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Lisa Ellman

Washington, D.C.

Lisa Ellman

Widely recognized as one of the "world's foremost authorities on drones and law," Lisa Ellman offers a unique perspective and vast experience to clients, helping them push policy boundaries forward and get ahead in the fast-changing regulatory environment.

Lisa chairs the firm's Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) practice, a group dedicated to helping businesses succeed in the dynamic drone marketplace. Lisa's focus is expanding the commercial drone industry, including as co-founder and co-leader of the Commercial Drone Alliance. She also focuses on UAS security efforts. Lisa recently hosted the Domestic Drone Security Summit, for the first time ever bringing national security agencies together with industry to explore collaboration opportunities around drone security.

Throughout her career, Lisa has worked to bridge government policymaking and business innovation (a combination that has become known as "polivation".) Lisa has held a variety of positions at top levels of the executive branch at the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Most recently, she led the DOJ's effort to develop policy that would govern the use of UAS in the United States, and represented the DOJ in the federal interagency process considering UAS-related policy issues.

Lisa is a highly sought-after thought leader on drones law and policy. Her opinions have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fortune Magazine, and other publications — and she regularly appears on television to talk about the latest developments. Lisa was recently featured in Fortune's "Most Powerful Women" series for her efforts to develop policy to govern drone use in the United States. She also delivered a TEDx talk in 2014.

"Obama's former law student is shaping the nation's policy on drones."

Elizabeth Segran, Fortune Magazine

Representative experience

Assist UAS companies with participation in FAA's UAS Pathfinder Program to push UAS policy boundaries forward.

Help companies and universities navigate the FAA's Section 333 exemption process to get permission to fly drones in the U.S.

Assist businesses and trade associations to craft a public policy strategy that moves innovation forward and enables their businesses to succeed.

Assist companies entering the dynamic UAS marketplace to craft a business strategy for success.

Provide UAS companies with counsel on privacy and data security issues.

Education and admissions


  • J.D./M.P.P., The University of Chicago Law School and Harris School of Public Policy, 2005
  • B.A. History, University of Michigan, 2000

Bar admissions and qualifications

  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois

Court admissions

  • U.S. Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit
  • U.S. Supreme Court


Transport: Aviation and Air Travel, Leading Lawyer

Legal 500 US


Government: Government Relations

Legal 500 US


Media, Technology, and Telecoms: Technology: Transactions

Legal 500 US


Media, Technology, and Telecoms: Telecoms and Broadcast: Transactional

Legal 500 US


Government: Government Contracts

Legal 500 US


Rising Star

National Law Journal D.C.

Latest thinking and events

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