Legal Team

Wirtz Law features an accomplished legal team led by the firm’s founder, Richard M. Wirtz. Each member possesses an unmatched combination of skills and experience and is deeply committed to delivering the best case results and professional client service. Over the past decade, the firm has maintained strategic alliances with a team of experienced and successful attorneys and industry professionals. Although not members of the firm, these attorneys and professionals practice independently and have distinguished themselves in specific areas of expertise.

Attorneys

  • Richard M. Wirtz, J.D., Founder and Managing Attorney

    Richard M. Wirtz, J.D., Founder and Managing Attorney

    Richard Wirtz

    Richard Wirtz is a business trial attorney, focusing on business and employment matters, as well as trademark, patent, and copyright infringement disputes. He’s been nominated a Super Lawyer since 2012 and handles cases on a local, regional, national, and international level, involving companies such as Google, Qualcomm, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Yamaha, Walmart, and The Cochran Firm. Mr. Wirtz is the founding and managing partner of Wirtz Law APC, a litigation boutique law firm with offices in San Diego and Los Angeles representing conscientious business clients who demand sensible, smart, and consistently solid lawyering. He specializes in complex civil litigation through jury trials, arbitrations, settlement conferences and mediations. Mr. Wirtz is active in state and federal court proceedings in all 50 states, and represents businesses of all sizes, as well as entrepreneurs, executives and individuals. Additionally, based on his extensive litigation experience, he provides "general counsel" services for employment, business and real estate matters.

    Mr. Wirtz has a respected legal presence and according to Martindale-Hubbell, maintains a "AV preeminent" peer and client rating. Above all, he is committed to seeing clients thrive by minimizing legal risks that can deter the primary focus and growth of businesses. Mr. Wirtz assists his clients in managing all business risks from contracts to negligence, employee to independent contractor, and owner to investor.

    Mr. Wirtz continually uses his profession to advance community justice and enrichment. Prior to starting his firm in 1995, he opposed Fortune 500 Companies in high-profile, multi-million dollar, national class actions involving securities and consumer fraud, unfair trade practices and complex business issues. Mr. Wirtz also helped defend the United Farm Workers union against wrongful boycott charges in the final days of Cesar Chavez’ life.

    Beyond the courtroom and the conference room, Mr. Wirtz can also be found offering his professional insights as a legal expert on several local television and radio programs.

    Mr. Wirtz received his law degree from the University of San Diego (J.D., 1987) and his undergraduate degree from Knox College (B.A., History, 1984).

    BAR AND COURT MEMBERSHIPS:

    • The State Bar of California
    • The State Bar of New Mexico
    • State Bar of Hawaii, pro hac vice
    • State Bar of Arizona, pro hac vice
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Arizona, pro hac vice
    • U.S. District Court of Arizona, pro hac vice
    • U.S. District Court of California (Southern, Central, Eastern and Northern Districts)
    • U.S. District Court of Missouri, pro hac vice
    • U.S. District Court of New Mexico
    • U.S. District Court of New York (Eastern District), pro hac vice
    • U.S. District Court of Northern Texas (Dallas Division), pro hac vice
    • Federal Circuit Court of Appeals

    PROFESSIONAL AND COMMUNITY AFFILIATIONS:

    • Department of Fair Employment and Housing: Mediator
    • San Diego County Bar Association: Chairman, Labor and Employment Committee
    • Carmel Valley Bar Association: Member of the Executive Committee; Member of the Continuing Legal Education Subcommittee.
    • Previous memberships with the San Diego Inn of Court, the San Diego Trial Lawyers, and the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
    • University of San Diego School of Law, Law Clerk Externship Sponsor

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  • Erin K. Barns, J.D., Associate Attorney

    Erin K. Barns, J.D., Associate

    Erin Emerson

    Erin K. Barns is an Associate at Wirtz Law. She graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law in May of 2012, in the top three percent of her class. Mrs. Barns is the recipient of the Faculty Honor Scholarship for the academic years 2009-2010, 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. She has received CALI awards for top grades in Professional Responsibility, Tax I, Tax Policy, and Trademarks. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature from Santa Clara University in December of 2008, graduating magna cum laude, two quarters early. Prior to joining the firm, Mrs. Barns was a law clerk at Casas Law Group and legal intern to corporate counsel at American Property Management Corporation.

