Frank J. Johnson Headshot

Frank J. Johnson

Co-Founding & Managing Partner

Mr. Johnson is one of the founding partners of Johnson Fistel and has more than twenty-seven years of experience as a trial attorney focusing on complex civil litigation.  Prior to starting his own law firm in 2004, Mr. Johnson was a partner in the law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton, LLP, a full-service Global 100 law firm with over 1,000 attorneys in 15 offices located around the world.

While at Sheppard Mullin, Mr. Johnson represented some of the largest companies in the country in complex business disputes conducting trials in state and federal court.  He brings this “Big Law” experience to his current practice where he can offer the efficiency and personal touch of a smaller law firm.  With the trust and confidence of his colleagues and clients over the past 19 years, the law firm that Mr. Johnson started with just one lawyer has now grown to a full-service law firm with 16 lawyers and offices in California, Georgia, New York, and Colorado.

Mr. Johnson is also the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Esq. Wealth Management, Inc., a wealth management firm that, in conjunction with its affiliated professionals and alliances, is made up of experienced lawyers and financial professionals with advanced degrees, certifications, and first-hand life-experience in taxation, asset protection, and high-net-worth wealth management.  For more information, please visit

Mr. Johnson’s experience representing publicly traded companies at Sheppard Mullin has carried over to his current practice.  Mr. Johnson has been and continues to be retained by private and publicly-traded companies.  For example, in 2013 the court appointed U.S. Chapter 7 Trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of Powerwave Technologies, Inc. retained Mr. Johnson as lead counsel to pursue claims for breach of fiduciary duty against the company’s wayward officers and directors.  Mr. Johnson helped the Trustee recover $5.5 million for the estate.  In re Powerwave Technologies, Inc., (Bankr. D. Del.).  Mr. Johnson obtained a similar result in In re Artes Medical, Inc., (Bankr. S.D. Cal.) when the U.S. Chapter 7 Trustee of Artes Medical, Inc. retained Mr. Johnson as lead counsel.  Mr. Johnson helped the estate recover a multi-million-dollar settlement.  In finding that “[t]here’s no question in my mind that this settlement is in the best interest of this Estate,” the Honorable Laura S. Taylor stated, “I want to compliment Mr. Johnson, and I want to compliment on the successful recovery for the Estate.  The creditors thank you, and I thank you.”  See also International Real Estate PLC v. Oaktree Capital Management, LLC, (Cal. Super. Ct. Los Angeles Cnty.) (a public company with shares listed on the London Stock Exchange retained Mr. Johnson as lead counsel to pursue claims for breach of fiduciary duty against former directors of a joint venture company for damages in excess approximately $20 million; the case ultimately settled on favorable terms to International Real Estate) (See testimonial from the firm’s client under Testimonials).

Mr. Johnson has also continued to represent individual clients and small companies through jury verdicts in complex civil litigation.  By way of example, in Healthy Life Marketing, LLC, et al. v. Jaime Brenkus’ Sound Body, Inc. (San Diego Superior Court), Mr. Johnson helped his client recover a seven-figure verdict following a week-long jury trial.  See testimonial from the firm’s client under Testimonials.  Similarly, in DCI Solutions v. Urban Outfitters (S.D. Cal), Mr. Johnson served as lead trial counsel for a small local consulting firm in a case against one of the nation’s largest clothing retailers in a matter that would have forced the company into bankruptcy if it lost.  Following a week-long trial in federal court, the jury returned a verdict rejecting the retailer’s $1.5 million damage claim in its entirety.

In addition to his complex civil litigation practice, Mr. Johnson has served as lead or co-lead counsel in scores of representative matters (class actions and derivative actions) throughout the country, including: In re Motorola, Inc. Derivative Litigation, (Ill. Cir. Ct. Cook County) (derivative action settled after six years of litigation on terms that required the implementation of comprehensive corporate therapeutic changes valued by one expert at over $1 billion); In re the Titan Corp. Derivative Litigation, (San Diego Superior Court) (derivative action resulting in $29 million in increased consideration to Titan’s shareholders in the all-cash merger acquisition); Bagot v. Bracken, et al., (Tenn. 6th Cir.) (derivative action resulting in a payment of $19 million to the company, believed to be among the largest recoveries in a derivative case in the State of Tennessee, and implementation of significant corporate therapeutics); Englehart v. Brownet al. (Wash. Super. Ct. King Cnty) (shareholder class action resulting in what is believed to be the largest recovery ever obtained in a class action challenging the price of a merger or acquisition of a public company in a Washington court, $12.75 million additional consideration for class members); and Baker v. Visa International Corp., (San Diego Superior Court) (consumer class action against Visa for wrongfully assessing undisclosed fees by manipulating the currency conversion rates when consumers used their Visa Card for purchases in other countries and ultimately coordinated with In re Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation which resulted $336 million for the class members).

