Walter M. Stella


San Francisco

(415) 262-8339

(415) 644-0978

Walter is a senior employment law attorney with more than 30 years of experience advising employers on challenging workplace issues and providing practical solutions that minimize legal exposure in a heavily regulated business environment.

Walter represents some of Silicon Valley’s most dynamic corporate players, from Big Tech giants and high-profile tech-adjacent foundations to emerging businesses and ambitious startups.

He frequently operates as outside general counsel on employment law, meaning that major clients rely on him as their first point of contact when employment issues arise. Walter is widely respected for his ability to assess problems, design smart legal strategies, and oversee cost-effective resolutions. In his own day-to-day practice, Walter handles employment law litigation, settlement negotiations, and arbitrations; negotiates executive contracts and advises directors and officers on personal liability and indemnification matters; and provides proactive state and federal regulatory counselling.

For the first two decades of his career, Walter worked as an employment lawyer in two California-based Am Law 100 firms. In 2011, he joined the leadership team of the Miller Law Group, a boutique employment law firm, and helped grow that firm into one of the most prominent employer-side boutiques in the country. He then moved to Cozen O’Connor with the entire Miller Law Group in 2019. 

Outside of his private practice, Walter is deeply involved in the Bay Area legal community and pro bono service. He routinely advises the Equal Justice Society and National Center for Youth Law on employment law issues, and he serves as the lead organizer of bi-annual one-day pro bono employment law clinic run through a partnership between the San Francisco Bar Association’s Justice Diversity Center and the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Bay Area Chapter.

Walter earned his bachelor’s degree from Marquette University and his law degree from Cornell Law School.




California Legislation And Regulation To Watch In 2023

January 02, 2023

Walter Stella was quoted in Law360 discussing the developments of pay transparency in California for 2023.

More Than 200 Cozen O’Connor Attorneys Named Best Lawyers and Ones to Watch

August 22, 2022

210 Cozen O’Connor lawyers from 24 of the firm’s nationwide offices for inclusion in the 2023 edition of The Best Lawyers in America.

Super Lawyers Names Two Cozen O’Connor Attorneys to 2022 Northern CA List

July 25, 2022

Super Lawyers has named two Cozen O’Connor attorneys to its 2022 Northern California Super Lawyers and Rising Stars lists.

Chambers Ranks 86 Cozen O’Connor Lawyers, 22 Practice Areas in Chambers USA 2022 Guide

June 02, 2022

Chambers USA, the leading annual guide to the top lawyers and law firms in the United States, has ranked 86 Cozen O’Connor lawyers as leaders in their respective fields in the guide’s 2022 edition.

New safety workplace laws for COVID-19 go into effect

January 14, 2022

Walter Stella spoke with KCBS Radio discussing the new CAL/OSHA COVID-19 safety workplace laws are going into effect and will strengthen requirements for good-quality face coverings and testing or exposure protocols.

New labor laws to go into effect on January 1, 2022

December 31, 2021

Walter Stella joined KCBS Radio to discuss new labor laws that will go into effect throughout California in 2022.

More Than 205 Cozen O’Connor Attorneys Named Best Lawyers and Ones to Watch By The Best Lawyers In America

August 19, 2021

Best Lawyers selected 210 Cozen O’Connor lawyers from 23 of the firm’s nationwide offices for inclusion in the 2022 edition of The Best Lawyers in America.

How do the new masking recommendations affect workplaces?

July 20, 2021

Walter Stella spoke with KCBS Radio on what we should know about requirements as we look ahead to returning to the office.

California Reopening Prompts Changes to Workplace Safety Policies

June 22, 2021

Walter Stella was quoted in SHRM discussing how businesses must comply with applicable federal, state, and local requirements.

Why California workers could still keep masks after OSHA ruling

June 18, 2021

Walter Stella spoke with KCBS Radio about how indoor workplaces in California are clear to allow workers vaccinated against COVID-19 to no longer wear a mask, but that doesn’t mean businesses have to.

Cal OSHA will keep indoor mask mandate

June 04, 2021

Walter Stella spoke with KCBS Radio about Cal OSHA enacting rules for workplaces that require all employees to continue wearing face masks if just one among them isn't fully vaccinated.

