40 Under Forty 2022



M ary Eileen Cunniff Wells served no- tice that she was a rising legal star early in her career. When she was a junior attorney working with the City of Chicago Law Department, Wells helped craft Chi- cago’s lawsuit against the opioid industry. This was one of the first lawsuits of its kind in the country, and Wells played a key role in creating it. Wells combined thorough legal analysis with a pragmatic approach to problem solving to help negotiate the settlement of a putative class action challenging the city’s procedures for addressing home- less encampments on the public way. Her peers say that Wells’ practical ideas and advice resulted in a workable solution for both sides and integrated the input and interests of multiple stakeholders. “Mary Eileen is a truly exceptional at- torney,” said Andrew Worseck, chief as- sistant corporation counsel with the City of Chicago Law Department. “She is very smart and thorough when it comes to researching legal issues and formulating a legal analysis. But I was even more im- pressed with her excellent judgment and discretion, especially because she was still a very junior attorney when she worked at the City. She showed wisdom far beyond her years.” Wells has further boosted her reputa- tion as a top young attorney since moving into private practice. At Miller Shakman, Wells has represented entities and indi- viduals in disputes with government over constitutional, statutory, and regulatory rights, including in a recent case in which she successfully argued before the Illinois Supreme Court. She has also had success

for her clients in commercial litigation cases—including a multi-million judgment for her client at trial—and in professional liability and ethics matters. Wells’ peers say that this young attor- ney is a true advisor to her clients. “Mary Eileen is a brilliant lawyer,” said one nom- inator. “However, what makes her truly exceptional, is that she has an incredible ability to take complex legal issues and drill them down to a couple, concise sen- tences. It is truly a gift that makes her an incredible communicator and valued counsel to her clients.” And the results? They’ve been impres- sive. It’s why so many clients return to Wells whenever they face complex legal issues. Ramon Villalpando, with the U.S. Attor- ney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois, worked with Wells when they both clerked for Judge Ruben Castillo. During that time, Villalpando said, he saw Wells’ impressive legal skills firsthand, including in a complex civil rights case. Wells was as- signed to help Judge Castillo with several complicated pre- and post-trial motions. “I did not envy Mary Eileen’s assign- ment,” Villalpando said. “But she handled it the way I saw her handle many others: with an open mind, a rigorous and thor- ough examination of the record and ap- plicable law and cheerful enthusiasm. Although I was the ‘senior’ law clerk the term we clerked together, I learned a great deal from Mary Eileen.” Outside of her profession, Wells is a member of the associate board of the Chicago Public Library Foundation and the Parent Advisory Committee of Frances Xavier Warde School.

Mary Eileen is a truly exceptional attorney”

AGE 39

FIRM Miller Shakman Levine & Feldman LLP

LAW SCHOOL Stanford Law School

AREA OF PRACTICE Civil rights, professional liability, commercial litigation


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