Photo of Philip F. Atkins-Pattenson

Philip F. Atkins-Pattenson

Of Counsel


  • J.D., University of San Francisco, 1980, Articles Editor, Law Review
  • Masters of Divinity, Harvard University, 1977 (Rockefeller Fellow)
  • A.B., Stanford University, 1974
  • California
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern, Eastern, Central and Southern Districts of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
Thought Leadership


Phil Atkins-Pattenson is Of Counsel in the Business Trial Practice Group and is the former Co-Office Managing Partner of the firm's San Francisco office. In 2007 California Lawyer magazine recognized him as one of its "California Attorneys of the Year (CLAY)." The Daily Journal recognized one of his cases as a "Top Ten Defense Verdict" in 2009.

Areas of Practice

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson's practice focuses on complex business litigation where he represents clients in a variety of industries, including aviation, healthcare, high technology, insurance, manufacturing, real estate development, and telecommunications. He regularly defends consumer class actions, and has extensive experience litigating cases involving business torts, bad faith, unfair competition and false advertising, contracts, fraud, partnership disputes, trade secrets, and land use and environmental issues (CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), NEPA (National Environmental Protection Act) and ESA (Endangered Species Act)). He has conducted numerous trials and arbitrations, handled internal corporate investigations and argued important cases before the California Court of Appeal and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson has extensive experience in litigating attorneys' fee awards (both contractual and statutory) and has recovered over $16 million in court-ordered fee awards and settlements.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson maintains an active pro bono practice, and has served on Sheppard Mullin's Pro Bono Committee. For more than 20 years, he was the lead outside lawyer representing the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) in federal court litigation to restore the San Joaquin River, California's second largest river, and was the co-lead negotiator for the plaintiffs in the settlement negotiations of that case, which resulted in a comprehensive river and salmon restoration plan that the U.S. Secretary of the Interior described as "historic." The federal legislation to implement the settlement was among the first pieces of legislation signed by President Obama in 2009. Sheppard Mullin recognized Mr. Atkins-Pattenson for this work as the firm's "Pro Bono Attorney of the Year" in 2007.


  • Northern California Super Lawyers, Business Litigation, San Francisco Magazine, 2004-2018
  • California Attorney of the Year (CLAY), California Lawyer magazine, 2007
  • Finalist, Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers In America, Lawdragon magazine, 2007
  • Sheppard Mullin Pro Bono Attorney of the Year, 2007
  • Top Ten Defense Verdicts in 2009, Daily Journal, February 3, 2010
  • Legal 500, 2010


Representative Litigation Experience

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson most recently represented the healthcare consulting and IT subsidiary of a Fortune 200 company in a complex contract dispute with Marin General Hospital relating to the creation of a new Hospital Information System and business office function to be implemented as part of the Hospital’s separation from the Sutter Health network. Following an 18-day bench trial, the Court issued a 59-page Statement of Decision finding for the client on all issues and rejecting each of the Hospital’s legal and factual claims. The Court’s Judgment awarded the client damages of $19.375 million, plus attorneys’ fees and costs, and the Hospital nothing on its cross-complaint for $33 million. The case settled on appeal (the amount is confidential) on extremely favorable terms for the client.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson has recently represented several international airlines in a number of consumer class actions in state and federal courts involving claims for unfair competition, breach of contract and violations of RICO relating to the collection of a tourism fee for air travel to Mexico, which were each dismissed on federal preemption grounds and affirmed on appeal. The other class actions related to an airline’s pricing practices, false advertising or operation of a branded credit card incentive program, and were either dismissed by the Court or settled on an individual basis for a nominal amount.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson recently represented the purchaser of a 100-acre site in Madera, California for the development of an 800,000 square foot retail "power center" in a state court action for fraud and breach of contract arising from the seller's failure to disclose material information regarding the condition of the property (undisclosed wetlands) prior to the close of escrow. Following a Phase I trial, the case settled for $4.4 million. Mr. Atkins-Pattenson previously represented this client in a state court challenge to the land use entitlements for this project under CEQA. The California Court of Appeal, in a published opinion, affirmed the Judgment for our client, holding that including a "supercenter" as one of the retail uses did not automatically trigger a duty to analyze potential urban decay impacts.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson recently represented the owner and master developer of a Bay Area residential golf community in a federal court action against a national homebuilder arising from the latter's termination of a contract to purchase finished lots for $32 million. Mr. Atkins-Pattenson obtained a Judgment for $7.44 million, including $2.66 million in attorneys' fees and costs, which was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Atkins-Pattenson previously represented this client in a state court challenge to the land use entitlements for this project under CEQA and a parallel federal court challenge to the natural resources permits for the project under the ESA. The client prevailed in both lawsuits.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson represents this same client in connection its efforts to secure entitlements for another Bay Area residential development, and related litigation.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson represented California's largest workers' compensation carrier in a 7-month trial in San Francisco Superior Court of a $2 billion class action for unfair competition, bad faith and fraud – one of the largest class actions to be tried in California state court. The Court's 117-page Statement of Decision found for the client on all issues, and the California Court of Appeal affirmed the Judgment in all respects.

