Brian L. Schwalb

Partner
Schwalb Brian

Brian Schwalb, partner-in-charge of Venable’s Washington, DC office, is a trial attorney, civil litigator, and business advisor. Brian is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.  His clients include individuals, entrepreneurs, estates, business entities, nonprofit organizations, and other stakeholders in complex litigation, tax controversies, and sophisticated business matters.  

Brian represents clients in a variety of industries, including real estate, healthcare, energy, intellectual property licensing, wholesaling, retailing, nonprofit organizations, and higher education. He has tried dozens of jury and bench trials, as well as arbitrations, as first-chair counsel, and has supervised legal teams in trial and appellate courts across the country. He has extensive experience resolving controversies before state and federal courts in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. 

Brian routinely manages intellectual property licensing, corporate governance, limited liability company (LLC) management, and partnership conflicts, along with other challenges that impact organizations and their stakeholders. Brian also counsels clients on ways they can avoid, respond to, and resolve issues efficiently, before they give rise to potential litigation. This includes, when appropriate, using mediation and arbitration to meet client objectives. Brian applies sound business judgment and collaborative approaches when developing practical and cost-effective solutions to his clients' challenges.

Before joining Venable, Brian worked as a trial attorney within the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Tax Division, Honors Program, where he prosecuted and defended civil tax matters.

Experience

Government Experience

  • Trial Attorney, United States Department of Justice, Honors Program, Tax Division

Representative Matters

Class Action Litigation

  • Defended a movie investor facing class action claims for alleged violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Served as lead trial counsel in a multi-day jury trial involving, among other things, assertions of vicarious liability under the TCPA, where the plaintiff class sought an estimated $1.6 billion in damages. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the investor

Real Estate Litigation

  • Represented developer of high-end condominium project sued in arbitration by condominium unit owners association and individual unit owners alleging breach of contract, breach of warranty, misrepresentation, and consumer protection act violations
  • Represented a commercial landowner harmed by construction activity on adjacent property. Brian served as lead trial counsel in a breach of contract and tort action resulting in multi-million-dollar settlements and multi-million-dollar attorneys' fee awards
  • Successful representation of an individual guarantor sued by a lender for breach of "bad boy" carve-outs in a non-recourse real estate loan. After the trial court found the individual guarantor personally liable, Brian successfully persuaded the appellate court to reverse
  • Represented a group of limited partners of real estate partnership sued by general partner seeking to oust limited partners from the investment. Brian served as lead trial counsel in an arbitration proceeding involving claims for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, and alleged violations of the Rules of Professional Responsibility governing attorneys, with dispute favorably resolved, mid-arbitration, by way of settlement
  • Represented a real estate owner and developer in a dispute over ownership and development rights for a valuable parcel of real estate located in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. Two investors brought an action against a developer, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and contract, seeking to dissolve the LLC, seeking several million dollars in damages, and seeking to deprive developer of its right of first refusal. After a five-day arbitration trial, an arbitral award was entered in favor of owner-developer on all claims, including upholding developer’s exercise of its right of first refusal and acquisition of the property, despite the claimants' contention that developer had purchased the property for substantially less than fair market value
  • Represented a real estate development company in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland in a case involving breaches of ground leases entitling developer to build, lease, and sell luxury apartment buildings, resulting in a $36.4 million jury verdict in favor of developer (reported to be the largest single verdict in the state of Maryland in 2010), as well as court orders requiring defendants to pay Brian's client’s legal fees, in excess of $5.4 million, as prevailing party
  • Represented general partners in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland in a case involving limited partner’s claims of breach of fiduciary duty and improper squeeze-out, resulting in a jury verdict rejecting limited partner’s claim to damages and attempt to dissolve limited partnership, and a jury verdict finding that limited partner had breached its agreement and was liable to general partners for more than $3.1 million in legal fees and costs

