Distinguished Lawyer Memorial Honoree

Ellen Whelan

Ellen lived a remarkable life of accomplishment and civic purpose. After graduating from the Hathaway Brown School in Cleveland, where she was president of her class, she headed off to Mount Holyoke College. Her plans changed in the summer of 1976 when she suffered an automobile accident, severing her spine and leaving her quadriplegic at age 19. 

As the first wheelchair-bound student admitted at Stanford Law School, Ellen graduated in 1984 to a standing ovation. She joined the Trusts and Estates group at Gray, Cary, Ames & Frye, which became DLA Piper. In 2022 she moved her practice to Duane Morris. During her almost 40-year career, she became one of the most respected trusts and estates attorneys in California. Her clientele was a testament to her unmatched expertise, featuring the most distinguished names in the region. 

In addition to her legal work, Ellen contributed a significant amount of her time and energy to various charitable causes. She served as a Board member of several esteemed organizations, where her contributions left an indelible mark on San Diego’s cultural and social fabric. 
Ellen’s unwavering determination and indomitable spirit turned her into a pioneer within the industry. Against all odds, she redefined what is possible in the legal profession and in life. Ellen’s legacy will continue to be a guiding light for many aspiring attorneys, reminding everyone of the power of resilience, determination, and the immeasurable impact of giving back to the community.