Michael Harrell is a retired partner and currently of counsel to the firm. He is a former member of the firm’s global Private Equity and Investment Management Groups. He is widely recognized as a leader in the field of private equity fund formation. For over 30 years, Mr. Harrell advised many of the private equity industry’s leading sponsors of buyout, growth capital, distressed debt, media and telecommunications, international private equity, mezzanine and other U.S. and non-U.S. private investment funds. Most recently, his practice also included representing the American Investment Council, the U.S. private equity industry’s leading trade association, with respect to legal developments affecting the private equity industry globally. In Chambers Global, one of the many publications that consistently ranked him as a leading practitioner in his field (2003-2016), sources note he is “a giant in the industry and has been a real thought leader on fund formation.”

Mr. Harrell has been ranked in the top tier for private equity fund formation in every edition of Chambers USA and Chambers Global published since they first began ranking private funds practitioners. According to Chambers USA (2003-2016), market sources describe him as one of the “deans of the industry,” and admire his “judgment and acumen” and “ability to see all aspects of a problem. He quickly hones in on [the] biggest challenges and offers solutions to get past them.” He is also listed as a leading lawyer by The Legal 500 US (2009-2016), where clients call him “a real industry leader.” Mr. Harrell has also been recommended by The International Who’s Who of Private Funds Lawyers for more than a decade and by IFLR 1000 (2015). Lawdragon named him one of the 500 Leading Lawyers in America (2014).

Mr. Harrell writes and speaks frequently at conferences on private equity funds. He was a contributing author of The Private Equity Primer: The Best of the Debevoise & Plimpton Private Equity Report and The Debevoise & Plimpton European Private Equity Handbook and an editor of the Debevoise & Plimpton Private Equity Report. Mr. Harrell was also a contributing author of Human Capital in Private Equity (Private Equity International, 2007). He was on the Advisory Board to Asset Alternatives’ survey of Private Investment Partnership Terms and Conditions (1st and 3rd editions) and on the Advisory Board to Thomson Reuters PE/VC Partnership Agreements Study (2011-2012 and 2012-2013 editions). He coauthored dozens of client alerts and numerous articles, including “What Will The “Eyes And Ears” Of The SEC Choose To See And Hear This Year? OCIE Announces Examination Priorities For 2015,” Vol. 16 No.2, Journal of Investment Compliance (July, 2015); “Expense Allocation: The SEC Brings Down The Hammer,” Vol. 16 No. 1, Journal of Investment Compliance (May, 2015); “FSOC: Are Asset Managers’ Products And Activities Creating Systemic Risk?” The Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation (January, 2015); “Debevoise & Plimpton Discusses Treatment of Special Purpose Vehicles under the Advisers Act,” The CLS Blue Sky Blog (August, 2014); “Options under the Volcker Rule for Bank Investment in Unaffiliated Private Equity and Hedge Funds,” The Hedge Fund Law Report (March, 2014); “How Does the AIFMD Impact U.S. Fund Managers?,” Private Equity Manager (October, 2013); “Federal Reserve Adopts Key Dodd-Frank Act Definitions,” The Banking Law Journal (June, 2013) and “The New Regulatory Framework For Designating 'Systemically Important Financial Institutions' And Its Application To Private Equity Firms And Funds,” Banking & Financial Services Policy Report (July, 2012).

Mr. Harrell is a charter member and the former chairman (2002) of the New York Private Investment Funds Forum. From 2001 to 2004, he was an officer, and from 2004-2006, he was the chairman, of the International Bar Association’s Subcommittee on Private Investment Funds. Mr. Harrell was a Lecturer at Law at Columbia Law School, where he co-taught a course on private equity funds (2001-2003). In 2003 and 2004, he was a member of the New York Advisory Board to the Private Equity CFOs Association.

Mr. Harrell joined Debevoise in 1985. From 1991 through 1993, he worked in the firm’s London office. He received his A.B. from Dartmouth College in 1982 and his J.D. from the School of Law of the University of California at Los Angeles in 1985.


  • University of California at Los Angeles, School of Law, 1985, J.D.
  • Dartmouth College, 1982, A.B.

Bar Admissions

  • New York