Immediately prior to opening his own firm, Ellis served as General Counsel for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) from February 2013 to April 2014. Beginning in September 2013, he also served as Deputy Secretary to the Secretary of Public Safety. In these roles, Ellis addressed a wide array of legal and operational issues for an organization with 26,000+ employees and an approximately two-billion dollar budget. DPS is responsible for the North Carolina prison and parole systems, State Highway Patrol, Emergency Management Division, National Guard, and the juvenile justice system.
As a lawyer for DPS, Ellis gave advice about employment issues, business liability, and interpretations of and compliance with a multitude of state and federal laws. He was also responsible for managing how the Attorney General's lawyers represented DPS in courts all over the state. This experience has given Ellis a broad perspective on how a business evaluates legal issues and deploys outside counsel while always focusing on accomplishing its core mission.
In the two years prior to working for DPS, Ellis served as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) in the Eastern District of North Carolina from late 2010 to early 2013. He worked in the Civil Division and tried 19 federal trials related to civil commitments under the Adam Walsh Act. He also had extensive experience representing the United States against negligence and medical malpractice claims for personal injuries under the FTCA and as a creditor in bankruptcy cases. This experience allowed Ellis to hone his trial skills in federal court.
In the four years prior to serving as an AUSA, Ellis was an associate in the business litigation practice group of Womble, Carylye, Sandridge and Rice in Winston-Salem. This experience allowed Ellis to work on many matters related to business formation and dissolution. In doing so, he developed an appreciation for the factors that a business should consider when deciding how to best protect its legal rights while minimizing the expense required in hiring lawyers. He also learned the importance of attention to detail that can make or break the outcome in a legal dispute. Details matter, and knowing how to harness those details wins cases.
Upon graduation from law school, Ellis served as a law clerk for the Honorable Claude Hilton, a U.S. District Court Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia. Judge Hilton is a highly regarded judge who taught Ellis invaluable lessons about how a federal court operates from the inside. This immersion into the substance and procedure of federal law has continued to serve him long after the conclusion of that clerkship. Good lawyers win using procedure, so understanding the fundamentals is important.
Ellis is from Northeastern North Carolina - born and raised in Edenton. He left Edenton to earn a degree in history from Davidson College. When he graduated, he was also commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant by his Army R.O.T.C. program. He served as an Infantry officer in the U.S. Army for four years and left as a Captain. He spent a year in Ft. Benning, Georgia and then three years in Ft. Riley, Kansas. After serving in the Army, Ellis returned to North Carolina and earned a law degree from Wake Forest University Law School, where he was selected to serve as a member of the Law Review.
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