Tax Controversy Litigation

  • In U.S. Tax Court, represented a taxpayer accused by the IRS of having entered into an "excess benefit" transaction with a nonprofit tax-exempt organization. After developing a thorough factual record and expert testimony demonstrating that the transaction between the taxpayer and the tax-exempt organization provided a substantial benefit to the nonprofit entity and, thus, did not constitute an "excess benefit" transaction, the IRS conceded the case, acknowledging that taxpayer owed no additional tax
    Trust and Estate Litigation
  • In Circuit Court for Dade County, Florida, represented the personal representative of an estate valued at more than $35 million against an alleged beneficiary's attempt to set aside the decedent's testamentary documents on grounds of undue influence and lack of testamentary capacity

General Litigation

  • In the Circuit Court for St. Clair County, Alabama, represented client who had been convicted of capital murder and who had been on Alabama’s Death Row since 1997 in post-conviction Rule 32 Petition seeking to vacate the conviction and obtain a new trial.  After a several-week evidentiary hearing, trial court vacated the conviction and death sentence, and client is currently awaiting parole
  • Represented  a licensor of innovative technology designed to avoid and mitigate concussion risk in dispute over licensee's rights to assign the license in connection with the licensee's Chapter 11 reorganization proceeding. Brian served as lead trial counsel, with dispute favorably resolved by agreement in the middle of trial
  • In Circuit Court for Fairfax County, represented a Virginia landowner in a nuisance and negligence lawsuit brought by an adjacent neighbor who sued for more than $20 million in actual and punitive damages for alleged property damage caused by flooding, resulting in a jury verdict for the defendant landowner and rejection of all adjacent neighbor's claims
  • In U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, represented a local university and its law school against sexual harassment, Title VII retaliation, and breach of contract claims filed by a former visiting professor, resulting in a jury verdict for defendant university on all claims
  • In Superior Court for the District of Columbia, represented a local university and its medical school against claims of national origin discrimination, Title VII retaliation, and breach of contract, filed by a medical resident dismissed from the residency program, resulting in a jury verdict for defendant university on all claims
  • In Superior Court for the District of Columbia, represented a regional hospital system against claims of gender discrimination and retaliation under the DC Human Rights Act, and claims of breach of contract, filed by a medical fellow dismissed from the fellowship program. After trial, the court granted partial summary judgment against plaintiff, and the dispute was resolved by settlement, in favor of the client

Insights

Credentials
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Education

  • J.D. cum laude Harvard Law School 1992
  • A.B. magna cum laude Duke University 1989
  • Phi Beta Kappa

Bar Admissions

  • District of Columbia
  • Maryland
  • Virginia

Court Admissions

  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Clerk Experience

  • Honorable John R. Hargrove, Sr. U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland 1992 1994

Professional Memberships and Activities

  • Member, District of Columbia Bar Association (DC Bar)
  • Former member, Steering Committee, DC Bar, Litigation Section
  • Former member, Steering Committee Member; DC Bar; Courts, Lawyers, and Administration of Justice Section
  • Member, American Bar Association, Litigation Section
  • Board and executive committee member, Council for Court Excellence
  • Member, Lawyers Club of Washington
  • Program director and instructor, National Institute for Trial Advocacy
  • Instructor, ABA Litigation Institute for Trial Training and the Maryland Judicial Institute

Recognition
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  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America, Lawyers of the Year, Litigation - Trusts and Estates, 2020
  • AV® Preeminent Rated by Martindale-Hubbell
  • Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL)
  • Listed in The Best Lawyers in America (Woodward/White, Inc.), 2010 - 2018
  • Included in Washington, DC Super Lawyers, 2010 - 2019
  • Recognized in Super Lawyers Business Edition, Business Litigation, Washington, DC, 2013
  • Recognized in Washington, DC Legal Elite, SmartCEO, 2006
  • DOJ, Tax Division Honors Program, 1994 - 1998; recipient, Tax Division Outstanding Attorney Award, 1997

Community
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Volunteerism

  • Board member, Abramson Foundation, a scholarship foundation for Washington, DC public high school students