Chicago Lawyer is proud to present the 2022 Salute! Women in Law special section.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
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Inside this special edition are profiles of exceptional women leaders in the law who have been named as the Law Bulletin Media’s 4th annual Women in Law – Leaders Leaning In honorees. Each of them have this in common: they are making incredible impact on our profession, have achieved success while mentoring and promoting other women and have been shining examples of leadership. Earlier this year we put the call out for nominations of women lawyers who are leading the way. We received more than 300 nominations and selecting the honorees was not an easy job. There are so many incredible women in the Chi- cago legal profession.
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WOMEN IN LAW 2023
2020 W OMEN IN LAW ALUMNI
Uma Amuluru Aurora Austriaco Margaret Battersby Black Olivia Bedi Margaret Benson Monique “Nikki” Bhargava Bethany Bisenthal
Marilee Clausing Tara Devine
Marci Einstein Angela Elbert Amy Garrett Teresa Wilton Harmon
Corinne Heggie Margaret Hickey Laura Hoey Kristen Hudson Precious Jacobs Michele Jochner
Cathy Birkeland Amy Blumenthal Patricia Bobb Deane B. Brown Amy Campanelli Kara Cenar
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
2020 W OMEN IN LAW ALUMNI
Elizabeth Kaveny Sarah King Erica Kirkwood Andrea Kramer Mary Meg McCarthy Fiona McEntee Shannon McNulty Kim Metrick Julie Miceli Britt Miller Katherine Minarik Linda Myers Nancy Paridy
Jane Parker Rebekah Parker Kristen Prinz Lorna Propes Sammi Renken Meredith Ritchie Stephanie Scharf Susan Schwartz Eileen Sethna Diane Webster Mary Wilson Nicole Wrigley
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
2021 W OMEN IN LAW ALUMNI
Lisa Acevado Kathryn Kovitz Arnold
Kenya Jenkins-Wright Paula Ketcham Vivian Khalaf Liv Kiser Michelle Kohut Marcy Kott Jennifer Kraft Anna Krolikowska
Laura Ashmore Avanti Bakane
Kristin Barnette McCarthy Catherine Basque Weller Laurel Bellows Juliet Berger-White Kimberly Blair Leah Bruno Miriam L. Burkland Susan Capra Judy Cates
Eileen Letts Nicole Lttle Kathy Malamis Beth McComack Desiree Moore Adria. Mossing Sue Myerscough Margo O’Donnell
Kate Conway Rachel Cowen Leslie Davis
Aimee Delaney Christina Egan Elizabether Fegan Felicia Frazier Nancy Gerrie Meighan Harmon Stacie Hartman Julianne Hartzell Lindsay Jenkins
Marcia Owens Megan Poetzel Trisha Rich Jennifer Ries-Buntain
Cindy Sobel Donna Socol
Malaika Tyson Anna Wermuth Gretchen Wolf
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
2022 W OMEN IN LAW ALUMNI
Gemma Allen Laurie Bauer
Hon. Cecilia Horan Janelle Ibeling Stephanie Jones Debbie Kleban Eva Kogut Frances krasnow Anne Larson Jessica Lingertat Yvette C. Loizon Lindsey Paige Markus Courtney Mayster Kathleen McDonough
Elizabeth McMeen Kathryn Mickelson
Kenyatta Beverly Carolyn Blessing Eleanor Cabrere Sara Davis Nancy DePodesta
Karen Munoz Jennifer Naber Emily Newhouse Dillingham Paulita Pike Jennifer Rosato Perea Cari Silverman Cardelle B. Spangler Jill Webb
Jill Felkins Ann Ford
Sandra Frantzen Margaret Gisch Patricia Brown Holmes
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
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LOUISE ARNOTT PARTNER Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
L ouise Arnott is a Partner and brand protection attorney at Michael Best, with a practice focused on trademark, copyright, advertising, and online brand enforcement. Serving as a trusted strategic advisor, Louise focuses on understanding each client’s unique needs and crafting practical solutions to help them achieve their goals. With a client list that includes Fortune 500 companies and iconic global brands, Louise manages international trademark portfolios and counsels companies on trademark clearance, prosecution, maintenance, and enforcement matters. Louise also advises clients on copyright registration, enforcement, and transactions, and she has particular expertise with respect to trade dress protection and enforcement. Additionally, Louise assists clients with intellectual property due diligence in corporate transactions, and handles internet and social media enforcement. She is tenacious in business development, bringing several significant new clients to the firm in her first year as a Partner. Louise’s approach to business growth is driven by her desire to mentor and promote women at all levels in the legal profession. Through a robust network of women IP lawyers, Louise promotes women-led legal teams to women in-house counsel. Her inclusive approach has resulted in strong working relationships and lasting friendships with her clients. At Michael Best, Louise routinely mentors women associates and ensures each member of her team plays a substantive role. She is active in the firm’s Women’s Development Group, providing guidance on professional and business development. As someone who understands the importance of creating and promoting a
powerful brand, Louise teaches other women how to build their own personal brands. Louise also serves as an adjunct professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, where she teaches Legal Writing IV with a focus on trademark and copyright law. She encourages law students to pursue a legal career with a particular focus on women interested in intellectual property. Louise earned her Juris Doctor degree in 2014 and has spent nearly her entire legal career at Michael Best. She was elevated to Partner in 2022 after just seven years with the firm, due to her strong work ethic and leadership focus. Louise is active in professional organizations including the Chicago Bar Association, the International Trademark Association, and the Richard Linn American Inn of Court. She has also been recognized by U.S. News’ Best Lawyers – Women in the Law: Ones to Watch, and she has been named an ‘Emerging Lawyer’ in the Chicago region by Leading Lawyers . Before becoming an attorney, Louise worked in the trademark department at Abbott Laboratories, where she gained an inside perspective on many of the issues she helps her clients navigate today. Outside of her brand protection practice, Louise is passionate about philanthropy in the field of cancer research. She co- founded and co-chairs the Associate Board of Lurie Cancer Center, supporting early-stage cancer research. Louise also serves as a member of the Friends of Lurie Cancer Center Advisory Board and regularly volunteers with women professionals at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center offering beauty services to patients undergoing treatment. Louise is a testament to women in law, modeling professional and personal success in dedication and integrity.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
NICOLE AUERBACH FOUNDER ElevateNext Law
N icole Auerbach has made her mark as an innovator in the legal industry -- twice. Nicole began her career and practiced for 15 years at an AmLaw 100 firm in Chicago where she was a partner in the litigation department. In 2008, she co-founded Valorem Law Group, which became nationally known for pioneering the alternative fee arrangement movement. In 2016, Valorem was named as one of the “Top Firms at Using AFAs” by BTI Consulting. In 2018, Nicole co- founded and now leads ElevateNext, a law firm integrated within the global legal service provider, Elevate. This unique combination blends high-quality legal expertise with people, process, and technology to significantly lower legal spend and substantially increase efficiency without compromising outcomes. Nicole represents clients in federal and state courts and in arbitrations across the country and is considered a trendsetter when it comes to innovation. She was an early adopter of the use of lawyers + generative AI to exponentially increase productivity and substantially lower the cost of litigation. Nicole sits on the Executive Leadership Team of Elevate and serves as its Deputy General Counsel. ElevateNext was named one of the Best Law Firms in commercial litigation in 2021, 2022 and 2023 by U.S. News & World Reports and Best Lawyers. The highlight of Nicole’s career was helping a client get exonerated and released from prison where he had spent 21 years for a crime he
did not commit. In 2017, Nicole obtained one of the top 11 verdicts in Illinois after a six-week federal civil rights jury trial for the same case. The verdict was upheld on appeal. In 2022, Nicole was named one of the “Top 50 Women Lawyers in Illinois” by Super Lawyers. In 2019 she was named a “Notable Gen X Leader in Law” by Crain’s Chicago Business and one of the “Most Influential Women Attorneys in Chicago” by Crain’s Publishing in 2017. Nicole was named one of the “40 Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch” by Law Bulletin Publishing in 2005. In 2008, Nicole co-founded the Coalition of Women Initiatives in Law, which now has chapters in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. The Coalition’s mission is to foster the development, advancement and retention of women at all stages of their careers. Its membership and programming reaches thousands of women per year. Nicole currently sits on the Coalition’s National Board. Nicole is a certified arbitrator on the roster of the American Arbitration Association. She is also a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and the American Bar Foundation. She is an advisory board member of The Institute of Inclusion in the Legal Profession and of Novus Law. Nicole regularly speaks and writes about issues regarding innovation in the legal industry, a concept she works hard to ensure is not considered an oxymoron.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
HEATHER BECKER PARTNER Laner Muchin
H eather Becker is a labor and employment attorney with Laner Muchin’s Litigation practice group. Over the past 20 years, Heather has solidified her reputation as a knowledgeable, reliable resource for her clients. A self-assured and effective communicator, she champions equitable outcomes for employers and employees alike. Heather has a knack for quickly identifying the key issues of a matter without losing sight of the humanity at the core of every employment dispute. She has significant experience in matters related to discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wage payment, civil rights, constitutionality, whistleblowers and employment contracts. Heather represents employers from the public and private sectors before federal and state courts, as well as administrative agencies. Despite her strength as a litigator, Heather’s primary goal is to anticipate and prevent workplace conflict through internal investigations and effective counseling whenever possible. When disputes do arise, she facilitates candid communication amongst all parties. By developing trusting relationships with her clients from the start, Heather is able to help them achieve their goals and resolve matters efficiently. Heather’s crusade for humane workplaces starts at Laner, where she actively contributes to an environment of growth and inclusion. As the chair of Laner College, she helps her colleagues remain at the cutting edge of their respective practice areas, staying up to date
with the latest trends in employment law and legal strategy. Heather is also the chair of Laner’s mentorship program, where she maintains systematic support and inclusion for newer attorneys pursuing professional growth. She champions workplace integrity through her work with Laner’s Ethics Committee. Outside of Laner, Heather hosts roundtables and seminars on issues such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act for the Society for Human Resources Management, Chicago Chapter. She also recently served as a panelist for the American Conference Institute, discussing post-pandemic workplace issues. Heather is a widely published thought leader who contributes to Chicago SHRM’s newsletter and has appeared in the ABA Section of Litigation, Employment and Labor Relations Newsletter, the Illinois Bar Journal and the Annual Institute on Employment Law Treatises. In her spare time, Heather volunteers with Cradles to Crayons and Lakeview Food Pantry, ensuring her neighbors have the food and clothing they need to get through harsh Chicago winters. She also engages in pro bono work and recently spent over 100 hours helping a client appeal an application for disability benefits. Heather has received recognition from Law Bulletin Media, Illinois Super Lawyers, Illinois Leading Lawyers, and Best Lawyers. She obtained her JD from DePaul University College of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the DePaul Law Review, was elected to the Order of the Coif and graduated summa cum laude.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
CO-MANAGING SHAREHOLDER Nyhan, Bambrick, Kinzie & Lowry
A my Bilton serves as Nyhan’s co-managing shareholder and was the firm’s first female shareholder. She is now one of three female shareholders at the firm and works tirelessly to ensure all female attorneys are heard and encouraged to share concerns as she is aware of the struggle and stress that women face in a male-dominated field. Amy has and continues to mentor junior attorneys within the firm, showing them the ropes of case management and guiding them through the processes so they can gain a better understanding as well as providing a listening ear not just for mentees, but for all in the firm. As a member of the firm’s Management Committee, Amy is not only committed to her practice but also the well-being of the firm. She is involved in assessing Nyhan’s environment and ensuring that DEI initiatives are executed and contribute to the firm’s growth. She has also led the firm’s rebranding efforts as well as various technology initiatives and guided the consolidation of office space and remodeling. In her practice, she is a nationally recognized workers’ compensation defense and Medicare secondary payer (MSP) attorney and began the MSP practice at Nyhan. Amy operates across industries and all levels of insurance, including uninsured, insured, self-insured, and excess insurance, to carefully balance the needs of each party and each client’s unique motivations. Utilizing her experience in the process of initial investigations, tracking where the liability in the case begins and ends, and through post-settlement actions, Amy considers
the idiosyncrasies of each case to ensure all significant details are uncovered. She has managed catastrophic claims and issues with novel medical topics that are often challenging and bring potential media exposure and has presented on many topics relating to her practice such as opioid addiction, MSA compliance, catastrophic workers’ compensation claims, and COVID in the workplace. In addition to her successful practice, Amy is actively involved in the legal community. She is a fellow with the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, a fellow and instructor for the Certified Medicare Secondary Payer Professional and Fellow classes, and is past president of the National Medicare Secondary Payer Network. Amy also serves as chairperson of the Board of Commissioners of the International Commission on Healthcare Certification Medicare Set Aside Consultants Certified Group and has been appointed to the Medical Fee Advisory Board of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. Outside of the legal realm, Amy is a board member of Habitat for Humanity Chicago as well as the committee co-chair and team leader for the annual Women Build. Through this organization, she both builds homes and raises funds to create affordable housing in areas that have been impacted by disinvestment. Amy is also the treasurer and past president of the Commercial Park Advisory Council, a fundraising group that provides programming and a safe place for youth, adults and at-risk individuals to gather and participate in learning opportunities.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
DEBRA BOGO-ERNST PARTNER Willkie Farr & Gallagher
D ebra Bogo-Ernst is a partner in Willkie’s Litigation Department and Chair of the Class Action Litigation Practice. She is based in Willkie’s Chicago office. With over 20 years of experience, Ms. Bogo-Ernst represents a broad range of national and international organizations in class actions and other high-stakes, complex litigation in the areas of autos, financial services, insurance, privacy, products liability, and telecommunications. These cases involve the alphabet soup of statutory claims, privacy, unfair and deceptive trade practices, false advertising, safety and efficacy issues, false claims, government programs, fair housing and discrimination, civil conspiracy, and fraud-related claims. She also handles a variety of government investigations, regulatory matters, and enforcement actions involving state attorneys general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Justice, and other state agencies. Ms. Bogo-Ernst often assists clients in navigating Consent Orders and other government settlements, including through
