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John L. McDonnell, Jr.

Attorney Profile

Top Rated Estate & Trust Litigation Attorney in Orinda, CA

Hartog, Baer, Zabronsky & Verriere
4 Orinda Way, Suite 200-D
Orinda, CA 94563
Phone: 925-253-1717
Fax: 925-253-0334
Selected to Super Lawyers: 2005 - 2022
Licensed in California Since: 1964
Practice Areas: Estate & Trust Litigation, Estate Planning & Probate, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Family Law
Attorney Profile

Attorney John L. McDonnell, Jr., serves of counsel with the Hartog, Baer & Hand APC law firm in Orinda, California. Certified as an estate planning, trust and probate law specialist by The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Mr. McDonnell focuses his practice primarily on estate planning and administration, trust planning and administration, estate and trust litigation, fiduciary asset management, marital property agreements, and other estate-related matters.

Along with being a top-rated and tenacious trial attorney, Mr. McDonnell is highly trained in mediation and arbitration, and he has achieved notable success helping his clients resolve their disputes and reach agreements in the most efficient and cost-effective manners possible. Throughout his more than 54 years practicing law, Mr. McDonnell has gained extensive experience in a variety of legal areas, including construction litigation, aircraft accident litigation, personal injury litigation, martial dissolutions, criminal defense and more.

A native of Oakland, California, Mr. McDonnell graduated maxima cum laude from St. Patrick's College and then attended the University of San Francisco School of Law, where he obtained his Juris Doctor in 1963. The State Bar of California admitted him to practice the following year, and since that time, Mr. McDonnell has remained highly active in the organization, serving in a number of leadership roles on many of the bar's committees.

He also remains active with numerous other professional legal organizations, including the American Bar Association, the Alameda County Bar Association and The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, among others. A respected leader in his field, Mr. McDonnell has published dozens of articles and texts involving estate administration and handling decedents' estates and trusts, and other similar topics. He also conducts continuing legal education seminars across his region, and he continues to serve on the board of counselors for the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Recognized for his service and professionalism, Mr. McDonnell holds an AV Preeminent peer review rating* from Martindale-Hubbell, and The Best Lawyers in America has selected him for the past 18 consecutive years.

*AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished and Martindale-Hubbell Notable are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer review rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Rating™ fall into two categories – legal ability and general ethical standards.

Best Lawyers® and The Best Lawyers in America© are registered trademarks of BL Rankings, LLC d/b/a Best Lawyers and Co., LLC. The names, logo, and database are protected under the trademark, copyright, and fair use laws of the United States of America. Any use of name, including in electronic form, must be made only by permission and under the guidelines of BL Rankings, LLC d/b/a Best Lawyers and Co., LLC.

Practice Areas
  • 30%Estate & Trust Litigation
  • 50%Estate Planning & Probate
  • 10%Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • 10%Family Law
Focus Areas

Probate & Estate Administration, Trusts, Marital Property


18 Years Super Lawyers
  • Super Lawyers: 2005 - 2022

About John L. McDonnell, Jr.

First Admitted: 1964, California

Professional Webpage:

Pro bono/Community Service

  • The Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation, Member and Director
  • Catholic Cathedral Corporation of the East Bay, President and Chief Operating Officer, 2008-2011
  • Christ the Light Cathedral Corporation, President, 2008-2011
  • Conductor, Oakland Cathedral Choir and other diocesan choirs, 1965-2009
  • Cathedral Project, Diocese of Oakland: Chair, Steering Committee, 1999-2003; Project Director, 2003-2011
  • Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles: Member, Trusts and Estates Programs Board, 1992-2001; Chair, Planned Giving Committee of the Cathedral Development Committee, 1997-2001
  • East Bay Community Foundation: Member, Board of Trustees, 1994-2004
  • Oakland Museum of California Foundation: Member, Board of Trustees, 1992-2000; Vice Chair, 1998-1999; Chair, 1999-2000; Chair, Nominating Committee, 2000-2001; Member, Board of Trustees, 2007-2013
  • Mills College, Oakland, California, Member, Board of Trustees, 2008-present; Member, Advancement, Finance and Trustee Selection Committees; Chair, Campus Planning Committee
  • University of San Francisco Law Society: Secretary, 1969-1973; Vice President, 1974; President, 1975
  • Holy Names University, Member, Board of Regents, 1976-1999; Board of Trustees, 1999-2006
  • Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums: Co-Founder; Chair, 1983-1996; Secretary, 1996-2016
  • University of San Francisco School of Law: Board of Visitors, 1975-1978; Board of Counselors, 1978-present

