Shawna Watley is a senior policy professional and strategist in Holland & Knight's Washington, D.C., office. Ms. Watley has more than 17 years of experience in public policy, strategy development, lobbying, legislative and regulatory counseling, and creative solutions to corporate, nonprofit and governmental issues at the federal level. She has cultivated working relationships on the federal, state and local levels of government. This includes professional relationships with the new Biden Administration, leaders in the House of Representatives and the Senate, moderate Democrats and the Congressional Black Caucus.

Ms. Watley forges and maintains working relationships with key elected political leaders, appointed officials and corporate executives. She has extensive experience representing public and private interests on various issues, including financial services, transportation, homeland security, healthcare, energy and education.

In addition, Ms. Watley has served as a guest lecturer at Howard University, as well as Fudan University and Pu Dong Institute, both in Shanghai, China.

Prior to joining Holland & Knight, Ms. Watley was the principal owner of the Francis Group LLC, where she was retained by clients to lead efforts in government relations and develop strategy, programming and implementation for federal policy initiatives. She also previously served as director of congressional affairs for the Democratic Leadership Council and the Public Policy Institute, where she was responsible for the development of strategy, programming and implementation for the Congressional Affairs Department. During her tenure, she designed the "Meet the Freshmen" series, the weekly congressional newsletter, the Global Economy Project and the organization's Congressional Agenda for the 21st Century, which included several major ideas and reform policies. As the primary point of contact with members of Congress, Ms. Watley has extensive working relationships with moderate Democratic senators and representatives, as well as senior staff. As a former legislative assistant to Sen. Robert Kerrey (D-Neb.), she gained a keen understanding of the workings of Congress.

Representative Experience


  • Howard University, B.S.
  • Johns Hopkins University, M.A., Public Policy
  • Holland & Knight's Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Co-Chair, Washington, D.C., Office
  • Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Corporate Advisory Board, Present
  • Arena Stage, Secretary of the Board, Present
  • U.S. Smithsonian Regional Board Member, Present
  • University of Maryland Center-Bowie State, Board Member, Present
  • U.S. Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Ambassador, Present
  • Women Invested In Leadership Development, Founder, Present
  • The Lady Von Scholarship, Spelman College, Advisory Board Member, Present
  • Kingdom Fellowship African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, First Lady, Present
  • Producer, The John Lewis Documentary Project, Present
  • Washington Heads of Office (WHOO), Cohort Participant, October 2019
  • Congressional Black Caucus Institute Advisory Board Member, 2014
  • Producer, Broadway production of Stick Fly, 2011
Honors & Awards
  • Recognition for Lobbying and Advocacy Work, Punchbowl News, 2023
  • Top Lobbyist, National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics, 2022
  • Advocate Award, Quality Trust, 2013
  • Bayard Rustin Fellow, 1993


Speaking Engagements