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Director, Office of Policy

Michael McDonald 


Michael McDonald was appointed Director of Policy for the Department of State in April 2023.

As policy director, McDonald manages the department's policy and regulatory development process in coordination with the Governor's Office of Policy. He provides research, analysis, and recommendations on key departmental issues that impact the program areas of charities and corporations, elections, and professional licensure.

Prior to joining the department, McDonald was a litigator at Ballard Spahr LLP in Philadelphia. He practiced in federal and state courts representing clients in complex commercial disputes and specializing in matters relating to constitutional law, election administration, voting rights, and legislative redistricting. McDonald also worked at the law firm of Patterson Belknap LLP in New York City.

McDonald graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from Saint Joseph’s University and magna cum laude with a juris doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School. 

As a law student, McDonald provided legal services to individuals experiencing homelessness, and worked for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, the commonwealth’s civil rights enforcement agency; the Asociación Civil de la Igualdad y la Justicia in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and the Brennan Center for Justice, advising on campaign finance and legislative redistricting law. McDonald also was editor-in-chief of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review; a teaching fellow in his school’s legal writing program; and a finalist in the Keedy Cup, an appellate advocacy moot court competition.

After law school, McDonald completed two federal clerkships, first with the Hon. Analisa Torres of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and then with the Hon. Michael Chagares of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

McDonald is a past recipient of the New York City Legal Aid Society’s Pro Bono Publico Award and designee as Empire State Counsel by the New York State Bar Association in recognition for his pro bono work. 

McDonald was also listed among the Best Lawyers in America: Ones to Watch in Commercial Litigation (Philadelphia) in 2022 and 2023. For nearly a decade, McDonald volunteered with the American Legion Keystone Boys State program, an initiative designed for Pennsylvania high school students to encourage civic engagement, practice civil discourse, and teach about our system of government.