Patricia Brown Holmes

Managing Partner,
Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP

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Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP
Chicago, IL
Work: (312) 471-8746

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Patricia Brown Holmes

Managing Partner

Direct: 312.471.8745  Fax: 312.471.8701  Email: pholmes@rshc‑

Patricia Brown Holmes is the first African-American woman to lead and have her name on the door of a major law firm that is not women- or minority-owned. She is a highly respected and accomplished lawyer who focuses her practice on the areas of high-stakes commercial litigation, white collar crime, and legal client counseling. As a former state court judge and experienced prosecutor and defense lawyer, she brings a unique variety of capabilities to her practice. Patricia’s comprehensive trial experience, coupled with her deft management abilities, position her as a valuable advocate and trusted adviser to her clients.

Prior to serving as an associate judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Patricia was an Assistant U.S. Attorney and an Assistant State’s Attorney. She is one of only a handful of attorneys in the State of Illinois who has tried cases in state, city, and federal court as well as state appellate, federal appellate, and state supreme courts.

Patricia has practiced in courtrooms at every level – as a prosecutor, defense attorney, and as a judge. Given her familiarity with sensitive legal matters, she is also especially qualified to conduct internal investigations. Applying sound judgment, creative strategies, and common sense, Patricia navigates complicated and delicate legal matters with appropriate discretion and poise.

As chair of her former firm’s Diversity Committee, Patricia also spearheaded and encouraged diversity initiatives at the firm. Due to her efforts, the firm won multiple local, regional, and national awards that recognized its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Previous Experience

Patricia served as an associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County for nine years. She previously served the City of Chicago as its Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel for Municipal Prosecutions, supervising a staff of attorneys practicing in chancery and municipal courts. Earlier, Patricia honed her skills in federal court, having tried more than 26 complex felony cases and argued numerous times before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. She also gained significant trial and appellate experience as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County, IL, arguing twice before the Illinois Supreme Court.


Trial and Litigation

With her experience as a trial lawyer, as well as her familiarity with both sides of the bench, Patricia is frequently called upon to participate in high-stakes litigation cases. She has been a member of the litigation teams in several major commercial trials and served as lead counsel in multiple class-action litigations.

In the courtroom, Patricia’s down-to-earth style readily connects with judges and juries. She credits her success with being able to tell her clients’ stories and communicate their objectives with sincerity and confidence.

Patricia’s significant and illustrious cases include:

  • United States v. Conrad M. Black et. al. Ron Safer and Patricia co-led the trial team that successfully defended former Hollinger International Inc. executive and corporate counsel Mark S. Kipnis against charges of federal mail, wire, and tax fraud in a case that went to the Supreme Court of the United States, where Patricia and her trial team prevailed. In the end, Mr. Kipnis was totally vindicated.
  • United States v. Mohammad Mohammed, et al. Patricia successfully tried this complicated and multi-layered “bankruptcy bust-out” case, a first of its kind in the country, involving the prosecution of a complex financial scheme to defraud creditors and violate income tax laws.
  • United States v. Castellanos, et al. Patricia successfully tried this series of cases in Rockford, Illinois, involving a complex narcotics trafficking conspiracy, money laundering, and other federal violations. Castellanos was one of the largest multiple-defendant interstate narcotics conspiracy trials ever prosecuted in that district.
  • United States v. Charles Emenogha. Patricia successfully tried this Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case, involving multiple defendants, complex conspiracy allegations, and the first-ever money-structuring charge brought by the Internal Revenue Service.

Patricia has also litigated multiple bet-the-company cases in federal court and in state court. Patricia has successfully defended numerous companies against claims of commercial fraud, civil conspiracy, strict liability, and negligence. For example, Patricia teamed up with fellow RSHC partner Sondra Hemeryck to successfully defend United Airlines, Inc. in a dozen putative consumer class actions, litigating a wide range of issues such as breach of contract, consumer fraud, violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, and violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Recently, in Hammarquist, et al. v. United Continental Holdings, Inc. et al., Patricia and Sondra won summary judgment in favor of United Airlines against breach of contract claims in a class-action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

Internal Investigations and White Collar Crime

Patricia successfully conducts internal investigations at public and private corporations, governmental entities, and nonprofit organizations. Her comprehensive experience includes matters involving financial and accounting fraud, drugs and other conspiracies, corporate whistleblower allegations, contract disputes, mail and wire fraud, and other criminal matters.