Mr. Johnson’s practice focuses on complex litigation.  Mr. Johnson has extensive experience in all aspects of trial practice, mediation, trial preparation, and non-jury and jury trials in state and federal court.  In addition to his general trial practice, Mr. Johnson has both prosecuted and defended a number of cases involving securities fraud in class actions and derivative cases.

Mr. Johnson was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1994.  He is currently admitted in good standing with the following courts:

  • The Supreme Court of the United States of America
  • All courts in the State of California
  • The United States Courts of Appeals for the Third and Ninth Circuits
  • The United States District Courts for the Southern, Central, Eastern, and Northern Districts of California
  • The United States Court of Federal Claims
  • The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • The United States District Court for the District of Colorado

Mr. Johnson is currently, or has been previously, a member of the following professional organizations:

  • The San Diego County Bar Association
  • The Federal Bar Association
  • The Litigation Section of the State Bar of California
  • SD Regional Chamber of Commerce, Vice Chair Tech Comm. (2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05)
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers, Member of the Board of Governors (2018-2020)

Mr. Johnson completed the following trial advocacy programs:

  • San Diego County District Attorney one-month misdemeanor jury trial program
  • Louis M. Welsh American Inn of Court, one-year program
  • San Diego Inn of Court College of Advocacy, multi-week trial course
  • San Diego Inn of Court College of Advocacy, multi-week evidence course

Following graduation from law school in 1994, Mr. Johnson served as a judicial law clerk for one year for the Honorable John S. Rhoades, a federal trial judge in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.

  • Martindale-Hubbell: Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings, the gold standard in attorney ratings, have recognized lawyers for their strong legal ability and high ethical standards for more than a century. Mr. Johnson has received an AV rating for more than 19 consecutive years, awarded to only those lawyers with the highest ethical standards and professional ability, as established by confidential opinions from members of the Bar.
  • Super Lawyers: Mr. Johnson has been recognized as a Super Lawyer in Business and Securities Litigation for the past 5 consecutive years. Thomson Reuters awards this recognition to the top 5% of attorneys who have obtained a high-level of professional achievement and are highly regarded by their peers.
  • San Diego Magazine Top Lawyers: In its March 2022 edition, San Diego Magazine included Mr. Johnson as one of the 2022 Top Lawyers in business litigation in San Diego. This year is the ninth consecutive year that the publication recognized Mr. Johnson as a Top Lawyer.
  • America’s Most Honored Lawyers Top 1%: In 2023, The American Registry honored Frank J. Johnson with this award.  Each year, The American Registry certifies qualifying public recognitions of excellence including significant mentions in the press, honors by recognized trade groups, and acclaimed recognitions by peers or clients.  It reserves this award for only the Top 1% of American Lawyers.

Mr. Johnson completed Yale School of Management’s Certified Private Wealth Advisor® (CPWA®) curriculum and obtained the CPWA® certification administered by Investments & Wealth Institute® in 2021.  The program includes a series of advanced financial advisor courses presented by leading Yale faculty and industry experts covering the most advanced knowledge and techniques to address the sophisticated needs of high-net-worth clients with a minimum net worth of $5 million.  Mr. Johnson received his Juris Doctor degree from Washington University School of Law in 1994, where he was in the top 10% of his class while in attendance.  At both Washington University School of Law and the University of San Diego School of Law (where Mr. Johnson was a visiting student in his third year), Mr. Johnson won first place awards in each school’s Moot Court Competition.  He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance from San Diego State University in 1990, where he graduated second in his class major, with honors and summa cum laude.

Mr. Johnson serves on the Board of Governors for the San Diego Chapter of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers.  For the past several years, Mr. Johnson has spearheaded his firm’s efforts to be the leading fund raiser for Feeding San Diego’s annual challenge to help fight summer hunger throughout San Diego County.  Mr. Johnson also donated time with several members from the firm to organize food for distribution to the needy.  Also, for several years, Mr. Johnson served as a volunteer at Voices for Children, where he acted as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) meeting several times each month with a foster child and attending court hearings to advocate for the child’s best interests.

Mr. Johnson was recently featured in the San Diego Attorney Journal

Attorney Journal, San Diego, Volume 172

Mr. Johnson has been recognized as one of San Diego’s top lawyers by a number of third-party sources based upon peer reviews, including the following: