Peter Reid was born and raised in Aberdeen, Washington. He is a graduate of Stanford University, New York University School of Law, where he was managing editor of the NYU Journal of International Law and Politics, recipient of the Arthur T. Vanderbilt medal, a fellow in the Arthur Garfield Hayes Civil Liberties Program, and holds an LLM in African Law from the School of Oriental and African Studies of London University. Peter served two years in the Peace Corps in Tanzania.

After law school, he was awarded a Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship through the University of Pennsylvania Law School and assigned to work with California Rural Legal Assistance in McFarland, California. From CRLA Peter moved to San Mateo Legal Aid where he became Executive Director, serving for more than thirty years. While at San Mateo, he was awarded the Loren Miller Award by the State Bar of California and was named Lawyer of the Year by the San Mateo County Trial Lawyers Association.

In 2002 he was asked by Kathleen Sullivan, Dean of Stanford Law School, to establish a Community Law Clinical Program in East Palo Alto and to teach the accompanying course, which he did until his retirement in 2006. While at Stanford he also taught a course on African Law and took his students to Ghana to work with public interest law firms. At the time of his retirement he moved with his wife to Olympia, Washington, where he has served as Chair of the Washington State Parks Foundation, President of the Olympia World Affairs Council, and member of the editorial board of the Olympian newspaper. They live in Olympia and in Santa Cruz, California.