Elaine Harwell is a Partner in Selman Breitman's San Diego office and leads the firm's Cyber Law practice.  She is also a member of the firm’s Commercial Litigation, General Liability, Insurance, and Construction Law practice groups. 

Elaine's data privacy practice includes assisting clients in managing emerging risks and conducting risk assessments related to their privacy programs, as well as litigating civil lawsuits involving privacy issues and advising on regulatory matters.  A trained privacy professional, Elaine has completed a program focusing on U.S. private-sector privacy laws and regulations, including the legal requirements for the responsible transfer of sensitive personal data to/from the U.S., the E.U., and other jurisdictions. Through this program, Elaine earned the ANSI-accredited Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States (CIPP/US) credential through the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).

With vast business litigation experience, Elaine has been involved in numerous jury trials, bench trials, and arbitration.  She regularly represents companies in business disputes and personal injury claims, including cases arising out of contract disputes, professional liability, business negligence, and premises liability.  She also has extensive experience representing clients in complex unfair competition and business practice claims, as well as trade secret misappropriation cases. 

Elaine contributes to the community at large by providing Pro Bono assistance to active duty military personnel through the San Diego County Bar Association's Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) Pro Bono Panel Program. 

Elaine has been recognized by The San Diego Business Journal as among the "Best of the Bar" in 2015 and 2016 and by Super Lawyers Magazine as a Rising Star each year since 2015.

Elaine is originally from San Diego, but moved extensively throughout her childhood as a military dependent. She presently resides in San Diego with her husband and young children.  When not helping clients with their legal needs she spends her time running, reading, and traveling the world.

Representative Matters

Privacy and Information Security

  • Litigated consumer class actions involving the privacy rights of hundreds of thousands of individuals.
  • Counseled and advised clients on various aspects of privacy programs.


  • In a case making local news headlines, defended local fabricating company in wrongful death and bodily injury lawsuit from multiple plaintiffs that were injured when a pedestrian walkway collapsed. This complex matter involved several defendants, with plaintiffs claiming over $25 million in damages. A case with multiple impediments to settlement, including insurance coverage issues, this matter was ultimately successfully settled with a good result for client.
  • A high-six-figure settlement was obtained for client, the victim of trade secret misappropriation involving a multi-sport race event.
  • Summary judgment was obtained in a construction defect matter on behalf of concrete subcontractor wherein the court found plaintiffs could not meet their burden of showing that client's work was in any way defective.
  • Represented a national rental car agency in lawsuits arising from automobile accidents, including claims of negligent entrustment and bodily injury.
  • Prevailed on a Motion to Quash on behalf of clients, a Texas car dealership and its employees, for lack of jurisdiction by California courts where the client had engaged in internet transactions with the plaintiff through its website.
  • Represented plaintiff in a case involving claims of defamation, the Lanham Act, and California's Unfair Competition Law.
  • Obtained nuisance-value settlement on behalf of a college bowl association and cosmetics company in a case filed by an original member of a music group for alleged unauthorized use of his likeness and voice and unfair business practices.
  • Following aggressive investigation of the facts of the claim and application of pertinent case law, counsel for insured was convinced to refrain from filing a complaint alleging wrongful denial of a theft claim. The insured's claim was withdrawn based upon the discovery of information that described the suspicious nature of the claim.



Recent Events

Elaine provides Pro Bono assistance to active duty military personnel pursuant to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • Super Lawyers Rising Stars 2015-2018
  • San Diego Business Journal, "Best of the Bar" 2015, 2016
  • International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), CIPP/US
  • San Diego Defense Lawyers, Member
  • American Inns of Court - William B. Enright Chapter, Barrister
  • Lawyers Club of San Diego, Member
  • Claims & Litigation Management Alliance - San Diego Chapter, Member
  • San Diego County Bar Association, Member

Bar Admission

  • New York, 2005
  • New Jersey, 2005
  • California, 2006
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of California
  • U.S. District Court Central District of California
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court District of New Jersey
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of California


Seton Hall University School of Law, J.D. - cum laude, 2004

President, Women's Law Forum

Recipient, National Association of Women Lawyers' Award, 2004

Interscholastic Moot Court Board

University of California, Los Angeles, B.A. - magna cum laude, 2000

Major: Political Science