Michael D. Freeborn is a Partner Emeritus in the Litigation Practice of Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP. He was a founding member of the Chicago law firm of Freeborn & Peters, which grew from six lawyers in 1983 to more than 130 before combining with SGR in 2023.
Mr. Freeborn has been a trial lawyer for more than 50 years. He has represented individuals and companies in business litigation at both the trial and appellate level and has extensive experience in antitrust, commercial, employment, environmental, product liability and securities litigation.
He is the only lawyer in history to win a jury trial for a company in a “fraud on the market” securities class action, despite evidence that directors and officers of the company were selling shares prior to a disappointing earnings announcement. Grassi v. Information Resources, Inc., 63 F.3d 596 (7th Cir. 1995). The defendant’s successful use of a “shadow jury” during trial of the case was featured in a front-page article of the National Law Journal.
During another trial, the district court abruptly dismissed the case even before the plaintiff had rested. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recounted that the plaintiff’s luck suddenly “went south” only after being subjected to a “withering cross examination.” Mr. Freeborn conducted that examination. Hrobowski v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 203 F.3d 445 (7th Cir. 2000) (reversed and remanded for further proceedings).
The publisher of Chicago Lawyer magazine honored Mr. Freeborn as one of 10 lawyers who, during the preceding decade, “raised the bar” in the Illinois legal profession. “From the courtroom, to complicated transactions, each attorney selected made an impact on the legal profession, as we know it,” according to the award summary.
Based on a peer review process conducted by Leading Lawyers, a division of Law Bulletin Media, Mr. Freeborn has repeatedly been recognized as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the state of Illinois.
He has seen firsthand the value of pro bono work and how individual lawyers and their law firms can change the world through strategic alignment with important causes. He is a co-founder of the Willow Creek Legal Aid Ministry, a pro bono organization in suburban Chicago which serves more than 1,000 low-income clients per year.
Mr. Freeborn is no longer a Partner in the Firm. However, in recognition of his accomplishments, the Firm has conferred upon him the honorary title of Partner Emeritus, the first ever to be so honored.
Mr. Freeborn earned his J.D. from the Indiana University McKinney School of Law where he served as Associate Editor of the Law Journal, and later on the Board of Visitors. He earned his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago and his B.S. from the United States Air Force Academy.
Illinois Super Lawyers - Business Litigation (cited in multiple years)
Leading Lawyers magazine - The Top 100 Attorneys in Illinois
Fellow Emeritus - Litigation Counsel of America
Martindale-Hubbell legal ability/ethical standards rating ("A-V") - Highest possible rating
Benchmark Litigation - 2019 Local Litigation Star