Karin Portlock is a partner in the New York office of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and a member of the White Collar Defense and Investigations, Litigation, Labor and Employment, and Crisis Management Practice Groups. As a former federal prosecutor, Ms. Portlock has a broad-based government enforcement and investigations practice, ranging from government and internal corporate investigations to criminal defense and regulatory enforcement litigation through trial.
Drawing on her experience, Ms. Portlock regularly represents individuals and companies under criminal investigation and indictment by the U.S. Department of Justice as well as in civil government probes by federal regulators and state Attorneys General and defends clients in civil enforcement actions and major litigation arising from regulatory inquiries. Ms. Portlock also routinely provides strategic counseling to corporate clients in connection with a broad range of law enforcement requests.
Ms. Portlock is an experienced trial lawyer and courtroom advocate, having served as lead counsel in numerous federal jury trials in the course of her career. Prior to joining Gibson Dunn, Ms. Portlock was as an Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York from 2015 to 2020. In that role, she tried multiple cases to verdict and prosecuted a broad range of federal criminal violations, including fraud, racketeering, and violent crimes, leading large-scale investigations of murder, firearms, and sex trafficking offenses as well as crimes involving minors and other vulnerable victims. Ms. Portlock worked closely with the FBI and other federal and local law enforcement agencies. She has particular expertise with victims of trauma and represents victims and witnesses at all stages of investigation and prosecution, including in cases involving highly sensitive subject matter.
Ms. Portlock leads independent investigations of all kinds, particularly in the employment context. She has conducted numerous confidential investigations into #MeToo, discrimination, harassment, and related allegations of misconduct, including executive misconduct, for companies in a variety of industries, including the media, technology, financial services, and entertainment sectors. Ms. Portlock often conducts investigations on behalf of audit committees and special committees of corporate boards into workplace-related issues.
With her prosecutorial background, courtroom experience, and investigative expertise, Ms. Portlock is equally comfortable leading complex and diverse investigations as she is advocating on behalf of her clients before law enforcement authorities and in all manner of court proceedings.
Ms. Portlock has a robust pro bono practice. As lead trial counsel, Ms. Portlock recently secured a unanimous federal jury verdict in the Central District of California in a historic civil rights case for the firm’s pro bono client, Deon Jones, who was shot in the face with a rubber bullet by a Los Angeles Police Department officer while peacefully protesting during the May 2020 mass demonstrations in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The result represents the first jury verdict for a protester victimized by the LAPD in connection with the 2020 mass demonstrations and the first time there has been a finding of wrongdoing by an LAPD officer in connection with those demonstrations. Following the 7-day trial, the jury awarded $375,000 to Mr. Jones, including $125,000 in punitive damages, finding that the officer acted maliciously and in reckless disregard of Mr. Jones’s rights in using unconstitutional and excessive force against him. Ms. Portlock also currently leads a pro bono team representing an incarcerated domestic violence survivor seeking resentencing under New York’s Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act.
Ms. Portlock received her undergraduate degree from Stanford University and is a graduate of Columbia Law School where she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Columbia Law Review—the first Black student to hold that position. She was also a Harlan Fiske Stone scholar and Chair of the Civil Rights Law Society. Following law school, Ms. Portlock clerked for Judges Amalya L. Kearse and Jon O. Newman, both of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She later served as a member of the Second Circuit’s Pro Bono Panel and has argued multiple appeals before that court. Prior to her government service, Ms. Portlock practiced for several years at another major international law firm, where she litigated complex civil cases and appeals before state and federal appellate courts.
Ms. Portlock is an advocate for diversity in the profession and has written on the advantages of diverse investigative teams. She is consistently cognizant of the benefits that diverse legal teams bring to her clients and is committed to developing diverse talent and mentoring junior lawyers of color. Ms. Portlock is an Alumni Mentor to the Columbia Black Law Students Association, serves as a Board Member to the Stanford National Black Alumni Association, and was selected as a member of the 2022 fellowship class for the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. Ms. Portlock was recently named to the National Black Lawyers’ Top 100 as a Top 100 African American attorney in New York.
Ms. Portlock serves on the Board of Directors for the Columbia Law Review Association and was previously a Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School where she taught legal writing. She is a member of the New York Chapter of the Women’s White Collar Defense Association and serves on the association’s Diversity Committee.
Ms. Portlock is admitted to practice in the State of New York and before the U.S. District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Columbia University - 2008 Juris Doctor
Stanford University - 2004 Bachelor of Arts
New York Bar