State officials frequently task Patricia to assist in investigating sensitive matters. Her experience includes:

  • An appointment by Judge LeRoy K. Martin, Jr., Presiding Judge of the Criminal Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, to investigate wrongdoing by Chicago Police officers in the shooting incident which resulted in the death of Laquan McDonald.
  • An appointment by Illinois governor Pat Quinn as the inaugural chair of the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission, which promulgated rules and regulations and investigated claims of torture.
  • The completion of the investigation of the City of Chicago’s fire commissioner, who was charged with allegations of sexual harassment, and the alleged cover-up by the executive director of the Office of Compliance.
  • Service as the chair of the governor’s Cemetery Oversight Task Force. Patricia led the investigation surrounding the tragic incidents alleged to have occurred at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, IL. The investigation led to new legislation regarding cemetery oversight and the funeral industry, as well as her appointment as sole trustee of the cemetery.
  • Service as a member of Senator Dick Durbin’s judicial commission to review candidates and make recommendations for federal judgeships in the Northern District of Illinois.

Legal Counseling

Patricia is a trusted counselor to high-profile clients and corporations. Her understanding of her clients’ business needs helps her to identify and achieve their desired results. Her sophisticated and intelligent approach to legal counseling has been honed through years of successful partnerships in the public sector as well as high-level private corporations. She provides strategic and tactical advice to help her clients continue to do business legally and effectively. Patricia also knows how to communicate productively with government officials using credibility, clarity, and tact.



University of Illinois College of Law, J.D., 1986

University of Illinois, B.S., 1983

Board of Trustees, Member (2011-2016, 2019-2025)

Bar Admissions


U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Trial Bar)

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois

Professional Memberships

American Bar Association

Section of Litigation

Section of Business Law, White Collar Crime Committee

Section of State and Local Government Law

Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, Inc., Past President (1997-1998) and Founding Member (1987)

Visionary Award (2005)

Vanguard Award (2017)

The Chicago American Inn of Court

Chicago Bar Association, Past President (2015-2016); Board of Managers (2011-2017)

Dickerson Award Recipient (2013)

Blue Ribbon Committee on Juvenile Justice, Chair

Chicago Lawyer Magazine/Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Women’s Advisory Board (2018)

The Cook County Bar Association

Centennial Presidential Award for Dedication to the Bar (2014)

Judicial Award (1998)

Just The Beginning – A Pipeline Organization, Chair of the Board of Directors

Leadership Council on Legal Diversity

Illinois Judges Association, Former Co-Chair, Retired Judges Committee

Illinois Judicial Council Foundation, Former Chair

Distinguished Service Award (2005)

Illinois State Bar Association

Leadership Greater Chicago, Fellow, Class of ‘93

Distinguished Fellow Award (2012)

Women’s White Collar Defense Association (WWCDA)

Special Appointments

Appointed Special Prosecutor in the Matter of Laquan McDonald

Appointed Trustee of the Burr Oak Cemetery Oversight Task Force

Appointed Inaugural Chair of the Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn

Appointed Co-Chair of the Judicial Selection Commission for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

Appointed to the American Jury Project Commission for the Seventh Circuit Bar Association

Teaching Appointments

Adjunct Professor of Law, Northwestern University School of Law

Adjunct Professor of Law, Loyola Institute for Paralegal Studies

Instructor, Attorney General’s Advocacy Institute

Criminal Trial Advocacy Section of the U.S. Department of Justice

Honors & Awards

The Best Lawyers in America

Best Lawyers® (Commercial Litigation, 2011-2020); Criminal Defense: White-Collar, 2020)

Chambers USA

Chambers & Partners (2013-2019)

Chicago’s Notable Minorities in Accounting, Consulting & Law

Crain’s Chicago Business (2019)

Chicago’s Notable Women Lawyers

Crain’s Chicago Business (2018)

Ida B. Platt Award

Cook County Bar Association (2018)

Illinois Leading Lawyer

Law Bulletin Media Leading Lawyers (2009-2010, 2012-2020)

Top 10 Leading Women Business Lawyers

Law Bulletin Media Leading Lawyers (2012-2020)

Top 10 Leading Women Criminal Defense Lawyers

Law Bulletin Media Leading Lawyers (2012-2020)

Top 100 Leading Business Lawyers

Law Bulletin Media Leading Lawyers (2018-2020)

Top 100 Leading Women Business Lawyers

Law Bulletin Media Leading Lawyers (2012-2020)

Illinois Super Lawyers

Thomson Reuters (2007-2020)

Top 50 Women Illinois Super Lawyers

Thomson Reuters (2009-2014, 2017-2020)

Top 100 Illinois Super Lawyers

Thomson Reuters (2019-2020)

Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America

Lawdragon Inc. (2019-2020)

Who’s Who Legal

Law Business Research Ltd. (Investigations, 2019)

Most Influential Black Lawyers

Savoy Magazine (2018)

Outstanding Women in Business Award

Rainbow PUSH Coalition & Citizenship Education Fund (2018)

