On the slopes and the courtroom, Ellie Lockwood leaves the competition behind
Published in 2018 Colorado Super Lawyers magazine on March 26, 2018
Ellie Lockwood can see the snow-topped peaks of the Rockies from the windows of her firm’s 19th floor office in downtown Denver, and, every fall, as the seasons begin to shift, she feels their pull. “I always have this weird feeling like I am supposed to pack up and go to the mountains,” she says.
Born in Cleveland, Lockwood began skiing at about 2 years old and relished going with her parents to ski resorts in nearby New York every winter weekend. Then, as a young teenager, she tried snowboarding and never looked back. Lockwood, already an overachiever in school, loved the sport’s steep learning curve—the challenge of staying on the board, the challenge of pulling off increasingly complicated tricks.
“I like complex problem-solving and analyzing things,” she says. “I like to take a situation and learn as much as possible about it and analyze it. You have to do that with snowboarding.”
That’s why, for high school, Lockwood moved by herself halfway across the continent to attend the Lowell Whiteman School, a small private school in Steamboat Springs that’s known for producing alpine greats like Olympian skiers Caroline Levine, Travis Mayer, and Johnny Spillane.
Contrary to slacker snowboarder stereotypes, Lockwood and her compatriots worked like crazy—running, weight lifting, learning gymnastics, and practicing moves like rodeo flips on trampolines until they got them just right. Her daily regimen was brutal: Classes and schoolwork in the morning, followed by afternoon training on the mountain, then more studying, and back up the mountain for occasional evening and night training.
Lockwood’s efforts didn’t let up when the season ended, either. She spent her summers living near Mount Hood in Oregon, training on the peak’s year-round snow fields and glaciers with other elite competitors.
“Looking back on it, it was pretty amazing,” says Lockwood, a 36-year-old associate at Snell & Wilmer. “How did I do all that? It was a brutal schedule.”
The hard work paid off: Competing in half-pipe and slopestyle events, Lockwood became a nationally and internationally ranked snowboarder.
After graduating high school, she turned down college scholarships and moved to Utah to train for a shot at the Olympics. But an ankle injury from a bad skateboard run a couple years later required surgery and knocked her out of competition for a season, forcing her to consider her options: “There was this tension of, ‘Are you going to keep doing this or are you going to grow up and go to college?’” She completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Denver.
With the slopes in her rearview mirror, Lockwood put the focus, diligence and fortitude she’d developed into studying at DU’s Sturm College of Law. “Anyone who is working at that elite level as an athlete, there has to be a lot of crossover in terms of the focus and practice and ability to think and analyze in the moment,” she says. “A lot of that translates well in law. It all helps to build your ability to tackle even the hardest issues.”
After graduating second in her class, Lockwood joined Reilly Pozner, where she tackled some tough cases: Defending a multimillion-dollar trade secret dispute; representing Adams County in a RICO case against contractors who billed for paving roads that didn’t exist; defending a qui tam suit against a Fortune 500 company; and helping to represent certificate holders in the multibillion-dollar mortgage-backed security settlement against Bank of America and its subsidiaries, then the largest civil settlement with a single entity in U.S. history.
In 2016, she moved to Snell & Wilmer, attracted by the firm’s commitment to pro bono work. She’s been keeping busy with commercial and intellectual property litigation while helping run the Colorado Lawyers Committee’s twice-monthly Denver Legal Nights, where volunteer lawyers provide free legal advice to those in need.
She’s been so busy, in fact, that—unlike her husband and three kids, who hit the slopes all the time—she’s only been on a snowboard once in the past 11 years. Lockwood aims to change that this winter. But even if that doesn’t happen, she’s not too worried about it.
“I’m still a badass,” she says with a laugh. “Just in the courtroom.”