Cleary Law LLC

About Ellen Cleary, Esq.

6 Reviews

Eleanor “Ellen” Duffy Cleary is a solo practitioner in downtown Columbia, South Carolina. She focuses her practice on criminal defense, both at the trial level and the post-conviction level. She represents clients before municipal, magistrate, and general sessions courts, as well as administrative boards and appellate courts. She has also appeared numerous times before the board of the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services. In November 2000, she began working as an appellate defender at the Office of Appellate Defense (now a division of the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense). She argued on behalf of indigents convicted of state crimes, ranging from murder to possession of drugs. She has argued dozens of times before the South Carolina Court of Appeals and the SC Supreme Court. She has submitted briefs on numerous legal issues relating to substantive and procedural criminal law.

She is a member of the National College for DUI Defense, Inc. and is a graduate of the 2015 Summer Session. She has attended numerous seminars about DUI defense in South Carolina and has successfully represented many clients accused of DUI.

Born in Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1964, Ellen was raised in the Shandon area of Columbia, South Carolina. She attended Richland County District One public schools, graduating from A.C. Flora High School in 1983. She is a daughter of the late Dr. John J. Duffy, Jr. and the late Marcia T. Duffy. Dr. Duffy retired after serving the University of South Carolina for almost 40 years, as a history professor and a senior administrator. Mrs. Duffy was extremely active in the Democratic Party until her death in 2006. Ellen’s parents instilled in her a strong sense of responsibility for making the world a better place.

Ellen majored in history at the University of South Carolina and graduated magna cum laude in 1987. She was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society while at USC. She was active in the Democratic Party and served as president of the South Carolina Young Democrats from 1987 to 1989. In 1988, she was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. She also served as national executive committee member for the SC Young Democrats from 1990 to 1992. She currently serves on the Richland County Democratic Party Executive Committee.
Ellen worked at the Department of Social Services in Richland and Lexington counties, determining eligibility for government assistance. She then worked as an investigator for DSS’s Office of Child Support Enforcement. She helped the agency’s attorneys obtain child support for custodial parents.

In 1991, she decided to go to law school and was admitted into the University of South Carolina School of Law. She was admitted into the Order of the Wig and Robe in May 1994. She received the American Jurisprudence Award for Criminal Procedure II and Contracts. She served as co-chairperson of the Law Week committee, organizing the Law Follies. She was also a member of Law Democrats, the Environmental Law Society, and the Public Interest Law Society.

After receiving her juris doctorate and being admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1994, Ellen began working full-time for the South Carolina Senate’s Office of Senate Research. In that capacity, she researched and drafted legislation and staffed legislative committees. In November 2000, she began working as an appellate defender at the Office of Appellate Defense (now a division of the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense). She argued on behalf of indigents convicted of state crimes, ranging from murder to possession of drugs. She has argued dozens of times before the South Carolina Court of Appeals and the SC Supreme Court. She has submitted briefs on numerous legal issues relating to substantive and procedural criminal law.

Ellen served for three years as an attorney coach in the South Carolina Bar’s Law-Related Education Mock Trial competition from 2003 to 2006. She coached E.L. Wright Middle School’s team of talented young people, which advanced to the state competition twice under her leadership.

She is a member of the South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (SCACDL), the National College for DUI Defense. Ellen is admitted to practice in all South Carolina Courts, the United District Court for the District of South Carolina, the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States Supreme Court.

Ellen received an AV Preeminent (4.9) rating, which is a significant rating accomplishment – a testament to the fact that her peers rank her at the highest level of professional excellence. AV Preeminent and BV Distinguished are certification marks of Reed Elsevier Properties Inc., used in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell® certification procedures, standards and policies.

Ellen lives in Forest Acres with husband and daughter. She is married to Vivian “Paul” Cleary, an Irish National from Dublin.

“She helped me get a great deal on my case. She is very knowledgeable, friendly, smart, intellectual, but down to earth and easy to talk to. I highly recommend her.”

Client in Irmo


“Eleanor Duffy Cleary went above and beyond my expectation. She did her homework, crossed all t’s and and dotted all of the i’s in our case. Eleanor paid attention to all of our needs and helped us to overcome a bogus DUI charge. I would recommend her and her services to anyone in need of an attorney.”

Client in Lexington County


“Very professional, very helpful and will fight for her clients to the end. I wish I could give 100 stars will recommend any one to Ms. Cleary thank you so much for everything.”

Client in Columbia

6 Reviews

“Wonderful caring attorney and person. It is not fake.”

Anne S. W. – Former Richland County Prosecutor.


“Wicked smart lawyer and a great advocate. She is the real deal.”

John H. – Lawyer in Columbia


“Ellen always does an excellent job. I would recommend her without reservation!”

Elizabeth F. – Lawyer in Columbia

5 Endorsements