Top Rated Litigators

Martindale-Hubbell and ALM (2018-2020)

Chicago Defender 2017 Newsmaker

Chicago Defender Magazine, Real Times Media

Most Influential Minority Lawyers in Chicago

Crain’s Chicago Business (2017)


Chicago Lawyer Magazine, Law Bulletin Media

Top 10 Women Criminal Defense Lawyers

Law Bulletin Media Leading Lawyers (2011, 2015)

‘Award for Excellence in Pro Bono Service’ from the United States District Court (2014)

One of the Most Powerful and Influential Women in Illinois

National Diversity Council (2011, 2014)

Posse Power of 10 Award for Commitment to Diversity in Education and the Workforce

The Posse Foundation, Inc. (Chicago) (2014)

Chicago United Business Leader of Color (2013)

Litigation Star

Euromoney’s Benchmark Litigation (2009, 2012, 2013)

Client Service All-Star

BTI Consulting Group (2012)

Top 250 Women in Litigation

Euromoney’s Benchmark Litigation (2012)

2011 Advocate for Diversity Award, Diversity Scholarship Foundation

Excellence in Pro Bono and Public Interest Service Award

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (2011)

One of Twelve “2011 Chicago Women in Law” by Chicago Lawyer Magazine

Outstanding Alumna Award for Public Service

University of Illinois (2010)

National Bar Association Judicial Council Special Chair Award

National Bar Association Judicial Council (2009)

Peer Reviewed AV® Preeminent™

Martindale-Hubbell (Since 2008)

Who’s Who in Black Chicago – Inaugural Edition

News Communications’ Marquis Who’s Who (2006)

Outstanding Alumni Seaberry Award for Service to the Legal Community

University of Illinois (1998, 2005)

Publications & Presentations

Lawyer Limelight: Patricia Brown Holmes, 2020 Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America Guide (March 20, 2020)

“Learning Your Leadership Language,” (co-panelist) CBA Women’s Summit, Chicago, IL (March 6, 2020)

Lawyer Limelight: Patricia Brown Holmes, Lawdragon (December 29, 2019)

“ALL ABOARD, What effect is California’s new law mandating more women in corporate boardrooms likely to have?,” (author) Best Lawyers “Women in the Law” Business Edition (Spring 2019)

“Drop-the-Mic Talk,” (speaker) Grit+Grace Day by Cheryle Jackson, Chicago, IL (March 22, 2019)

“30 Feminist Hit Singles Before Their Time,” (interviewee) Rare & Scratchy Rock ‘N Roll retrospective podcast (March 15, 2019) discussed female hit music and how it inspired and empowered Judge Holmes

“Sexual Harassment, Lying and the #MeToo Movement,” (panelist) Sixth Annual Managing Partner & General Counsel Forum, Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law, Chicago, IL (February 20, 2019)

WVON1690AM, The Talk of Chicago Live Radio, Chicago, IL (February 13, 2019) discussed proposed legislation to use “El Chapo” Guzman gains to build border wall.

Adtalem EDGE Fireside Chat, (co-panelist) Adtalem Global Education, Chicago, IL (February 12, 2019) discussed the responsibility of being the first and only in corporate America and how to give back in that role.

Closing Keynote Address, The Quorum Initiative 2018 HOW Forum, New York, NY (November 1‑2, 2018)

Words of Wisdom from Kick-Ass Women, Vol. III, (quote) CBD Marketing e-book (October 2018)

“The Year of the Yes,” (speaker) Corporate Counsel Women of Color (CCWC) Fourteenth Annual Career Strategies Conference, New York, NY (October 11, 2018)

“The Profit in Nonprofits,” (author) Best Lawyers “Women in the Law” Summer Business Edition (June 2018)

“Crisis Management for Today’s General Counsel,” (moderator) RSHC, Major, Lindsey & Africa, and PwC CLE Program, Chicago, IL (June 21, 2018)

“Uncovering Talent:  A New Model of Inclusion,” (co-panelist) The Future of Law Firm Leadership and Management Conference, New York, NY (June 19, 2018)

“Business Development Strategies for Diverse Lawyers,” (panelist) Mendelsohn Legal, Inc. CLE panel, Chicago, IL (May 16, 2018)

“May it Please the Court:  Symposium on Women Lawyers in the Courtroom,” (panelist) The United States District Court, Chicago Bar Association, Women’s Bar Association of Illinois, and Black Women Lawyers’ Association, Chicago, IL (April 12, 2018)

General Counsel Roundtable, (moderator) National Bar Association (NBA) Corporate Law Section Seventh Gateway to Success Conference, Nashville, TN (March 23, 2018)