Scholarly Lectures/Writings

  • Post-Death Tax Elections (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1987; revised edition, 1992, with Betty J. Orvell) and CEB Estate Planning& California Probate Reporter, Volume VIII, Number 6 (June, 1987)
  • “Planning for Distributions for Employee Benefits and IRAs: Income Tax Strategies and Techniques” (with Betty J. Orvell and Jeffrey A. Dennis-Strathmeyer) CEB Estate Planning and California Probate Reporter, Volume XI, Number 4 (February, 1990)
  • “An Introduction to Estate Planning for Employee Benefits and IRAs” (with Betty J. Orvell) CEB Estate Planning & California Probate Reporter, Volume XI, Number 2 (October, 1989)
  • Estate Planning for Employee Benefits (with Betty J. Orvell) (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1989; revised edition, 1993)
  • California Continuing Education of the Bar Program: Lecturer and Author
  • Consultant, California Decedent Estate Practice (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1986)
  • “Court Supervision of Trusts Under California Law, Protection for the Beneficiary and Problems for the Lawyer” (Estate Planning 1985, California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1985)
  • “Drafting Spousal Benefits in the Non-Marital Trust” (American College of Probate Counsel Probate Notes, Fall, 1984)
  • “Effects of Recent Legislation on Administration of Testamentary Trusts” (State Bar of California Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Section, 1983)
  • Consultant, California Will Drafting (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1979 Supplement and 1992 Edition)
  • How to Administer a Decedent’s Estate (with Betty J. Orvell) (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1989; revised editions, 1990 and 1991)
  • Handling a Decedent’s Estate (California Continuing Education of the Bar, 1977)

Bar/Professional Activity

  • The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel: elected Fellow, 1978; Member, State Membership Committee, 1981-present; Member, Editorial Board, 1984-1989; Member, Fiduciary Litigation Committee, 1996-present, Chair, Will and Trust Contests Subcommittee, 2000-2003, Committee Chair, 2003-2006; Member, Practice Committee, 1986-1997; Member, Program Committee, 1991-1992; Chair, Expanded Practice Subcommittee, 1992-1996; Member, Charitable Planning and Exempt Organizations Committee, 2000-2003; State Chair, 1991-1996; Member, Board of Regents, 1998-2004; Co-Chair, Strategic Planning Task Force, 2004-2006; Member, International Estate Planning Committee, 2006-2009
  • American Bar Association: State Membership Co-Chair for California, 1996-2001; Member, Board of Governors, 2000-2003 and 2015-2018; Member, Standing Committee on Meetings and Travel, 2003-2006 and 2011-2014; Member, ABA Day Committee, 2006-2016; Member, Standing Committee on Membership, 2009-2011;. State Delegate, 2007-2015; House of Delegates Committee memberships: Credentials and Admissions Committee, 2005-2006; Committee on Issues of Concern to the Legal Profession, 2006-2007, Chair, 2007-2008; Select Committee of the House of Delegates, 2010-2011; Committee on Resolution and Impact Review, 2012-2013; Steering Committee of the Nominating Committee, 2014-2015; Committee on Scope and Correlation of Work, 2012-2015
  • Alameda County Bar Association, Drug Advisory Task Force, 1993-1999
  • Member, House of Delegates, 1988-present
  • Advisor, Standing Committee on Lawyer Competence, 1988-1993
  • American Bar Association: Member, Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and Forum on Franchising
  • Alameda County Bar Association, Legislation Committee, Chair of Subcommittee on Probate and Estate Planning, 1982 and 1983
  • Alameda County Bar Association, Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Section, Chair, 1990-91
  • Alameda County Bar Association: Probate Committee, Chair, 1980-1990
  • Chair, Committee on Competence, 1990-1991
  • Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Section: Chair, 1981-82, Advisor, 1983-1986, Chair, Legislation Committee, 1990-1991
  • Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Section: Member, Executive Committee, 1977-1983
  • Member, Executive Committee, Committee on Probate and Trust Law, 1976-1977
  • Chair, Consortium on Competence, 1987-1990
  • Member, Board of Governors, 1986-1989
  • Board Committee on Professional Standards and Admissions, Vice President, 1988-89
  • Chair, Board Committee on Professional Standards and Admissions, 1988-1989
  • Chair, Board Committee on Legal Services, 1987-1988
  • Chair, Committee on Sections and Committees, 1982-1983
  • Delegate, Conference of Delegates, 1973-1986; 1991, 2000-2001
  • Supreme Court of the United States, Member
  • California, 1964

Educational Background

  • St. Patrick’s College (Seminary), Menlo Park, California (major: philosophy), A.B. degree, maxima cum laude
  • Holy Names University
  • Notre Dame University


  • The Best Lawyers in America
  • AV Martindale-Hubbell Rating
  • California Super Lawyer

Special Licenses/Certifications

  • Certified as a specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law by the California Board of Legal Specialization
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Office Location for John L. McDonnell, Jr.

4 Orinda Way
Suite 200-D
Orinda, CA 94563

Phone: 925-253-1717

Fax: 925-253-0334

Last Updated: 5/15/2022

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