the use of independent consultants. She also defends companies in a wide variety of complex commercial litigation, including bet- the-company risks and business-to-business disputes, and she has significant bench and jury trial experience. Ms. Bogo-Ernst was recognized by Crain’s Chicago Business’ 2023 “Who’s Who” list in the Law Section as well as a “Notable Woman in Law” in 2022. She was also named among Lawdragon’s 500 Leading Litigators in America in 2022 and 2023, an Illinois Leading Lawyer since 2021 in the areas of Commercial Litigation, Class Actions/Mass Tort Defense Law, and Banking & Financial Institutions Law, an Illinois/ Local Litigation Star for Health Care & Securities for 2016 to 2023 by Benchmark Litigation, and a Life Sciences Star from 2016-2022 in the area of Non-IP Litigation by Euromoney’s Legal Media Group Life Sciences. She currently serves on Law360 ’s editorial advisory board for banking, and she also previously served on the editorial advisory board for product liability.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
LESLEE M. COHEN
MANAGING PARTNER AllRise Legal Counsel
L eslee M. Cohen is the founder and Managing Partner of AllRise Legal Counsel. AllRise concentrates its transactional practice in securities and startup law, corporate finance, technology law, mergers and acquisitions and general corporate law. It represents clients across many industries from consumer products to technology companies to healthcare businesses to real estate firms, with a focus on counselling startups and growth stage companies in connection with their early fundraising rounds. Leslee started her practice at a Wall Street firm in 1992, spent 13 years honing her skills at a large firm based in Chicago and left to form AllRise in 2010. AllRise was founded on Leslee’s desire to work with earlier stage and smaller businesses. Each of its attorneys is big firm trained and experienced and also warm, friendly, loyal and responsive to firm clients and to each other. AllRise is built on a new model intended to serve as an example for other firms as to how to attract and advance attorneys who need flexible work arrangements. Its lawyers are able to do compelling and challenging legal work and to build their own books of business (if they so desire), while maintaining the ability to be great parents/spouses/children, board members, charity workers, friends and siblings in a supportive, congenial and inviting work environment where they can be authentically themselves and celebrate highs and mourn lows together. Leslee is a member of the Executive Committee and Board of Advisors of the Small Business Advocacy Council, the co-chair of
the Advisory Committee of the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law (of which she is also a co-founder) and the Women’s Presidents Organization, a speaker and mentor for the Good Food Accelerator, the Hatchery, LegalPad, the Wisconsin Technology Council/the Founders Institute and Workbox. She is involved with the Chicago Job Creators Grant organization and GirlCon, which supports high school girls interested in careers in technology. Leslee also enjoys frequent speaking engagements for podcasts and organization nationwide. Leslee was named an Enterprising Woman of the Year in 2023 by Enterprising Women Magazine . She was granted the Advocate of the Year Award by the Small Business Advocacy Council in 2019 and the Women of Influence Award by Best Lawyers in 2017, recognized for Outstanding Service to Entrepreneurs by the Daily Herald Business Ledger in 2016, granted the Women Making an Impact Award by the Chicago Law Bulletin in 2014 and named as one of 40 Illinois Lawyers Under 40 to Watch by Chicago Law Bulletin in 2006. She has been named by Illinois Super Lawyers as a Top 100 Lawyers in the State of Illinois and Top 50 Women Lawyers in the State of Illinois, corporate finance and securities, every year since 2010, a Leading Lawyer in mergers & acquisitions, securities and venture finance every year since 2007 and a Best Lawyers in America in corporate law every year since 2013. Leslee received her B.A. from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from New York University School of Law.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
CARLA COLAIANNI TRIAL ATTORNEY Smith LaCien LLP
C arla Colaianni, a plaintiff trial lawyer at Smith LaCien LLP, has extensive experience in complex litigation, with a concentration in medical negligence. Having worked on over 60 birth injury cases during her career, she is passionate about the work and cares deeply about her clients as they address their life- changing trauma. Since joining Smith LaCien in 2022, Carla has worked on cases ranging from birth injuries to a failure to diagnose skin cancer that left a woman severely disfigured. She is pursuing civil damages for a female student who was sexually assaulted on a college campus. A staunch advocate for women, Carla and lawyers at Smith LaCien have been cultivating relationships with female expert witnesses to bring a new voice to expert testimony in complex medical malpractice cases. She also mentors another lawyer at the firm, Allyson Cox. They work on cases together and through their advocacy work for the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois. Since she began practicing law in 2007, Carla has always
