Paul J. Kiernan is a trial lawyer and appellate advocate who represents clients in corporate governance litigation, administrative agency litigation, real estate disputes and financial services actions. Mr. Kiernan represents businesses, developers, institutions, lenders, hotels and landlords on land use, condemnation, development and property management disputes, corporate fights and matters involving distressed real estate and commercial leases.

Mr. Kiernan has substantial experience in commercial litigation, valuation disputes, commercial and international arbitration and government-contracts litigation.

Mr. Kiernan has handled all types of injunctions, emergency hearings and other requests for immediate judicial action in the face of business or other crises, including matters involving trade secrets, disloyal employees, corporate governance, destruction of property and threatened government interference.

Mr. Kiernan has given presentations on eminent domain, trial preparation and tactics, law firm management and legal writing. His pro bono representations have included representing a stalking victim, securing parental rights for a single father and addressing a government fine imposed on an elder-care facility.

In addition to his law practice, Mr. Kiernan is the chair of the Public and Charitable Service Department, where he is responsible for Holland & Knight's pro bono engagements, volunteer and community service activities, and philanthropic work. Holland & Knight's pro bono work focuses on civil rights, racial justice, criminal justice reform, immigration and the defense of children and veterans. The firm is active in local communities and through national efforts like the 9-11 Day of Service. From 2008-2020, he served as executive partner for the firm's Washington, D.C., office. He also previously served as practice group leader for the firm's Mid-Atlantic Litigation Group and on the advisory board for Holland & Knight's Women's Initiative.

Representative Matters

Real Estate Matters

  • Represented a major downtown landlord in a lawsuit testing the interpretation of tax and Collateral Allocation Mechanism (CAM) provision of commercial lease
  • Represented commercial developers in a Maryland mixed-use project affected by the real estate downturn
  • Worked with a quasi-public development agency on eminent domain issues for revitalization of a shopping area in the District of Columbia
  • Helped commercial landlord address tenant percentage rent and occupancy claims
  • Defended companies sued for failed land development project
  • Represented mixed-use project challenged by neighbors and residents
  • Resolved disputed tenancy of foreign embassy
  • Defended commercial building owner in suit brought by neighboring owner over restaurant fumes
  • Represented major retail tenant in dispute regarding lease extension
  • Represented national retailer resisting displacement from its downtown site
  • Represented hotel company in arbitration with hotel owner

Reported decisions include: Barry Farm Tenants and Allies Ass'n, Inc. v. District of Columbia Housing Auth., 311 F.Supp.2d 57 (D.D.C. 2018); Barry Farms Tenant and Allies Ass'n v. District of Columbia Zoning Commission, 182 A.3d 1214 (D.C. 2018); Durant v. District of Columbia Zoning Commission, 139 A.3d 880 (D.C. 2016); Franco v. National Capital Revitalization Corporation, 930 A.2d 160 (D.C., 2007); Rumber v. District of Columbia, 487 F.3d 941 (D.C.Cir. 2007); Wolff v. Westwood Management, LLC, 558 F.3d 517 (D.C.Cir. 2009); Spring Valley-Wesley Heights Citizens Association v. District of Columbia Zoning Commission, 88 A.3d 697 (D.C. 2014).

Corporate Litigation

  • Represented a corporation and its directors in valuation and fraud suits brought by withdrawing shareholders
  • Defended company owners sued in fraudulent conveyance action
  • Represented policyholders in directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance coverage suit
  • Retained as new appeal counsel and overturned multimillion-dollar judgment
  • Defended trade association in contract dispute
  • Represented foreign company seeking to block enforcement of vacated arbitration award

Reported decisions include: W.C. & A.N. Miller Dev. Co. v. Continental Casualty Co., 814 F.3d 171 (4th Cir. 2016); Kohn v. McGuire Woods, 541 Fed. Appx. 163, 2013 WL 4312272 (3d Cir. 2013); TermoRio S.A. ESP v. Electrificadora, 487 F.3d 928 (D.C.Cir. 2007); BLT Burger DC, LLC v. Norvin 1301 CT, LLC, 86 A.3d 1139 (D.C. 2014); Adkins Limited Partnership v. O Street Management LLC, 56 A.3d 1159 (D.C. 2012).

Institutional and Administrative Litigation

  • Represented operator of industrial ash facility in overturning denial of special-use permit
  • Represented the owner and operator of a power plant against a local government seeking to curtail its operations
  • Argued appeals on behalf of land owners seeking to defend government approvals when challenged by neighboring owners
  • Represented class of developmentally disabled citizens seeking proper treatment from District of Columbia agencies
  • Filed suit on behalf of a foreign airline when new Department of Transportation rules threatened to disrupt the National Hockey League season

Decisions include: GenOn Ash Mgmt., LLC v. Prince George's County Council, 2020 WL 1623663 (Md. Ct. Spec. App., March 2, 2020); Evans v. Fenty, 714 F.Supp. 116 126 (D.D.C. 2010); Alexandria City Council v. Mirant Potomac River, LLC, 643 S.E.2d 203 (Va. 2007); Elder Care Services, Inc. v. Corporation for National & Community Svc., 2018 WL 4681002 (D.D.C., September 28, 2018).


  • Harvard Law School, J.D., cum laude
  • Rutgers University, B.A., History and English, magna cum laude
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • District of Columbia
  • Maryland
  • New Jersey
Court Admissions
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
  • District of Columbia Board on Professional Responsibility, Hearing Committee, Chair, 2004-2010
  • American Red Cross, National Capital Region, Board Member, 2018-Present
  • Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Board Member 2017-Present
Honors & Awards
  • The Best Lawyers in America guide, Litigation - Real Estate, 2012-2015, 2017-2023; Commercial Litigation, 2013, 2015, 2017-2023
  • The Best Lawyers in America guide, Washington, D.C. Litigation - Real Estate Lawyer of the Year, 2021
  • Washington, D.C. Super Lawyers magazine, 2008-2020, 2024
  • Power 100: Washington's Most Influential Newsmakers, Washington Business Journal, 2017
  • Top Washington Lawyer, Washington Business Journal, Real Estate Litigation, 2006
  • Pro Bono All Star, Holland & Knight, 2007, 2020, 2021
  • Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated


Speaking Engagements