Michael J. Kelly


[email protected]

Phone: (312) 360-6554

Fax: (312) 360-6520

Sigmund Freud said, ‘Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.’ I think that’s true of many things - what you see is simply what you get. One notable exception to this rule is our Firm’s values. There is a whole lot more to all of us at Freeborn because of the way our values shape us as a Firm, as a family and in the way they help us deliver value to our clients.



Michael Kelly is Co-Leader of the in the Litigation Practice Group and a member of the Firm's Global Fraud, Investigations and Asset Recovery Team. Michael previously served as the Firm's Co-Managing Partner.

For more than 25 years, Michael has worked with clients on complex litigation cases involving antitrust, contract, insurance, intellectual property and trade secrets, often involving novel issues. Michael is also an experienced counselor, litigating and providing in-depth strategic advice on class action litigation.

He joined the Firm in 1990 after almost 10 years at the Cook County State's Attorney's Office where he conducted numerous grand jury investigations, tried hundreds of cases including countless gang murder cases, and wrote and argued tens of appeals in the Appellate Courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court and the Illinois Supreme Court.

Michael’s experiences in the State’s Attorney’s Office provided a strong foundation for his representations at Freeborn, including:

  • Serving by appointment as a Special Assistant Illinois Attorney General to prosecute the State of Illinois suit against the tobacco industry. That suit resulted in the largest settlement in Illinois history, at more than $9 billion, recovered for the State of Illinois.

  • Counsel for a large Canadian company in In re Potash Antitrust Litigation which was successfully resolved by summary judgment and affirmed on appeal (1993-1999).

  • Successfully prosecuted non-competition and trade secret claims against the former executive of a leading publicly traded insurance brokerage firm for wrongfully soliciting the firm's customers and misusing confidential information. After a full trial, winning a multi-million judgment in damages, attorneys' fees and costs, multiple findings of contempt against the former executive and a referral to the U.S. Attorney's Office for investigation of perjury.

  • Obtained a seven-figure jury verdict, including punitive damages, in a Florida state court, in a high-profile trade secret and restrictive covenant case.  

Representative Matters

Representative Matters

  • Represented plaintiff bank in a legal malpractice action against its former counsel in connection with a portfolio of SBA loans resulting in substantial seven-figure settlement.

  • Represented plaintiff  bankruptcy trustee in an investigation and prosecution of complex claims in connection with multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme resulting in substantial settlements.

  • Secured a victory after a four-day bench trial in federal court in a restrictive covenant case brought by a large national insurance brokerage client against a former executive. The Court awarded $1.9 million in attorneys’ fees, imposed a permanent injunction, cited multiple instances of the defendant breaching both his contractual restrictive covenant and the court’s preliminary injunction order (resulting in numerous findings of contempt of court), and referred both the defendant and a key third-party witness to the Office of the United States Attorney for investigation into possible perjury charges.

  • Prosecuted multi-million dollar dispute over sale of defective goods.

  • Represented Creditor Trustee in bankruptcy of century-old manufacturing business and litigated more than 1,200 claims, including a fraudulent transfer claim in excess of $100 million.

  • Following a 3-week jury trial in Tampa, Florida successfully prosecuted non-competition and trade secret claims against former employees of a leading brokerage firm recovering compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney's fees.

Honors & Awards

Honors & Awards

  • The Best Lawyers in America® – Commercial Litigation, 2023
  • Leading Lawyers - Commercial Litigation
  • Illinois Super Lawyers - 2019 - Business Litigation (cited in multiple years)
  • Martindale-Hubbell legal ability/ethical standards rating (“A-V”) - Highest possible rating
  • Freeborn - Michael Shabat Award
  • Illinois Leading Lawyers - 2020 (cited in multiple years)