represented injured plaintiffs and has been involved in procuring settlements of over $40 million for prior clients. While working at a top plaintiff law firm in New York, she was “honored” to handle most of the firm’s cases which poured in when the state enacted the Child Victims Act, a new law that extended the Statute of Limitations and allowed childhood victims of sexual abuse to finally seek justice. After receiving an undergraduate degree, she began her career as a vocational training instructor at a Chicago-based refugee resettlement agency. The injustices which her students had experienced inspired her to become a lawyer. She received her law degree from DePaul University College of Law, Cum Laude, in 2007. In summary, Carla Colaianni has proven to be a strategic, creative and caring trial lawyer who fights for the rights of women and men who have suffered catastrophic injuries and personal losses. In the process, she has become recognized as a beacon of light for those who felt lost but triumphed over adversity.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
LEYNEE CRUZ FLORES PARTNER Golan Christie Taglia
L eynee Flores, partner at Golan Christie Taglia, has been representing corporate fiduciaries and individuals with probate, guardianship and estate planning matters for 10 years—and for almost as long, she has been an active advocate for some of society’s most vulnerable individuals. As a longtime volunteer for the Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL), she has played an enduring role in providing direct civil legal services for elderly clients and individuals with disabilities. Leynee currently serves on CDEL’s Young Professionals Board, where she helps to coordinate fundraising events, supports volunteer awards benefits and recruits pro bono volunteers. Described as a “ray of sunshine” by CDEL leaders, Leynee’s knack for fostering relationships and motivating teams, including Spanish-speaking clients and volunteers, creates a friendly and optimistic environment that can be difficult to find for individuals navigating an often- daunting legal system. Leynee’s tireless efforts to break down the logistical and emotional barriers to justice have established her as a reliable resource for other individuals and organizations who seek to do the same. The Illinois Supreme Court recently appointed Leynee to its Commission on Elder Law, where she applies her experience to policy and procedural review
of elder law matters. She is also regularly appointed as a Guardian ad Litem in cases involving guardianships for disabled adults. Leynee’s commitment to accessibility in the justice system extends to her peers in the profession. As the former president of the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois and current treasurer for the Hispanic Lawyers Scholarship Fund of Illinois, Leynee works to uplift and engage in fellowship with other Hispanic attorneys, exchanging valuable information, encouragement and resources necessary to boost diversity in the legal profession. Her appointment to Golan Christie Taglia’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee earlier this year has given Leynee the opportunity to collaborate with her colleagues to create a welcoming and inclusive office. Leynee’s work has not gone unnoticed. She has been named a Latino 40 Under 40 by Negocio Now , an Emerging Lawyer for Leading Lawyers , and a Rising Star in Illinois by Super Lawyers . At Golan Christie Taglia, Leynee works with a diverse client base to solve complex legal issues regarding asset disputes, undue influence, breach of fiduciary duty and competency. Leynee’s personalized approach, which she augments with broad legal experience in both Illinois and Florida, allows her to develop creative legal solutions for her clients’ most sophisticated challenges.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
BRYNA DAHLIN PARTNER Benesch
B ryna Dahlin is a partner and chair of the Cannabis Industry Group at Benesch, where she works on the cutting edge of an emerging industry known for its regulatory complexity and challenging legal and business landscape. For nearly a decade, she has advised companies in all sectors of the cannabis space including growers, manufacturers, distributors, dispensaries, investors and ancillary businesses. She also advises non-cannabis companies that are impacted by cannabis laws. Her clients are nationwide and range from new entrants in the space to publicly traded companies operating across dozens of states. Bryna enjoys helping clients achieve their business objectives and prides herself on gaining a keen understanding of their operations. She offers real-world guidance that is clear, practical and always focused on achieving client objectives. She understands the challenges in the cannabis industry and loves nothing more than seeing her clients grow and meet their business goals. Bryna advises clients across the country on issues of regulatory compliance, risk avoidance, company formation and structuring, licensing, corporate and transactional matters, including mergers and acquisitions, advertising and product packaging, brand strategy and intellectual property protection. She also performs legal due diligence for investors in the cannabis space, and guides hemp, health and beauty brand clients in navigating Cannabidiol (CBD) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) laws.
