Michael W. Ellison

Top rated insurance coverage attorney in Irvine, California

Smith Ellison
Michael W. Ellison
Smith Ellison

Practice Areas: Insurance coverage, Business litigation, Intellectual property

Licensed in California since: 1990

Education: The University of Michigan Law School

Selected to Super Lawyers: 2014 - 2023

Smith Ellison

2151 Michelson Dr
Suite 185
Irvine, CA 92612 Phone: 949-442-1500 Email: Michael W. Ellison Visit website


Mr. Ellison, President of Smith Ellison, represents clients in complex business litigation matters. He devotes a majority of his practice to cases involving insurance coverage related to environmental sites, having represented insurance companies and policyholders in cases involving thousands of environmental sites and billions of dollars of alleged response costs, including more than a dozen sites that individually involved in excess of one hundred million dollars of alleged response costs. Mr. Ellison also routinely represents companies in other complex insurance coverage actions, copyright actions, and a variety of other complex business litigation matters including, inter alia, representing companies in class actions including securities and consumer class actions, representing a major oil company in an unfair completion suit against another major oil company, representing franchisors in disputes with franchisees, representing companies in an array of contract disputes, and representing individuals and companies in actions involving an assortment of business tort claims.

Prior to joining Smith Ellison, Mr. Ellison was a member of the Litigation Department of the international law firm Latham & Watkins. Mr. Ellison is admitted to practice before all state and federal courts in California, and has also practiced before the United States District Courts for the District of Nevada, District of Massachusetts, Eastern District of Missouri, Western District of Missouri, Northern District of New York, and Northern District of Texas.

Mr. Ellison earned his J.D. cum laude, from the University of Michigan and also received an M.A. in Philosophy from Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan.  He completed his mediation training at the Program on Negotiation of Harvard Law School.  Prior to graduate school, he earned his B.A. in Chemistry and Philosophy cum laude from Cornell University.  During summers while at Cornell he conducted research on thermal analysis of polymers at the Institute of Materials Science of the University of Connecticut and on issues related to nuclear waste at the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.  In addition to his work as an attorney, Mr. Ellison has also served as an adjunct Professor of Philosophy of Law.  He is a member of the State Bar of California, the Orange County Bar Association, and the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, and is a founding member of the Celtic Bar Association of Orange County. He has served as Chair of the Orange County Bar Association's Pro Bono Committee, as a member of the Executive Committee of the Ethics Committee of the ABA/YLD, and as a member of the Legal and Insurance Committee of the Pacific Club.  He is currently a member of the OCBA's Diversity & Inclusion Committee.  Outside of work, Mr. Ellison enjoys playing soccer, lacrosse, and golf, riding supersport motorcycles, and spending time with his wife, adult children, and Irish wolfhounds.

First Admitted: 1990, California

Professional Webpage: http://www.sehlaw.com/attorneys/michaelwellisonesq.html

Pro bono/Community Service:
  • Chair OCBA Pro Bono Committee 1996-2000; President and Head Coach, Irvine Lacrosse Association 2004-2013; Pacific Club, member of House Committee and Insurance and Legal Affairs Committee  
Bar/Professional Activity:
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court Central District of California
  • Member, Orange County Bar Association
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court Southern District of California
  • U.S. District Courts Eastern District of Missouri
  • U.S. District Courts Northern District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of California
  • Former Member, American Bar Association/YLD, Executive Committee of the Ethics Committee
  • U.S. District Court Western District of California
  • Member, State Bar of California
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Courts District of Massachusetts
  • U.S. District Courts Northern District of New York
  • U.S. District Court Central District of California
  • Former Chair, Orange County Bar Association, Pro Bono Committee
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of California
  • Association of Business Trial Lawyers
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Courts District of Nevada
  • U.S. District Courts Western District of Missouri
  • California, 1989
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of California
  • Founding Member, Celtic Bar Association
Scholarly Lectures/Writings:
  • Adjunct Professor of Philosophy of Law at California State University, Long Beach
  • Cum Laude, University of Michigan, 1989
Educational Background:
  • Rackham School of Graduate Studies at the University of Michigan, M.A. in Philosophy, 1989
  • Cornell University, B.A. in Chemistry and Philosophy, Cum Laude, 1985
  • The University of Michigan Law School, 1989
  • Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School, 2013

Office location for Michael W. Ellison

2151 Michelson Dr
Suite 185
Irvine, CA 92612


10 Years Super Lawyers
  • Super Lawyers: 2014 - 2023

Top Lists

Top 50: Orange County Super Lawyers: 2019

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