    BAR AND COURT MEMBERSHIPS:

    • The State Bar of California
    • U.S. District Court of Arizona, pro hac vice
    • U.S. District Court of California, Southern District
    • U.S. District Court of California, Central District

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  • Thomas D. Foster, M.S., J.D., Intellectual Property Strategic Alliance

    Thomas D. Foster, M.S., J.D., Intellectual Property Strategic Alliance

    Tom Foster

    Thomas Foster specializes in intellectual property law. His practice focuses primarily on patent and trademark prosecution, litigation and related counseling. Mr. Foster also regularly advises on trade secret and copyright matters. Mr. Foster has considerable experience with a wide range of technologies, with particular emphasis in the biotechnology area. He is registered to practice before the United States Patent & Trademark Office.

    Mr. Foster has litigated patent and trademark-related disputes before the United States Patent & Trademark Office, as well as numerous federal and state courts. On the transactional and counseling side, Mr. Foster frequently provides strategic guidance regarding all phases of patent and trademark portfolio management. He has considerable experience advising companies actively involved in patent and trademark license negotiations, as well as companies evaluating whether to embark upon licensing and advertising campaigns. He also supervises the prosecution of patents and trademarks, conducts intellectual property reviews in connection with mergers, acquisitions, and asset purchases, and advises on technology development and commercialization matters.

    Mr. Foster received his Master of Science degree in biotechnology from Johns Hopkins University in 1996 and his Juris Doctor degree from The American University, Washington College of Law in 1989. Prior to that, he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Architecture from Penn State in 1984. He is admitted to practice in California and Maryland.

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  • Donald Schiffer, J.D., Business & Real Estate Transactions Strategic Alliance

    Donald Schiffer, J.D., Business & Real Estate Transactions Strategic Alliance

    Donald Schiffer

    Donald Schiffer has more than 30 years of experience in corporate, finance, banking, and real estate law. In the past, he has:

    • Acted as counsel to boards of directors, senior management and entrepreneurs
    • Acted as counsel to numerous major financial transactions—both corporate and real estate related
    • Managed development and liquidation of significant real estate and financial assets
    • Managed numerous public debt and equity offerings and mergers, acquisitions and divestitures

    Since 1994, Mr. Schiffer has offered his services and expertise as an attorney primarily in the areas of business and real estate transactions law. He has represented entrepreneurs, investors, real estate developers, startups, and existing small- to mid-sized companies in their corporate, real estate and financial activities. This includes entity formations, business organization, business acquisitions and sales, and preparing and reviewing a broad range of contracts and agreements. In the real estate area, he has assisted developers and investors in both commercial and residential markets, with purchases, leases, sales and development activities, as well as assisting his business clients with their leasing documentation.

    Prior to opening his practice, Mr. Schiffer had extensive experience in the real estate and banking industries, in both senior management and legal capacities. He has served as primary counsel for numerous merger, acquisition and divestiture transactions, as well as major financial transactions, including multiple asset sales, IPOs and other public and private financings and real estate developments. Mr. Schiffer has served on the board of directors of several privately held corporations. He has been a member of the California Bar since 1976. Mr. Schiffer graduated from the University of Iowa (BBA) in 1970 and Thomas Jefferson School of Law (JD) in 1976.

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  • Christopher A. Villasenor, J.D., Personal Injury Strategic Alliance

    Christopher A. Villasenor, J.D., Personal Injury Strategic Alliance

    Chris Villasenor

    Christopher A. Villasenor is a business-minded attorney and consults with individuals and companies on proper business formation, negotiation and preparation of most types of business, employment, consulting and real estate contracts. In addition, he has successfully prosecuted and defended shareholder, partnership, intellectual property, business, real estate and personal injury litigation matters at the state and federal levels. Mr. Villasenor helps clients maximize profits, protect their intellectual property, and minimize liability. He has more than 20 years of combined legal experience successfully handling transactional and litigation matters, litigated more than 20 jury trials, and participated in numerous mediations and arbitrations.