Bryna is also a skilled trial lawyer who uses her skills to help clients avoid and mitigate risk, and she does not hesitate to litigate when the circumstances call for it. Beyond cannabis, she has represented prominent food, pharmaceutical, entertainment, advertising, technology and consumer product companies in an array of high- profile cases. Bryna’s career trajectory reflects her commitment to pursuing her professional aspirations regardless of the obstacles. When the cannabis industry was in its infancy, she left her position with a global law firm and co-founded the first cannabis law firm in Illinois before later bringing this practice to Benesch. Bryna serves as pro bono counsel to the Chicago chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). She is a founding member of the Illinois Cannabis Bar Association, and member of the International Cannabis Bar, National Cannabis Industry Associations and Illinois Women in Cannabis. Bryna has lectured across the country on the ever-evolving landscape in cannabis law and served as an adjunct professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where she taught Illinois’ first law course on cannabis. She is nationally ranked by Chambers & Associates for cannabis law, is a Global Top 200 cannabis lawyer, and her cannabis practice group is recognized by the prestigious Legal 500. Past honors have included Crain’s Notable Women in Law, Super Lawyers and the National Law Journal’s 40 under 40 in Chicago.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
GINA DEBONI PARTNER Romanucci & Blandin
W ith a background in social work and the influence of a grandfather and uncle who were passionate lawyers, Gina Arquilla DeBoni naturally gravitated towards a career in law where she could put her strong people skills and passion for helping others to good use. After law school, Gina established a successful personal injury law firm with another partner. She left the practice after six years to join the prominent firm of Romanucci & Blandin, LLC in June 2010 as its managing attorney. In February of 2019, she was named managing partner of the firm. As one of the only female managing partners in the state of Illinois, Gina is responsible for the overall management and quality assurance of the firm’s legal and compliance services within client engagements. She also plays a critical role in advocating for the firm’s clients who have suffered from traumatic personal injury, medical malpractice, police misconduct, hazing, sex trafficking, products and premises liability, nursing home negligence, business interruption, mass shootings and construction injury cases. Whether it’s in the office, courtroom or beyond, Gina is passionate about advocating for her clients and ensuring that real, institutional policy change can come from the firm’s cases. In September of 2017, Gina advocated on Capitol Hill with a client who testified before the Senate for an amendment to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Furthermore, Gina served as an expert on panels for
the film I am Jane Doe and alongside Cindy McCain in public service announcements aimed at amending Section 230. On April 11, 2018, Gina was invited to the White House with her client, who stood next to the President in the Oval Office, to witness the monumental signing of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex-Trafficking Act . Since 2018, Gina has also played a significant role in advocating for Romanucci & Blandin’s clients who have been impacted by carcinogenic emissions coming from the Sterigenics International facility in Willowbrook, Illinois without their knowledge for decades. This has included working closely with Illinois Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, as well as several Illinois Representatives who are working to create greater regulations and expand transparency as it pertains to the handling of the cancer-causing chemical, ethylene oxide. Gina’s work led her to be featured her in publications both nationally and internationally, including on the front page of the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and The Times in London. She is an elected Trustee of the Village of Glenview, Illinois and is an active wife and mother of two. Among other accolades, Gina was awarded the ISBA Elmer Gertz Human Rights Award in 2020, the 2020 Female Executive of the Year Award by the Stevie Awards for Woman in Business, was chosen for the 2020 Notable Women in Law list by Crain’s Chicago Business.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
LAUREN DONAHUE PARTNER K&L Gates
K &L Gates Partner Lauren Donahue counsels U.S. and foreign corporate clients and senior executives through government investigations and follow-on class action litigation, particularly in the areas of antitrust, cartel and trade regulation. Lauren has extensive experience representing clients in government antitrust investigations and enforcement actions before the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general. Her cases involve a wide range of issues, including price-fixing, market allocation, bid-rigging, no-poach agreements, monopolization, attempted monopolization, fraud, market manipulation, unfair competition and other restraints of trade. Lauren assists U.S. and multinational corporations in minimizing antitrust and competition law risks through the development and maintenance of compliance and audit programs. She regularly provides antitrust compliance training and has been involved in the presentation of companies’ antitrust compliance programs to the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. Lauren also provides counsel on antitrust issues related to both horizontal and vertical mergers, gun-jumping and pre-merger due diligence and integration planning, and has successfully guided clients through both the U.S. and multijurisdictional merger clearance process. Lauren’s resume includes numerous achievements on behalf of clients. Recently she represented a poultry processor and distributor in a price-fixing matter resolved favorably when the DOJ dropped all charges. She also represented a capacitor manufacturer in a series of antitrust class and opt out actions that were successfully resolved through settlement. Since 2018, Lauren has been recognized as a leading antitrust
