Melissa Van Buhler

About Melissa

Melissa advises clients in the areas of cybersecurity, privacy, intellectual property, online marketing, and commercial/technology transactions. Her strength lies in helping clients find creative solutions to complex problems while minimizing risk and maintaining regulatory compliance.

Prior to entering private practice in 2018, Melissa spent more than fifteen years on active duty as a Judge Advocate in the United States Army. She draws on almost twenty years of military leadership training and legal experience to guide clients toward their goals. 

A combat veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Melissa served one year deployed as the general counsel to a mechanized infantry brigade of 4,000 Soldiers in Taji, Iraq. Her combat time included training U.S. forces embedded with Iraqi forces on the rules of engagement. Melissa then changed direction and transferred to the intelligence community where she advised national security elites on diverse matters ranging from applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, defense of national security systems, and support to the Army’s most elite special forces. During her time at U.S. Cyber Command, she led the development of intelligence oversight programs for the command’s intelligence collection authority. She held a Top Secret clearance for ten years and worked across intelligence disciplines (signals intelligence, human intelligence, and counterintelligence) within and among the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community.  

She is an expert on data lifecycle governance and oversight, as well as the privacy and security implications of data processing and sharing. Following data from collection through processing, sharing, and destruction is a familiar process for Melissa. She helps organizations identify legal risks within their organizations and implement policies and procedures to address and minimize that risk. Melissa also helps her clients navigate complex contractual relationships with third parties, such as customers and business partners, to identify and manage privacy and data security risks.

Service to others is a way of life for Melissa, and she is excited to serve Focal’s diverse clientele. She continues to live by the Army values of selfless service and honor in seizing opportunities to lead and support both clients and the Focal team. In her off time, you will find her outside running in the woods, skiing down a mountain, or planning her next adventure. 

Contact Melissa

Get in Touch with Melissa

Practice Areas

  • Advertising & Marketing
  • Commercial Transactions
  • Cybersecurity
  • Intellectual Property Transactions
  • Privacy


  • University of Colorado Boulder, LL.M., Information & Intellectual Property (2013)
  • The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia, LL.M., Military Law (2010)
  • University of Richmond, J.D., cum laude (2001)
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, B.S., Kenan Flagler Business School, (1998)
  • Commission, United States Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (2nd Lieutenant, U.S. Army)

Bar Admissions

  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • United States Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit
  • United States government Top Secret Clearance (2006-2017)

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More about Melissa


  • Cybersecurity & Data Privacy Attorney, Newman Du Wors, LLP (2018-2019)
  • Legal Counsel, International Human Rights Training, Defense Institute International Legal Studies (2015-2017)
  • Legal Counsel and Chief of Intelligence Law, Oversight, United States Cyber Command (2015-2017)
  • United States Army Judge Advocate General Corps, Major, Retired (2002-2017)
  • In House Legal Advisor, United States Army Special Operations Command (2010-2012)
  • Military Legal Counsel, Office of General Counsel, National Security Agency (2007-2009)
  • Manuscripts Editor, University of Richmond, Journal of Law & Technology

Awards & Recognition

  • Defense Meritorious Service Medal
  • Iraqi Campaign Medal
  • National Defense Service Medal
  • Global War on Terrorism Service Medal