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Wendy McGuire Coats

Partner & Appellate Counsel, San Francisco
San Francisco
t: 415.490.9013
f: 415.490.9001


Wendy McGuire Coats is a certified specialist in Appellate Law by the California Board of Legal Specialization, a distinction held by fewer than 400 California attorneys. Wendy is a partner in the San Francisco office and leads the firm’s California Appellate Practice. She represents clients in all aspects of appellate litigation in state and federal appellate courts, particularly in navigating questions of first impression or rapidly evolving labor and employment issues.

The dramatic shift from the trial court to the court of appeal often transforms litigation. With her appellate expertise, Wendy guides clients through the shift in focus required to successfully navigate the appellate process and obtain favorable results. A disciplined writer and appellate strategist, she has briefed dozens of appeals and writs in the United States Supreme Court, the Ninth Circuit and Federal Courts of Appeals, the California Supreme Court, and the California Court of Appeal. In addition to bringing clarity, candor, and credibility to appellate briefings, Wendy is a passionate and skilled oral advocate, who has argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the California Court of Appeal, and the California Supreme Court.

Crucial to appellate success, Wendy collaborates with trial counsel and prepares for appellate consequences before, during, and after trial. Whether consulting on dispositive motions, preserving issues for potential review, or drafting critical motions in limine, jury instructions, or special verdict forms, Wendy’s appellate perspective positions clients to secure common sense, correct, and just appellate outcomes.

A trusted and recognized legal leader, Wendy serves as Treasurer of the Contra Costa County Bar Association Board of Directors and chairs the Membership & Education Committee. On the state and national level, Wendy is a regular contributor to the ABA’s Council of Appellate Lawyer’s publication, Appellate Issues and the California Women Lawyers amicus committee’s appellate briefing and recommendations. She also serves on the board of Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, where she launched their monthly Legal Bites column, addressing labor and employment issues facing the food and beverage industry. 

In 2016, she was named to Super Lawyers in Appellate Law, after receiving the Rising Star in Appellate Law – Northern California designation in 2009-2010, 2012-2015.

In law school, Wendy served as Editor-in-Chief of the Pepperdine Law Review. She won both the Vincent S. Dalsimer Moot Court Competition and the Armand Arabian Advocacy Tournament. At the 28th Annual Robert F. Wagner Labor & Employment Law Moot Court Competition, she was a member of the National Champion team and was awarded Best Oral Advocate in the Final Round.

Before entering private practice, Wendy clerked for the Honorable Ronald S.W. Lew of the United States District Court, Central District of California. 

Prior to law school, Wendy taught high school English, studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, lived in London, and trained as a Writing Fellow with the Missouri Writing Project.


Reported Cases

  • Sandquist v. Lebo Automotive, Inc., et al. (2016) 1 Cal.5th 233: Argued before the California Supreme Court in May 2016 on its inaugural day of live-streaming, one of the most highly contested issues in the rapidly evolving and heavily litigated area of arbitration, which explored the question of who decides – the judge or the arbitration – whether an arbitration provision provides for class-based claims.
  • Navarro v. Encino Motorcars, LLC (15-415) October Term, 2015 United States Supreme Court, 579 U.S. __ (2016): Represented client before the United States Supreme Court alongside Paul Clement’s team at Bancroft PLLC in challenging the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to upend decades of settled precedent regarding the “service advisors” overtime exemption of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Supreme Court found that the 9th Circuit’s decision wrongly applied Chevron deference to the Department of Labor’s interpretive regulation and vacated the decision. In sending the case back to the 9th Circuit, the Supreme Court directed the lower appellate court to review and interpret the statutory exemption in the first instance.
  • Wong v. Superior Court of Contra Costa County – First District Court of Appeal (A 148225): Represented business owner client in a trade secrets dispute with former business partner and secured a rare writ of mandate in the Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, which reversed the superior court’s order and directed the superior court to permit our client to file an amended complaint adding several substantive claims as a basis for recovery.
  • Stofer v. Shapell Indus. (2015) 233 Cal.App.4th 176: Secured client’s right to a jury trial in a construction defect case involving a fraudulent concealment claim by reversing both the bench trial and summary judgments.
  • Carolyn Gregory v. Lorraine Cott (2014) 59 Cal.4th 996: Represented amicus curiae, a Texas Tech University School of Law professor and expert in Alzheimer’s and elder Law, when the California Supreme Court determined the scope and application of the assumption of the risk doctrine to professional caregivers of Alzheimer’s victims.
  • Spriesterbach v. Holland (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 255: Secured published decision that it was error to base a negligence per se instruction on California Vehicle Code sections 21650 and 21650.1 to require bicyclists ride with the flow of adjacent traffic when riding on the sidewalk.
  • In re F.F. (2013) Cal.App.Unpub.LEXIS 2324 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. Mar. 28, 2013): Obtained reversal of the dispositional order in a case where police interrogated a 12-year-old in his middle school principal’s office in violation of Miranda.

