
Chair, Board of Directors, The Forgotten International
Board of Directors, Alumni Association, Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California (past)
Managing and Executive Editor, Berkeley Women’s Law Journal, Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California