Michael A. Colton
Lawyer and Counselor at Law


California Certified Legal Specialist in
Legal Malpractice Law, The State Bar of
California Board of Legal Specialization

825 Jennings Avenue
Santa Barbara, California 93103

(805) 455-4546
Fax (805) 965-9623


For two decades, Mr. Colton has been a preeminent lawyer’s professional liability (“LPL”) defense attorney serving the California Central Coast tri-counties (Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties).   He is a Certified Specialist in Legal Malpractice Law, certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, and the only such certified specialist currently practicing lawyer defense in the tri-counties Central Coast.   He has achieved repeated recognition as a Southern California Super Lawyer in the practice area of Professional Liability-Defense, the only lawyer based in the California Central Coast Tri-Counties to regularly achieve that distinction.

Mr. Colton’s practice is focused on lawyer and law firm professional liability defense and claim avoidance/ethics counseling, insurance bad faith defense, and business, commercial and corporate litigation in the state and federal courts throughout California. He regularly defends lawyers, law firms, and other clients in civil matters involving claims of professional liability, breach of fiduciary duty, malicious prosecution, fee disputes, and other tort and contract-based claims. Mr. Colton also counsels lawyer clients and their insurers in claim avoidance, claim repair, conflicts, and other lawyers’ professional responsibility issues, and is a frequent lecturer on those topics at continuing education and risk management programs, both open and for private law firm seminars and retreats, sponsored by various LPL carriers as well as county and specialty bar associations.

Mr. Colton’s focus on lawyer defense and counseling commenced in earnest in 1993 when he joined the Santa Barbara law firm of Archbald & Spray, LLP, where he was a partner until May 2007.   From May 2007 to January 2010, Mr. Colton was head of the Professional Liability Practice group at the Santa Barbara law firm of Hill, Trager & Colton, LLP.  Fervently devoted to efficient and economical client service and provision of legal representation and counseling at the highest levels of professionalism and competence, he has a successful solo legal practice.

He has defended self-insured lawyers, as well as insured lawyers under appointment from numerous LPL carriers, as regular panel defense counsel and/or upon specific request of the insured, and as independent counsel, across a broad spectrum of such disparate practice areas as corporate, commercial, business, real estate, eminent domain, environmental and land use, civil RICO, ERISA litigation, health and medical insurance liens, bodily injury/wrongful death/ personal injury (plaintiff and defense), medical malpractice, legal malpractice, estates and trusts, probate litigation, conservatorship, family law, criminal defense, bankruptcy, workers compensation, libel, unfair competition, malicious prosecution, and various business torts.

In addition, Mr. Colton has served as an instrumental strategist, tactician and principal advocate on issues of recusal and disqualification of lawyers, judicial officers, experts, and other witnesses; witness and evidence tampering and spoliation; conflicts of interest; client-lawyer privilege, work product protection, privilege against self-incrimination, and other privileges and protections and limits on compelled disclosure; and other lawyer’s professional responsibility issues in high stakes corporate and commercial litigation, as co-counsel with large nationally known law firms.

Mr. Colton has a broad range of experience in mediation, arbitration, alternative dispute resolution, litigation, trial, and appellate defense of business, business tort, corporate, and commercial litigation. A member of the California Bar since his admission to practice in 1978, Mr. Colton is also admitted to practice before, and has handled numerous matters in, the United States District Courts for the Central, Northern, Eastern, and Southern Districts of California, Bankruptcy Courts, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

He serves as Santa Barbara area Director on the Board of Directors of the Association of Southern California Defense Counsel (“ASCDC”), the nation’s largest  and preeminent regional organization of lawyers whose practices are primarily devoted to defending civil actions, and is   founding Co-Chair of the ASCDC’s Lawyer Defense Committee, and an active member of the ASCDC’s Amicus Committee, which promptly reviews all reported and unreported California appellate decisions affecting civil practice and spearheads the ASCDC’s frequent participation as amicus curiae seeking review, publication or depublication of appellate opinions, and in important matters pending before the appellate courts and Supreme Court of California.

In 2013, he was invited to and admitted as the Principal Member for Santa Barbara of the Association of Defense Trial Attorneys (“ADTA”), a major defense trial attorney organization founded in 1941, comprised of some of the finest trial attorneys in the various states of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the provinces of Canada.

Mr. Colton is an Associate Member of the American Bar Association National Legal Malpractice Consortium and regularly attends A.B.A. Legal Malpractice national meetings as well as Legal Malpractice Risk Management (“LMRM”) conferences.

As an undergraduate, Mr. Colton studied at Stanford University (1970-72) and University of California, Santa Cruz (1972-74), where he earned his A.B. degree with Honors in Politics. He studied law at Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley (1975-78), where he earned his Juris Doctor degree and Order of the Coif honors, and was a member and Research Editor of the prestigious California Law Review.  He commenced law practice in 1978 at Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro in San Francisco, where he had clerked as a law student extern during his final year at Boalt Hall. Within his first year of practice, he successfully solo-chaired the trial defense of a major shipping company in a federal Jones Act jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, in San Francisco.

A native-born Los Angelino, he returned to Southern California in 1980 and practiced law in Century City at Schwartz, Alschuler & Grossman (1980-81) and Dern, Mason, Swerdlow & Floum (1981-83).   From late 1983-to mid-1984, he traveled, trekked and camped throughout the South Pacific, with extended visits in Tahiti, Cook Islands, Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji. On his return, he practiced federal criminal defense with the Law Offices of Eugene C. Moscovitch in Los Angeles, gaining valuable courtroom jury trial experience. He also handled criminal appeals.

From 1985-1990, Mr. Colton worked for the University of California-Berkeley and the State Bar of California as a program attorney for California Continuing Education of the Bar (“CEB”), where he was responsible for developing and implementing the program curriculum for CLE courses in the practice areas of civil litigation, trial practice, federal practice, criminal defense, family law, and business law, producing the program offerings, and selecting and coordinating the panelists and authors of the course materials. He also served as an editor for selected CEB practice guides.

He returned to full time private law practice in 1990, when he relocated to California’s Central Coast and became a partner in the boutique law firm of Becker, Schoenfield & Wennergren, with offices in Oxnard (Ventura County) and Century City, California. While there, from 1990 until the firm’s demise in mid-1993, he handled substantial business litigation matters in both state and federal courts, involving such issues as trademark licensing disputes, and failed corporate mergers and acquisitions.

Mr. Colton is a Past President (2007) of the Santa Barbara County Bar Association (“SBCBA”), served on the SBCBA Board of Directors, and was Editor in Chief (2004) of Santa Barbara Lawyer magazine.  He served as a Director on the boards of The Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara Women Lawyers, and the University Club of Santa Barbara.  He continues to serve as a Director on the board of the Santa Barbara Women Lawyers Foundation. He is a long term Master of the American Inns of Court, William L. Gordon (Santa Barbara) Chapter.