Michael W. O'Donnell

Partner-in-Charge, San Antonio
Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP

San Antonio
United States
T:+1 210 270 7145
San Antonio
United States
T:+1 210 270 7145
Michael W. O'Donnell

Michael W. O'Donnell



Mike O'Donnell is the Partner-in-Charge of the San Antonio office of Norton Rose Fulbright. Mike leads the commercial litigation practice in San Antonio—the group in which he has practiced for the last 25 years. 

Mike has extensive first chair jury trial experience in cases involving hundreds of millions of dollars of claimed damages. He has also taken the lead in a broad array of evidentiary hearings, including hearings to address class certification, the admissibility of expert testimony, injunctive relief, invalidation of liens and lis pendens, election contests and the validation of public securities. This courtroom experience is essential to his early, comprehensive evaluation of cases leading to successful early dispositive motion strategies, settlement of high-stakes claims and resolution of entangled business divorces without a lawsuit ever being filed.

Mike's practice is nationally recognized. Chamber USA ranks Mike in Band 1 for Commercial Litigation in San Antonio and the surrounding area.  Mike has been named a Litigation Trailblazer by the National Law Journal, recognizing trial attorneys that "have shown a deep passion and perseverance in pursuit of their mission, having achieved remarkable successes along the way," and a  BTI Client Service All-Star, recognizing 100 litigators in the United States as the most client-driven in their field based upon a national survey of corporate counsel by the BTI Consulting Group. 

Mike has been recognized nationally as Best Lawyer in Arbitration based upon his extensive experience as an advocate. Mike is also a member of the American Arbitration Association panel of commercial arbitrators.  

Professional experience

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JD, with honors, The University of Texas School of Law, 1997
BA, Wesleyan University, 1994

While in law school, Mike was a member of the Order of the Coif and Phi Kappa Phi. Mike was licensed to practice law in Texas in 1997, and has since been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States; the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Eight Circuit and Tenth Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the Western and Southern Districts of Texas and the District of Colorado.

  • Texas State Bar

Real estate litigation

A significant component of Mike's practice involves real estate litigation, including the handling of disputes concerning purchase and sale agreements, commercial leases, lien validity and priority, lis pendens, foreclosure, construction, wrongful eviction, and real estate securities. Mike's real estate litigation experience includes:

  • Representation of a major retailer in a title dispute involving property underlying a major headquarters expansion; summary judgment obtained.
  • Defense of securities fraud claims brought against a sponsor of private tenant-in-common offerings in real estate; defense judgment entered following an arbitration hearing.
  • Representation of a real estate enterprise in a business divorce involving a national portfolio of class-A multi-family complexes
  • Prosecution of a master tenant's wrongful eviction claims related to possession of a Class-A apartment complex; judgment awarding client compensatory damages entered following an arbitration hearing;
  • Representation of owners of commercial real estate in actions to vacate lis pendens and liens

Financial institutions

Mike has defended financial institutions in a variety of commercial and consumer disputes. Mike has extensive experience defending financial institutions from claims that they aided and abetted fraudulent schemes allegedly perpetrated by their customers. Mike's work defending financial institutions includes:

  • Defense of a national bank accused of aiding and abetting a hard money lender in a fraudulent investment scheme resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in investor losses; defense judgment was obtained following a bench trial to a bankruptcy court
  • Representation of a financial institution accused of aiding and abetting a Ponzi scheme involving hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to foreign investors; defense judgment was entered following an arbitration hearing
  • Defense of a national bank accused of aiding and abetting securities fraud in the life settlement industry involving tens of millions of dollars of alleged investor losses; defense judgment was entered following an arbitration hearing
  • Defense of numerous class action cases challenging the fees and practices of national banks

Class actions

Mike defends class action suits in a variety of industries including banking, insurance, transportation and telecommunications. Mike's significant class action projects include:

  • Defense of class actions claims against a financial institution accused of aiding and abetting the sale of unregistered securities
  • Defense of an auto insurer accused of committing usury on a state-wide basis 
  • Defense of class action claims alleging that a telecommunications company facilitated "cramming" and the collection of unauthorized charges
  • Defense of class action claims alleging that a trucking carrier's practices violated its fleet-wide owner operator agreements