More recently, Mr. Atkins-Pattenson assisted this same client in obtaining a jury verdict of over $300 million in a complex business fraud case.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson has recently represented a Lloyd's of London Syndicate in several insurance coverage and bad faith actions in California.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson defended a leading manufacturer of wireless LAN chips in a federal court action relating to a contract for the development and licensing of custom software. Aggressive motion practice resulted in a "walk away" settlement on the eve of trial.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson recently represented the City of Sacramento in its successful defense of the multiple challenges under CEQA to the myriad land use entitlements and approvals for the "Railyards Project" – the transformation of a 244-acre redevelopment site on the edge of downtown Sacramento (the former maintenance and repair yard for the Union Pacific Railroad) into a 24-hour mixed use development consisting of housing, office space, retail stores and cultural sites. The Daily Journal recognized the Judgment in this case as a "Top Ten Defense Verdict in California" in 2009.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson represented a leading global provider of technology and services for mobile content management in several consumer class actions in state and federal courts throughout the United States relating to wireless subscription charges on consumer's cell phone billings. Utilizing a creative settlement strategy and structure, all claims against the client (by cell phone customers, other participants in the channel of commerce and states Attorneys General) were resolved favorably on a nationwide basis.

Mr. Atkins-Pattenson successfully defended a lawsuit against a national pharmacy benefits manager brought by Vietnamese-American owned pharmacies in Orange County, California for race discrimination under California's Unruh Act, fraud and unfair competition. On the eve of trial, where the plaintiffs were seeking $2.5 million in damages and attorneys' fees, the Court granted our client summary adjudication on all but one of plaintiffs' claims, resulting in a nominal settlement (completely covered by insurance).

Reported Decisions

Natural Resources Defense Council v. Patterson, 791 F.Supp. 1425 (E.D. Cal. 1992); Natural Resources Defense Council v. Houston, 146 F.3d 1118 (9th Cir. 1998), cert. denied 526 U.S. 1111 (1999) (affirming summary judgment for ESA violation); Natural Resources Defense Council v. Rodgers, 333 F. Supp.2d 906 (E.D. Cal. 2004)(granting summary judgment that Bureau of Reclamation's operation of Friant Dam violated California Fish and Game Code Section 5937)

Orff v. United States, 358 F.3d 1137 (9th Cir. 2004), affirmed 545 U.S. 596 (2005) (affirming judgment of no subject matter jurisdiction for lack of waiver of sovereign immunity)

In re Convergent Technologies Securities Litigation , 948 F.2d 507 (9th Cir. 1991) (affirming summary judgement in Rule 10b-5 class action)

In re Convergent Technologies Second Half 1984 Securities Litigation, [1991-92] Fed. Sec. L. Rep. (CCH) Paragraph 96,211 (9th Cir. 1991) (affirming summary judgment in Rule 10b-5 class action)

Bily v. Arthur Young (1992) 3 Cal.4th 370 (holding accountants owe no duty to non-client third parties) (represented California Society of CPAs as amicus)

Mirkin v. Wasserman (1993) 5 Cal.4th 370 (rejecting "fraud-on-the-market" theory of reliance for common law claims) (represented California Society of CPAs as amicus)

Melom v. City of Madera (2010) 2010 DJDAR 4451 (affirming Judgment and holding no "per se" rule under CEQA to do urban decay analysis for "supercenters")

Thought Leadership


  • Mr. Atkins-Pattenson has authored articles on business litigation topics for the Practicing Law Institute and served on its program faculty.

Media Mentions


  • American Bar Association (Litigation Section)
  • State Bar of California (Litigation, Environmental sections)
  • San Francisco Bar Association (Litigation Section)
  • Federal Bar Association
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers
  • American Health Lawyers Association
  • Bay Area Council
  • Harvard Divinity School, Alumni/Alumnae Council (2012-2014)
  • Chair, Berkeley Pilgrimage Foundation
  • Member, First Church Berkeley (U.C.C.)