practitioner in Illinois by Chambers USA . In 2022, she was listed by Lawdragon among its 500 Leading Litigators in America, and in 2021, she was recognized by Crain’s as a Notable Women in Law. Lauren is regularly selected by her peers as a “Rising Star” in Illinois for Antitrust Litigation and is recognized as an Emerging Lawyer in the areas of Antitrust Law and Criminal Defense Law: White Collar by the Leading Lawyers publication. Lauren is a frequent author and speaker on numerous topics relating to antitrust, government investigations and compliance issues. Lauren maintains a longstanding commitment to pro bono work, providing legal representation to individuals of limited means as well as organizations advancing crucial public service programs. Lauren has successfully represented several individuals seeking asylum in the United States through her work with the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), a Heartland Alliance program. She also serves as a pro bono attorney for the State of Illinois Torture Inquiry and Relief Commission. She recently worked on a pro bono matter for the International Justice Mission (IJM), analyzing the legal framework relating to human trafficking, forced labor and modern slavery in several countries. Alongside her thriving legal practice, Lauren dedicates significant time to creating opportunities for women currently in the legal profession and building a pipeline of future leading women lawyers. Lauren is actively involved in K&L Gates’ firmwide Women in the Profession group and serves as chair of both the Chicago office’s Women in the Profession committee and the Chicago office’s Associate Development Committee. She is also the co-chair of the Chicago Women in Antitrust Network.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
MARISSA DOWNS PARTNER Laurie & Brennan, LLP
M arissa is a partner at Laurie & Brennan, LLP, a sophisticated, Chicago-based, construction law boutique. Marissa is a true litigator and has developed a particular passion for complex construction, product liability, and manufacturing disputes. The construction industry is still largely male-dominated so Marissa is used to being one of the only women in the room. The road Marissa traveled to get where she is today was far from traditional. Originally from Dallas, Marissa attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on a full scholarship (the Morehead). After graduating from UNC with dual degrees in International Studies/Peace, War & Defense, Marissa was awarded a fellowship from the Hart Foundation which sent her to Rwanda from 2001 to 2002. Marissa spent her time in Rwanda working with the International Rescue Committee (“IRC”) as part of the Democratization and Good Governance team. Her most cherished work was helping the IRC implement the first nation-wide survey focused on the alternative system of justice implemented by the Rwandan government following the 1994 Genocide. Marissa next spent three years working for the federal government in Washington, D.C. before going to law school. She attended Northwestern Pritzker School of Law from 2005 to 2008 where she competed on Northwestern’s inter-collegiate National Trial Team and earned competitive internship placements at the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, the Office of the State Appellate Defender (Illinois) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. After graduating from Northwestern, Marissa spent a year clerking for Justice Robert Eastaugh of the Alaska Supreme Court followed by a brief stint in The Hague, Netherlands reviewing and editing draft
judgments for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In 2009, Marissa returned to Chicago where she commenced in earnest her civil law practice. Over the course of the next decade, Marissa amassed extensive experience representing businesses in a variety of complex litigation matters, including construction, breach of contract, manufacturing defect litigation, insurance coverage, fraud, fiduciary breach, and shareholder disputes. She became a zealous advocate and arbitrated multiple matters before the American Arbitration Association (AAA) and tried cases to conclusion in both federal and state courts. While comfortable in the courtroom, Marissa recognizes that most disputes settle before that and approaches each case with a goal-oriented and fee-sensitive outlook on behalf of her clients to determine their best outcome. Throughout her career, Marissa has demonstrated a dedication to pro bono service and has represented clients in a wide variety of cases, her most notable engagements were those where she partnered with Equip for Equality and the Illinois Prison Project. Marissa is active in multiple bar associations, including the ABA’s Forum on Construction Law. She serves on a steering committee for the Forum as well as the editor-in-chief of one of a construction-law focused blog called “The Dispute Resolver.” Marissa has served on the Illinois State Bar Association’s Construction Law Section for two years running and has enjoyed speaking on multiple CBA panels focused on leadership and career development for younger attorneys. Marissa is active in the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in the Law and Professional Women in Construction. She was previously recognized as a Chicago Daily Law Bulletin “40 Under Forty” attorneys to watch and as a “Woman of Influence” by the Chicago Business Journal (both in 2018).
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
LISA DUARTE PARTNER
Croke Fairchild Duarte & Beres
L isa Duarte is an partner and management committee co- chair at Croke Fairchild Duarte & Beres, a business law firm serving entrepreneurs, investors, growth-stage companies and Fortune 500 companies. Lisa leads the firm’s Government Affairs and Regulatory Law practice group and heads Point of Difference Strategies, the lobbying and government affairs entity partnering with CFDB. Lisa has spent her career at the intersection of law and government. Prior to joining CFDB, she served as the First Assistant Deputy Governor for Budget & Economy in the JB Pritzker Administration in Illinois. In this role, Lisa oversaw 17 agencies involving budget, economy, economic development and regulation, and more than 170 boards and commissions. During her tenure, Lisa led on some of the administration’s top legislative initiatives, including negotiating passage of the first gaming bill in over a decade, the passing of two balanced and bi- partisan budgets, the consolidation of more than 650 police and fire pension systems, and legislation that reduced taxes and regulatory burdens on businesses and created tax incentives for economic investments and growth. Lisa also played a lead role in the State of Illinois’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. From the original stay-at-home order of March 2020 through the distribution of the first vaccines, Lisa worked diligently to advocate for the needs of businesses and the economy while protecting the health and welfare of the residents of the State. Lisa was intimately involved in the identification of essential