Fiduciary litigation

Mike has extensive experience prosecuting and defending breach of fiduciary duty claims, including disputes involving officer and director duties, self-dealing, de facto partnership, constructive fraud and dissolution of closely held entities. Mike's significant projects in fiduciary litigation include:

  • Prosecution of direct and derivative claims against the management of a frozen food company to enjoin an international self-dealing scheme involving the importation of millions of pounds of Thai shrimp
  • Prosecution of a Mexican express courier's claims against a major international express courier stemming from the termination of a 20-year partnership; plaintiff's judgment was obtained following a six-week jury trial
  • Defense in a jury trial of an institutional executor accused of breaching fiduciary duties owed to a multi-million dollar estate

Energy litigation

Mike's practice focuses on a broad range of oil and gas disputes in areas including: leasehold rights, usurpation of corporate opportunities, director's duties, disputed title, contract disputes, preferential rights, rights of first refusal, tortious interference, knock-for-knock indemnity, hydraulic fracturing and well failures.

  • Defense of a drilling contractor accused of tortuously interfering with a preferential right to drill wells in the Republic of Colombia
  • Defense in a jury trial of corporate directors accused of usurping corporate opportunities involving tens of thousands of acres of Eagle Ford leases
  • Defense of trespass to try title cases claiming forged assignments of oil and gas leases in the Eagle Ford
  • Defense of claims related to extensive well failures, including claims for alleged defects in well casing and connectors
  • Counsel for major shareholder concerning disposition of diverse portfolio of energy assets including a substantial midstream business.

Governmental litigation

Mike's practice involves representation of governmental bodies and government contractors in actions involving breach of contract, sovereign immunity, inverse condemnation, election contests and validation of public securities.

  • Representation of numerous counties in an injunction matter to the preserve the right to transfer water rights from historically irrigated land.
  • Representation of a school district and a hospital district in bench trials to validate a bond elections
  • Representation of cities in bench trials to validate essential terms of ordinances authorizing the issuance of bonds
  • Defense of a claim against a city related to repeal of project and finance plans for a tax increment reinvestment zone
  • Prosecution of a defense contractor's claims for breach of contract against an exclusive teammate related to a bid to obtain a DOD contract for testing laser guided bombs; plaintiff's judgment was obtained following a two-week federal jury trial
  • Top Attorneys – Civil Law Litigation, San Antonio Magazine, 2022
  • Chambers USA, Texas: San Antonio and Surrounds, Litigation: General Commercial, Chambers and Partners, 2021 – 2023
  • Best Lawyers - Arbitration, Best Lawyers, 2022 2024
  • Best Lawyers - Energy Law, Best Lawyers, 2023
  • Best Lawyers - Energy Regulatory Law, Best Lawyers, 2023 - 2024
  • Best Lawyers - Mediation, Best Lawyers, 2023 - 2024
  • Lawdragon 500 Leading Litigators in America, Lawdragon, 2024
  • Litigation Trailblazer, The National Law Journal, 2016
  • Client Service All-Star, BTI Consulting, 2013
  • Texas Super Lawyer, Thomson Reuters, 2013 – 2015
  • Texas Rising Star, Thomson Reuters, 2007 – 2012
  • Who's Who in Energy, San Antonio Business Journal, American City Business Journals, 2012 – 2015
  • Best S.A. Lawyers, business litigation, S.A. Scene, Scene Publications, LLC, 2008 – 2012
  • Rising Stars: 40 Under 40 – San Antonio, San Antonio Business Journal, American City Business Journals, 2005
  • The San Antonio Children's Museum, Board Chair (2015); Executive Committee and Director (2010 – present)
  • American Bar Foundation, Fellow
  • Texas Bar Foundation, Fellow 
  • San Antonio Bar Foundation, Fellow
  • United States Supreme Court Historical Society
  • Texas Association of Bank Counsel, Member
  • Texas Business Hall of Fame, Director (2008 – 2012)
  • Holy Rosary School, Vice President and Board Member (1999 – 2006)
  • Mike regularly volunteers to represent underprivileged persons in pro bono family law matters and has accepted federal appointments in civil rights cases.