Walter Stella on KCBS-AM

June 01, 2021

Walter Stella appeared on KCBS-AM discussing the upcoming Cal OSHA vote on COVID-19 guidelines.

82 Cozen O’Connor Lawyers, 19 Practices Earn Top Recognition in Chambers USA 2021 Guide

May 26, 2021

Chambers USA, the leading annual guide to the top lawyers and law firms in the United States, has ranked 82 Cozen O’Connor lawyers as leaders in their respective fields in the guide’s 2021 edition; of those, 15 lawyers have been recognized nationally.

California Employers Should Review Evolving Worker-Classification Rules

January 13, 2021

Walter Stella was quoted in SHRM discussing California businesses classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

4 major California employment law changes for 2021

January 04, 2021

Walter Stella spoke with HR Dive about the recent California bills that have been passed into law for 2021 brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses are reopening. If you’re older or sick, what happens to your job?

May 22, 2020

Walter Stella was quoted in The Olympian discussing about the workplace reopening with questions that linger about how protections will shield workers who are older or have medical conditions in the time of the coronavirus.

Labor & Employment Law Update: 2019 in Review and a Look Ahead to 2020

December 05, 2019

Jake Rubinstein, Bethany Salvatore, and Walter Stella presented a webinar about the substantial changes in labor and employment law at the federal, state, and even local levels for 2019.

West Coast Expansion Continues with the Addition of 13 Labor & Employment Lawyers from Miller Law Group in California

August 01, 2019

Cozen O’Connor is pleased to announce 13 attorneys from California’s Miller Law Group — one of the largest woman-owned employment law firms in the country — have joined its San Francisco and Los Angeles offices.


COVID-19 FAQs For California Employers

July 01, 2020

Michele Ballard Miller, Walter Stella, Elena Hillman, and Austin Dieter designed an FAQ that California Employers have regarding COVID-19.

Events & Seminars

Past Events

Virtual Legal Audit for Nonprofits

May 12, 2023 - Webinar

Can We Agree to…..Agree?

April 13, 2023 - Sacramento, CA

Pay Equity: Legislation and Litigation

April 07, 2022 - Webinar

California Employment Law Update

February 23, 2022 - Webinar

COVID-19 Protocols for California Employers

January 11, 2022 - Webinar

The Year in Review for California Employers

December 15, 2021 - Webinar

Startup Essentials Program

March 05, 2021 - Webinar

Addressing Bias In The Virtual Workplace

October 28, 2020 - Webinar

The Year in Review and Looking Ahead to 2020

December 12, 2019 - Webinar

AB5: Is the Gig Up for California Employers?

December 04, 2019 - Webinar

I Don't Like Your Face

November 07, 2019 - Santa Clara, CA

Managing Leaves of Absence

October 24, 2019 - Webinar

Current Issues in Human Resources

October 03, 2019 - Oakland, CA

Is the Gig up for California employers?

September 27, 2019 - Webinar

Navigating Accommodations for Disabled Workers

September 19, 2019 - Webinar

Sex, Drugs and Human Resources

September 11, 2019 - Webinar

Industry Sectors


  • Cornell Law School, J.D., 1990
  • Marquette University, B.A., 1987

Awards & Honors

Chambers USA, 2021-2023

The Best Lawyers in America, 2013-2023

Northern California Super Lawyers, 2014-2022

Bar Association of San Francisco, Award of Merit, 2008

The Best Lawyers in the Bay Area, Bay Area Lawyer Magazine, 2005-2006

Bar Association of San Francisco Pro Bono Award, Bar Association of San Francisco Volunteer Legal Services Program, 2005-2006, 2008

Outstanding Volunteer in Public Services Award, Bar Association of San Francisco Volunteer Legal Services Program, 2003, 2012-2014, 2017

  • California
  • Illinois

Guest lecturer, Employment Law, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business

Former board member, Northern California Human Resources Association (NCHRA)

Current member and frequent lecturer for the NCHRA, California Society for Human Resources Management, and Southern California Professionals in Human Resources Association

Member editorial board of “Bender’s California Labor & Employment Bulletin”

Contributing author for Aspatore’s “Thought Leadership” series on Employment Law

Former employment law columnist for the Northern California Association of Trial Lawyers

Former board member and longtime pro bono employment counsel to the Richmond Area Multi-Services – the largest mental health services provider in San Francisco for poor and indigent people.