and non-essential businesses and the Restore Illinois Plan. Lisa’s agencies oversaw the distribution of more than $1 billion of CARES Act money. Lisa also worked with the City of Chicago Mayor’s Office, where she served as legislative counsel to former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and represented the City of Chicago before the Illinois General Assembly, state agencies and executive offices. She then advanced to the dual role of Chief of Staff to former Deputy Mayor Steve Koch and Chief of Staff to the Mayor’s Economic Council. Outside of work, Lisa devotes her time to civic and philanthropic causes with a focus on helping the Latino community. She is a Founding Board Member of the Chicago City Council Latino Caucus Foundation Leadership Academy, which focuses on developing a pipeline for the next generation of Chicago’s Latino business and civic leaders. She is also a member, and previous Secretary, for the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation, which awards scholarships to Latino students attending Illinois universities. Lisa also serves on the Board of Trustees at the Museum of Contemporary Art; and the Board of Directors at Choose Chicago, the City of Chicago’s travel, tourism and convention board In 2020, the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois honored Lisa with the Mercedes Luque Rosales Government Lawyer of the Year Award. In 2021, the National Latino Education Institute acknowledged Lisa’s commitment to the ongoing education of Latinos with its Emerging Leader Award. Lisa holds a B.A. from Michigan State University and a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
KRISTA EASOM PARTNER Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP
K rista Easom is a Partner in the Chicago office of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani and is a member of the Commercial Litigation, Professional Liability Defense, and Employment Law practice group. Ms. Easom has experience in all aspects of litigation, including drafting successful motions for summary judgment and briefs for commercial litigation appeals in federal court. Ms. Easom joined Gordon & Rees during the heart of the pandemic where she was hired to defend a multi-million dollar trade secret lawsuit involving a leading managed cloud services provider. Ms. Easom subsequently represented clients in professional liability matters, working with lawyers, CEO’s, accountants, physicians, and nurses. These matters range from lawsuits alleging professional malpractice to issues before regulatory and licensing bodies. Ms. Easom has also defended nation- and statewide class claims, arising from alleged violations of various consumer protection statutes. These include claims brought under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, and Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.
In connection with her representation in employment litigation, Ms. Easom represents employers in claims involving discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment, and retaliation. Before joining Gordon & Rees, Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Easom worked as a transactional and compliance attorney, working for a public company with operations located in the U.S., Australia, and the UK. Ms. Easom’s corporate experience paired with her prior litigation experience make her an excellent advocate for her clients. Ms. Easom was recently selected as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers ® for 2023-2024. Super Lawyers ®, part of Thomson Reuters, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The research team selects no more than two and a half percent of the lawyers in each geographic region to the Rising Stars list. Ms. Easom was thrilled to make the list for the second year in a row. Ms. Easom lives with her husband in Chicago and welcomed her first child in November of this year.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
JESSICA FAIRCHILD PARTNER Croke Fairchild Duarte & Beres
J essica Fairchild is a founding partner and co-chair of the management committee of Croke Fairchild Duarte & Beres (CFDB), a business law firm serving entrepreneurs, investors, growth-stage companies, family enterprises and Fortune 500 companies. Known for her business-savvy, thoughtful and straightforward approach, Jessica is an accomplished lawyer, law firm leader, women’s advocate and entrepreneur. Over her 23-year legal career, Jessica’s principal legal focus has been on corporate, mergers and acquisitions and governance matters, in which she counsels founders, private equity sponsors, family enterprises and corporations. Jessica’s focus on building relationships, and her client-centered approach to acting as a legal and business advisor, have helped her garner many long-term clients who turn to her for advising on M&A matters and beyond, including tapping her to serve as general counsel for their growing organizations. Jessica’s commitment to creating opportunities for lawyers who are women and/or from other historically underrepresented backgrounds has been a consistent theme across her career. Under Jessica’s leadership, CFDB became a WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) in 2022, with the firm becoming one of the top-five largest WBE law firms in the United States (based on available data). In September 2023, CFDB joined the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF). NAMWOLF is a nonprofit trade association comprised of AV-rated firms across the nation that represent major corporate clients. With a mission to expand diversity in the legal profession by developing long-term
partnerships between corporations and minority and women-owned law firms, NAMWOLF assists its member firms in developing strategic alliances and affiliations with corporations, in-house counsel and other legal trade associations. While earning these national distinctions, CFDB has grown from 10 attorneys to over 65 attorneys in less than four years. Jessica’s leadership has helped the firm build a flexible model that creates new career opportunities and paths that did not formerly exist for women, supercharging its ability to recruit and retain talented attorneys. In the M&A legal space, generally dominated at the partner level by men, Jessica stands out as a woman who runs all of her transactions as lead partner, while also driving her firm’s efforts to hire and train women in the M&A and corporate fields. From January 2007 through December 2009, Jessica served as the General Counsel of Chicago 2016, the not-for-profit organization that led Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In this role, Jessica handled a wide variety of legal and strategic issues, was a direct advisor to the organization’s senior management and board of directors, and managed a legal department that oversaw all legal matters for Chicago 2016. Jessica also worked closely with the chief legal officers and other staff of the City of Chicago and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Prior to that, she was a corporate attorney at Sidley Austin LLP in Chicago, where her work focused on M&A, corporate, governance and securities matters. Jessica holds a B.S. from the University of Illinois, and a J.D. with high honors from the University of Chicago Law School.
WOMEN IN LAW 2023
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