Honors & Leadership

Honors & Awards

Contra Costa County Bar Association (CCCBA) Board of Directors, President Elect

Professional Activities

Before joining Fisher Phillips, Wendy founded McGuire Coats LLP and built a successful appellate practice. Prior to building her appellate firm, Wendy was an associate in the Global Litigation & White Collar Defense practice groups of an international law firm, where she was the primary associate dedicated to two federal criminal trials.

Community Activities

Wendy serves as a parent representative on the Alamo Elementary School Site Council, which is charged with implementing, monitoring, and updating the school’s Single Plan for Student Achievement, the Comprehensive Safety Plan, and the Emergency Plan.

She also serves as a volunteer moot court alumni coach and moot court judge for Pepperdine University School of Law.



Seminars & Speaking Engagements

  • “A Conversation with California Supreme Court Associate Justice Leondra R. Kruger” – Contra Costa County Bar Association 2018 MCLE Spectacular (November 16, 2018)
  • Speaker, Clear, Concise, and Understandable Opinions: The Art of Effective Editing – Conference of Chief Justices of the State Courts of Appeal (November 14, 2018)
  • Seminar, “The Work of an Advocate” – Pepperdine School of Law (2018)
  • Seminar, “Writing to Win” – Pepperdine School of Law (2018)
  • Seminar, “Advocacy Here & Now” – Pepperdine School of Law (2018)
  • Speaking Engagement, "Legal Editing for Long Term Growth,"– Office of the State Public Defender ( November 15, 2018) 
  • Speaker, #MeToo, Expanding the Conversation – National Association of Women Judges 40th Annual Conference (2018)
  • Moderator, Restaurant Culture & The #MeToo Moment: Moving Towards a Harassment-Free Workplace Panel – WCR National Conference (2018)
  • Moderator, Bias? What Bias? I’m a good person: Navigating Implicit Bias in the Workplace – WCR National Conference  (2018)
  • Moderator, Top Courts Tackle Labor & Employment in 2018: Top 5 Take Aways, California Lawyers Association - Litigation Section (2018)
  • Speaker, 3rd Annual Southern California Trial Lawyers Conference –  Pepperdine School of Law (2018)
  • Guest lecturer and Panelist, An Appellate Lawyer’s Mindsets & Habits – Pepperdine School of Law (2017)
  • Moderator and Panelist, The United States Supreme Court Review (October 2015 Term) & Preview (October 2016 Term), – Contra Costa County Bar Association MCLE Spectacular, November 18, 2016
  • Guest lecturer and panelist, The Art & Craft of Oral Argument, – Pepperdine School of Law (2016)
  • Panelist, The Sequel: Your Brief as a Best Selling Novel, – Contra Costa County Bar Association MCLE Spectacular, with Claudia Hagadus Long (2015)
  • Speaker, Appellate Law – Mt. Diablo Legal Professionals Association (2015)
  • Panelist, Your Brief as a Best Selling Novel – Contra Costa County Bar Association MCLE Spectacular, with Claudia Hagadus Long (2014)


  • Author, To Change for the Better: a Primer Appellate Issues, ABA Council of Appellate Lawyers
    September 2016
  • Author, Red Tie Guy: A True Story of the Overpowering Influence of Facts Outside the Record, Appellate Issues, ABA Council of Appellate Lawyers 
    September 2015
  • Author, On Lamps, Lifeboats, and Ladders, Contra Costa Lawyer, guest editor, Women & the Law Edition, Contra Costa County Bar Association 
    February 2015
  • Author, Perspectives on Oral Argument, Appellate Issues, ABA Council of Appellate Lawyers 
    February 2015
  • Author, Tips of the Trade: Transform the Readability of Your Legal Documents, Contra Costa Lawyer, Contra Costa County Bar Association 
    December 2014
  • Author, A Conversation with Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., Appellate Issues, ABA Council of Appellate Lawyers 
    January 2014
  • Author, A “How To” When Preparing for Multiple Oral Arguments, Appellate Issues, ABA Council of Appellate Lawyers
    Summer 2013
  • Author, Acting Advice for the Appellate Advocate, Appellate Issues, ABA Council of Appellate Lawyers
    Summer 2012
  • Author, Book Review: Ross Guberman’s Point Made! How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates, Appellate Issues, ABA Council of Appellate Lawyers 
    Spring 2012
  • Author, Building an Appellate Practice in the 21st Century, Appellate Issues, ABA Council of Appellate Lawyers
    Winter 2012
  • Co-author with Jan L. Handzlik, Tide Turning Against Privilege Waivers for Prosecutors In Corporate Cases, The Los Angeles Daily Journal and The San Francisco Daily Journal, Nov. 27, 2006 & Nov. 28, 2006, respectively


Bar Admissions

Court Admissions

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