    Mr. Villasenor has worked for two mid-sized law firms in San Diego and successfully operated his own law firm for 18 years. He has worked as an in-house counsel for the professional services division at Windriver, an Alameda-based public company. He also gained invaluable experience working as corporate counsel—specifically, negotiating and preparing large commercial lease agreements across the country, in the real estate leasing division of SAIC, a large defense contractor. Mr. Villasenor has spoken on numerous occasions at the Burnham Institute at the University of San Diego, about commercial lease disputes and property manager/agent liability issues.

    Mr. Villasenor received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego in 1986, and received his law degree from California Western School of Law in 1989. He has also held a real estate broker’s license in California.

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  • Susanna P. Starcevic, J.D., LLM, Independent Trustee and Fiduciary Services Strategic Alliance

    Susanna P. Starcevic, J.D., LLM, Independent Trustee and Fiduciary Services Strategic Alliance

    Susanna Starcevic

    Susanna P. Starcevic is an independent trustee with over 15 years of trustee experience. In her current role as a co-trustee, Ms. Starcevic manages real estate, stocks and bonds, multiple businesses, and beneficiaries. In the past, she has managed a trust with multi-million dollar income-producing properties and cash. She also has 10 years of experience as a stock and bond broker and portfolio manager in New York.

    Ms. Starcevic’s other experience includes working as an associate attorney at a prominent class action securities fraud litigation firm; founding and managing an award-winning artisan bakery in downtown San Diego; and managing redevelopment of a small, historic San Diego hotel.

    Ms. Starcevic is a member of the Estate Planning, Trust and Law, and Financial Professional Liaison sections of the California Bar Association.

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  • Stephanie D. Winstead, J.D., Estate Planning Strategic Alliance

    Stephanie D. Winstead, J.D., Estate Planning Strategic Alliance

    Stephanie Winstead

    Stephanie D. Winstead has prepared hundreds of estate plans and developed a broad understanding of the complex issues that arise when putting these plans into practice. Mrs. Winstead has implemented many wealth preservation strategies which enable clients to transfer ownership of their assets to their heirs through strategically structured estate planning devices, thereby significantly minimizing taxes and probate expenses. Additionally, as comprehensive wealth preservation frequently involves the transfer of business interests, Mrs. Winstead incorporates partnerships, corporations, structured gifting, special needs planning and charitable trusts into estate plans where appropriate to satisfy each client’s unique goals.

    Mrs. Winstead was named Young Attorney of the Year by the San Diego Daily Transcript in 2008. She is licensed to practice law in all California Courts and the United States Federal Court for the Central District of California. She stays current on the latest tax and estate planning developments as a member of both the Taxation and Estate Planning sections of the California Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and the Orange County Bar Association. Mrs. Winstead is also a member of the Investment, Banking and Audit Committee of the City of Laguna Niguel.

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Legal Services

  • Sharon A. Joyce, Ph.D In-house Human Resources Expert

    Sharon A. Joyce, Ph.D., In-house Human Resources Expert

    Sharon Joyce

    Dr. Sharon Joyce has more than 20 years of human resources experience working with corporations, board of directors and entrepreneurs, to implement programs that attract, retain and motivate employees. The breadth of her professional activities encompass such industries as education, healthcare, manufacturing, technology and biomedical. She has successfully achieved business and program objectives for both new and established companies and institutions, including The Scripps Research Institute, UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, California Campus Compact, Sanford Burnham Institute, City of Hope, and Westmont Living, among others.

    Dr. Joyce advises business owners and managers as they navigate today’s human resources complexities. Specifically, she helps to:

    • Develop compensation and benefit programs
    • Implement effective human resources policies and procedures
    • Develop strategies for handling sensitive employee relations issues
    • Tailor compensation and benefit programs (salary scales, pay adjustments, and benefit offerings tied to company philosophy)

    Additionally, she develops H.R. policies and procedures concerning performance management, employee grievances, progressive discipline, staffing associated with mergers and acquisitions, attendance and time off policies, and protecting company property and proprietary information.

    Dr. Joyce counsels companies on compliance with federal and state employment laws, including:

    • Americans with Disability Act
    • Family Medical Leave Act
    • California Family Rights Act
    • California Fair Employment and Housing Act
    • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    • Unemployment Insurance State Disability Insurance

    Dr. Joyce received her Ph.D. in higher education from the University of California, Los Angeles, a master’s in business with a concentration in industrial relations from Loyola University, Chicago, and a bachelor’s in psychology from Knox College.

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