Michael Signer

Michael Signer

Managing Principal
Madison Law & Strategy Group, PLLC

msigner at madisonpllc dot com

Mike is Managing Principal of Madison Law & Strategy Group, PLLC and directs the firm's Charlottesville office, where he practices corporate and regulatory law.  He is a member of the Virginia and Washington, D.C. Bars and the Charlottesville-Albemarle Bar Association.  Since January of 2016, he has also been Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, a city of nearly 50,000 that is frequently rated as one of America's best places to live.

Corporate Practice

Mike’s corporate clients have included alternative investors, early-stage technology companies, government contractors, Fortune 500 companies, and artists and entertainment productions.  He enjoys working with principals as a traditional outside general counsel, advising on a wide range of issues related to the growth of a company.

He works with clients on entity formation, investor relations, vendor contracts, regulatory compliance, partner relationships, employee agreements, and general corporate strategy.  He serves as outside general counsel to multiple early-stage companies and previously served as in-house counsel to a technology start-up.  He also serves as a literary agent and general counsel on entertainment productions.

He served as Co-Chair of the Business Law Section of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Bar Association and a member of the Corporate Counsel Section of the Virginia State Bar.  He previously was a member of the Corporate Department at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in Washington, D.C., where he graduated from the firm’s “Corporate University” and worked on large corporate matters, including acquisitions, mergers, and venture capital investments for clients including institutional investors, VC firms, and technology ventures.

Regulatory Practice

Mike also practices regulatory law and public policy strategy (but not lobbying).  He works with clients to assess and manage the impacts of federal and state regulatory rulemakings and policymaking on their businesses.  He has counseled clients on federal financial regulation, traditional and alternative energy regulation, infrastructure policy, national security and defense, and government contracting. 

A 2009 candidate for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Mike draws on over a decade of experience in government, political campaigns, and advocacy.  He is an alumnus of the Public Policy and Strategy Group at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr.  He served as one of two counsels to Governor Mark Warner in Richmond, where he counseled the Governor on a wide variety of criminal, civil, policy, and regulatory matters, including settlements, clemency petitions, pardons, extraditions, FOIA requests, and National Guard and Reserve policy.  For four years, he served as an appointee of Governor Tim Kaine to Virginia’s Board of Medicine, which regulates and disciplines Virginia's 50,000 doctors. He also served as Chair of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s Transition Council on Homeland Security.  

Mike has also held senior roles in many political campaigns, from chief national security advisor to the 2008 John Edwards campaign to senior strategist of the successful Tom Perriello for Congress campaign in 2008 to Chair of the Charlottesville Coordinated City Council Campaign in 2013, which won with the largest recorded margin.  He has consulted with top think tanks including the Center for American Progress and the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. 


Mike holds a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law; a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Berkeley, where he was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow; and a B.A. in politics, magna cum laude, from Princeton University.

Pro Bono

A strong proponent of public service, Mike was elected to City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, in November of 2015.  He was selected as Mayor by a unanimous vote of City Council in January 2016.  He serves as Chair of the Emergency Food Network in Charlottesville.  He was formerly the President of the Fifeville Neighborhood Association, a member of the Access to Legal Services Commission of the Virginia State Bar, and Chair of the Pro Bono Commission of the Young Lawyers Conference of the Virginia State Bar.  While at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr, he contributed hundreds of hours to pro bono matters, including a federal employment discrimination lawsuit.  In law school at the University of Virginia, he was a clerk at the Legal Aid Justice Center.

Instruction and Publications

Mike has been a Lecturer at the Department of Politics at the University of Virginia, where he has taught an advanced undergraduate seminar titled, "Leadership, Statesmanship, and Democracy."  He was previously Visiting Full Professor at Virginia Tech's School of Public and International Affairs.

He recently published his second book, Becoming Madison: The Extraordinary Origins of the Least Likely Founding Father (Public Affairs, 2015), which Kirkus Reviews called “A perfect introduction to a deeply private and immensely important man" and which The Richmond Times-Dispatch called "an essential biography of an essential founding father."  He is also the author of Demagogue: The Fight to Save Democracy from Its Worst Enemies (Palgrave Macmillan 2009), which Foreign Affairs said "echoes Tocqueville's contention that liberal mores and traditions within society are the bedrock of democracy," and Kirkus Reviews praised for a “muscular narrative" and "forceful case for civic engagement and eternal vigilance." 

His writing has appeared in Corporate Counsel, The Washington Post, The New Republic,The Richmond Times-Dispatch, USA Today, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, and U.S. News & World Report and he has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, the BBC, and NPR. 

He has been an invited speaker by the Columbia University Club of New York, the Roosevelt House, the Montpelier Foundation, the Richmond World Affairs Council, Georgetown University, Mary Washington University, George Mason University, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Center for American Progress, the Doha Forum in Qatar, the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Berlin, and the German Marshall Foundation in Tremezzo, Italy, among others.


He has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Center for National Policy, the Board of Directors of OneVirginia2021, and the Truman National Security Institute, and is a Principal of the Truman National Security Project. He is a former member of Renaissance Weekend and of the Economic Club of Washington. He lives in Charlottesville with his wife Emily Blout and twin boys, Will and Jack.