Peter Ellis ’98: Gives Back Through Pro Bono Efforts
Peter M. Ellis ’98 is a partner in the Chicago office of DLA Piper LLP (US), the world’s largest law firm. He has a successful commercial and business litigation practice representing global corporate clients in the areas of franchise, licensing and distribution, product liability, unfair competition, trademark, trade secrets and other intellectual property claims, contract disputes and defending consumer related claims. But equally impressive is the amount of his own time that he donates to pro bono representation and community service organizations in which he is involved.
Ellis has made it a priority to spend as much time as possible “giving back” through organizations and other endeavors, many of which are unrelated to the practice of law.
“It is without question, all lawyers should have something outside of their day-to-day legal practice to keep them balanced,” he said. “We’re fortunate and blessed to do what we do and to have the clients that we have. The lawyers and clients are not only exciting to work with, but they also give us so many opportunities to serve our communities and truly give back.”
One example is his role as board member of the Jazz Institute of Chicago. Dedicated to preserving and promoting jazz, the organization strives to ensure that jazz will be heard — for instance, by providing jazz education for Chicago’s youth, programming the annual Chicago Jazz Festival and staging the numerous JazzCity concerts bringing music to various neighborhoods in Chicago. Ellis volunteers his time to the Jazz Institute because of his love for music generally and jazz in particular.
“I’ve been very strategic with what I get involved in,” he said. “I kill two birds with one stone by choosing to be a part of projects that I enjoy. I satisfy a personal itch and a community service itch.”
In addition to his work with the Jazz Institute, Ellis is a board member of The Harris Theater for Music and Dance, which partners with emerging and mid-sized performing arts organizations to help them to achieve artistic growth and long-term sustainability while presenting world-class music and dance performances. Ellis also serves on the board of The Chicago Botanic Garden, one of the world’s premier teaching and presenting gardens.
In prior years, Ellis served as a board member with the long-standing advocacy organization the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Also, through the Lawyers in the Classroom program, he taught a civics course to third graders in a disadvantaged neighborhood and was asked to be the school’s Principal for a Day.
Ellis is also a leader within the American Bar Association. He became involved in the ABA while at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. He notes, “ABA membership is free to law students and is an excellent opportunity for exposure to various aspects of the practice of law.”
Ellis is the co-chair of the membership committee of the ABA’s largest section, the Section of Litigation. He was offered that leadership position after participating in a “Raise the Bar” colloquium involving improving collegiality and professionalism in the practice.
Ellis chose to pursue a law degree as a way to continue his love of writing and to try to make a difference in the community and in the profession. “Those are the two primary reasons I went to law school,” he said. “I wanted to help both the social community and the business community.” This desire to make a difference was ingrained in him long before law school, then honed during his time at Moritz and thereafter during his clerkship with Judge Algenon L. Marbley in the U.S. District Court for Southern District of Ohio. “Both Professor Morgan Shipman and Judge Marbley constantly reminded me that it is not enough to merely practice law – we must be leaders and make an impact in our community.”
Ellis, originally from Oxford, Ohio, joined Moritz after deciding to return home to Ohio following his undergraduate education. He received his bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan.
Although Ohio State and Michigan share a decades-old rivalry, Ellis found his place at the College without a problem. “It was only an issue in November. There were a few of us who went to Michigan and then came to Moritz; we had to stick together,” he said with a laugh. “It’s all in good fun.”