“Power in the Boardroom, Strategies to Achieve Diversity on Corporate Boards,” (moderator) Black Women Lawyers’ Association (BWLA) 2018 Spring Fundraiser, Chicago, IL (March 13, 2018)

“Be Direct:  Legal Conversations Demonstrating the Art of Direct Examination,” (took the stand) Cook County Bar Association CLE Series, University of Chicago Law School, Chicago, IL (March 6, 2018)

“The Fierce Urgency of Now,” (co-panelist) JPMorgan Chase and Co. BOLD Illinois, MLK Celebration, Chicago, IL (January 8, 2018)

“Chicago Special Prosecutor’s Career Nearly Came to a Premature End,” ABA Journal Magazine Feature (December 2017)

“Using the Media to Litigate,” (co-panelist) National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) 13th General Counsel Institute, New York, NY (November 9-10, 2017)

“Yield No More” 2017 Women’s Leadership Forum, The Executive Leadership Council, Chicago, IL (July 19, 2017)

“Corporate Monitorships, The Nuts and Bolts,” (co-moderator) ABA Criminal Justice Section CLE Program, The Women in White Collar Subcommittee, Chicago, IL (June 15, 2017)

CCBA & BWLA Newly Admitted Attorney Reception, (guest speaker) Chicago, IL (May 15, 2017) discussed the importance of civility, honor, and mentoring in the profession.

“Benefits and Mechanics of Diverse Partner Integration,” (co-author) Best Lawyers “Women in the Law” Spring Business Edition (April 2017)

“Navigating Your Firm,” (panelist) The Chicago Committee 2017 Law Firm Boot Camp Program for Junior Associates, Chicago, IL (February 10, 2017)

“Attire: Your Most Overlooked Secret Weapon,” (Chapter 4 Author) in From the Trenches: Strategies and Tips from 21 of the Nation’s Top Trial Lawyers (2015)

“Be a Perry Mason, Not a Denny Crane,” Chicago Daily Law Bulletin – Law Day 2013 (May 2013)

“China’s New Anti-Corruption Laws: Paper Tiger or Pouncing Dragon,” (co-presenter) MCCA 11th Annual CLE Expo, Chicago, IL (March 22, 2012)

“What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You: Using Investigations to Protect Your Organization From Loss,” Schiff Hardin Labor & Employment Breakfast Briefing, Chicago, IL (October 19, 2011)

“When It Gets Personal: Advice to In-house Counsel on Avoiding Criminal and Civil Liability,” ECOA’s 19th Annual Ethics and Compliance Conference, Bellevue, Wash. (September 21, 2011)

“Environmental Criminal Prosecutions: Avoid Being One of the EPA’s Next Victories,” Governance & Executive Compensation 2011, Financier Worldwide (June 30, 2011)

“Protecting Your Company’s Valuable Trade Secret Assets: Lessons Learned from Recent Federal Prosecutions of Criminal Trade Secrets Theft,” Illinois MCLE Marathon 2011, Practicing Law Institute (May 16, 2011)

“Litigation: Guilty Pleas Preview Testimony in Galleon Insider Trading Case,” Inside Counsel (February 17, 2011)

“Corporate Officials Beware: Knowledge May No Longer Be Required for FCPA Liability,” (co‑author) Bloomberg Law Reports – Risk and Compliance (April 2010); Republished in Bloomberg Law Reports – Corporate Counsel (May 2010)

“Grease Payments are a Thing of the Past as the Reach of the FCPA Continues to Expand,” (co‑author) Bloomberg Law Reports – Risk and Compliance (March 2010)

community service

Civic and Charitable Memberships

Chief Judge Ruben Castillo’s Magistrate Judge Selection Committee, Chairperson

Chief Judge James F. Holderman’s Magistrate Judge Merit Review Panel, Chairperson

Harriet’s Daughters, Board of Directors, Chair

Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism-Mentoring Advisory Committee

LaRabida Children’s Hospital, Board of Trustees

Senator Dick Durbin’s Judicial Screening Committee, Co-Chair

University of Illinois, Board of Trustees, Member


Practice Areas

  • Anti-Corruption
  • Complex Commercial Litigation
  • Compliance Counseling
  • Corporate Crime
  • Corporate Governance
  • Crisis Management
  • Cybercrime
  • FDA Enforcement
  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
  • Government Contracting, Bid Protests and the False Claims Act
  • Government Investigations
  • Healthcare
  • Insider Trading
  • Internal Investigations
  • Privacy, Data Security and Information Law
  • Qui Tam; Whistleblower Defense
  • SEC Enforcement
  • Securities Litigation
  • Title IX
  • Trade Secrets
  • Trials
  • White Collar Crime