Chelsea Ashbrook McCarthy is a litigation attorney in Holland & Knight's Chicago office.

Ms. McCarthy focuses her practice on litigation implicating ERISA and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), shareholder and fiduciary issues, and restrictive covenant and trade secret claims. She also has significant experience representing clients with respect to a variety of financial services disputes ranging from the prosecution of multimillion-dollar commercial foreclosures to the defense of consumer claims. Her experience also includes litigation involving real estate fraud and title disputes, insurance coverage, and class actions. Ms. McCarthy represents clients at both the trial and appellate levels. She has tried cases to verdict in both state and federal court. She is a member of the trial bar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Ms. McCarthy's representative matters include:

  • defense of company, directors and trustee in an ERISA putative class action against claims for breach of fiduciary duty and engaging in prohibited transactions arising out of a $200 million ESOP transaction
  • defense of ERISA action brought by ESOP plan on behalf of plan participants against fiduciaries, directors and plan advisors for claimed loss of over $50 million to the plan
  • prosecuting breach of fiduciary duty and oppression claims on behalf of a noncontrolling shareholder of a multimillion-dollar, closely held company
  • defending a subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company in a putative class action involving claims of consumer fraud and violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
  • defending a company in challenge to an ESOP transaction by a minority shareholder
  • pursuing former employees for breaches of noncompetition and nondisclosure agreements, as well as theft of trade secrets
  • representing a Fortune 500 company and subsidiary in a minority shareholder dispute relating to a spin-off of the subsidiary
  • representing minority shareholders in a buyout dispute with a former employer
  • prosecuting foreclosures of office buildings and residential developments on behalf of commercial lenders
  • defending commercial lenders in breach of guaranty actions and claims of breach of fiduciary duty, violation of good faith and fair dealing, and fraud
  • representing parties in Department of Labor (DOL) investigations involving ESOP transactions 

Ms. McCarthy is a co-chair of Holland & Knight's Women's Initiative in Chicago. Prior to joining Holland & Knight, Ms. McCarthy clerked for the Honorable Richard L. Young in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. She also interned for the Honorable David R. Herndon in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois while in law school.

In addition, Ms. McCarthy is an active community volunteer. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago. She also coordinates Holland & Knight's participation in providing pro bono legal services to victims of domestic violence at the Cook County Domestic Violence Courthouse.



  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, B.S., Finance, with high honors
  • St. Louis University School of Law, J.D.
Bar Admissions/Licenses
  • Illinois
Court Admissions
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. Tax Court
  • Chicago Bar Association
  • ESOP Association
Honors & Awards
  • Excellence in Pro Bono Service, Federal Bar Association, Chicago Chapter, 2018
  • Emerging Lawyer, Leading Lawyers, 2015-2017
  • Domestic Violence Legal Clinic Honoree, 2015
  • Holland & Knight National Brightest Star Award, 2014
  • Holland & Knight Pro Bono All-Star, 2010-2013, 2016