Melissa Sawyer is a partner in Sullivan & Cromwell LLP’s Mergers & Acquisitions Group and is co-head of the Firm’s Corporate Governance & Activism Practice. In addition to advising clients on public and private M&A transactions, joint ventures and strategic alliances, she also regularly advises clients on corporate governance, activism and takeover defense matters. Ms. Sawyer’s experience spans multiple industries, including consumer and retail, industrials, medtech and insurance.

Ms. Sawyer has been repeatedly recognized as a leading M&A advisor. She is ranked by Chambers USA in Corporate/M&A, where clients describe her as “an absolute superstar,” and is recognized as a Law360 MVP in Food & Beverage, one of Crain’s “Leading Women Lawyers in New York City,” a “Top Woman Attorney in New York” by Super Lawyers, a Rising Star by IFLR1000 and was named “Dealmaker of the Week” by The American Lawyer. Additional accolades include receiving a Burton Award for Legal Achievement, being chosen as an Empire State Counsel Honoree by the New York State Bar Association and recognition by Super Lawyers for her work in Mergers & Acquisitions, Corporate Governance and Compliance and Business/Corporate.

In the past three years alone, Ms. Sawyer has advised: Apollo Education, AT&T, BBA Aviation, Bessemer, CONMED, CPPIB, CSM Bakery, Diageo, DS Smith, FXI, OTPP, Sotheby’s and UnitedHealth.

Ms. Sawyer is currently a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School, a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a member of the Mergers, Acquisitions & Corporate Control Contests Committee of the New York City Bar Association. Ms. Sawyer has participated in numerous panels for the Practising Law Institute and regularly writes for The M&A Lawyer, The Deal Pipeline and LexisNexis.

Ms. Sawyer is a Hiring Partner, an Associate Development Partner, a member of the Firm’s Managing Partners Committee and the Chair of the Knowledge Management Committee at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP.

Recent Publications

  • “How to prepare for 2019’s proxy season,” Corporate Secretary (2018)
  • When An Activist Designee Joins Your Board,” Law360 (2018)
  • “Facing activists on ESG,” IR Magazine (2018)
  • “Just Getting Started: M&A in 2017 and What to Expect in 2018,” The M&A Lawyer (2018)
  • “Steps to Succession: Planning Techniques for Latin American Family Businesses,” STEP Journal (2017)
  • “Getting to the Head of the Table,” Directors & Boards (2017)


University of Virginia Law School, J.D. 2000