Crain's 2021 Rising Stars in Law – Crain's Chicago Business

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Meet the Rising Stars in Law: These 74 attorneys are making an impact in all corners of their profession, including corporate finance, intellectual property, litigation, health care, bankruptcy and real estate. All have been partners at their firms for five years or less. They have guided clients through the uncertainty of the pandemic, from interpreting the CARES Act to interpreting local health care orders and recommendations.
Yet they’ve traveled different journeys. Some began in private practice right out of law school, while others have experience as prosecutors or regulators. Still others started out as teachers and performers.
These rising stars are active in their firms’ governance. Many are involved in efforts to expand diversity and inclusion and are adding more women and people of color to their teams. They mentor younger lawyers. And they tackle pro bono projects, from defending wrongly accused prisoners to helping immigrants gain asylum. They’re certain to make even more of a mark in the years to come.
—Judith Crown and Lisa Bertagnoli
METHODOLOGY: The rising stars featured did not pay to be included. Their profiles were drawn from nomination materials submitted. This list is not comprehensive. It includes attorneys for whom nominations were submitted and accepted after an editorial review. These honorees have been partners for five years or less and have demonstrated an impact at their firm and in the community. Letters of recommendation were required.
Partner
Taft Stettinius & Hollister
Partner
Taft Stettinius & Hollister
Partner
Willkie Farr & Gallagher
Partner
Nixon Peabody
Partner
Keller Lenkner
Partner
Latham & Watkins
Partner
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton
Partner
Prinz Law Firm
Partner
Locke Lord
Partner
Thompson Hine
M&A and private-equity partner
Ropes & Gray
Partner
Jones Day
Partner
Barnes & Thornburg
Partner
Mayer Brown
Partner
Gould & Ratner
Partner
Neal Gerber Eisenberg
Partner
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom
Shareholder
Polsinelli
Partner
Winston & Strawn
Principal
Chuhak & Tecson
Litigation partner
Katten Muchin Rosenman
Partner
Schiff Hardin
Partner
Ropes & Gray
Partner
Swanson Martin & Bell
Partner, head of government litigation and investigations
Croke Fairchild Morgan & Beres
Principal
Chuhak & Tecson
Principal
Chuhak & Tecson
Partner
Marshall Gerstein & Borun
Partner
Barnes & Thornburg
Shareholder
Polsinelli
Partner
Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young
Partner, leader of trusts and estates practice group
Levenfeld Pearlstein
Partner
McDermott Will & Emery
Partner
Marshall Gerstein & Borun
Partner
Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen
Member, national health care practice group
McDonald Hopkins
Partner
Steptoe & Johnson
Partner
Clifford Law Offices
Partner
King & Spalding
Partner
Locke Lord
Partner
King & Spalding
Partner
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom
Partner
Willkie Farr & Gallagher
Partner
Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila
Partner
Clifford Law Offices
Partner
Katten Muchin Rosenman
Partner
Levenfeld Pearlstein
Partner
Freeborn & Peters
Partner
Keller Lenkner
Partner
Benesch
Partner
Jenner & Block
Partner
Neal Gerber Eisenberg
Partner
Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg
Partner
Clifford Law Offices
Partner
Thompson Hine
Partner
Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom
Partner
Levenfeld Pearlstein
Partner
Taft Stettinius & Hollister
Partner
Salvi Schostok & Pritchard
Partner
Benesch
Member
Dykema Gossett
Partner and assistant general counsel
Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg
Partner
Latham & Watkins
Partner
Latham & Watkins
Partner
Gould & Ratner
Partner
Winston & Strawn
Partner
Sidley Austin
Partner
Sidley Austin
Partner
Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila
Partner
Kirkland & Ellis
Partner, health law practice group
Quarles & Brady
Partner
Freeborn & Peters
Partner
Locke Lord
Partner
DLA Piper
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DEI funding is ‘no longer smaller than the coffee budget’
 
Christina Carriere Lutz began her career in entertainment, including a stint as an assistant to legendary comedian George Carlin. Working in programming and trying to figure out licensing agreements, she figured that law school would enhance her career. When she got there, however, she was drawn to litigation and changed course. As an attorney at Levenfeld Pearlstein, Lutz has advocated for diversity and inclusion, chairing the firm’s DEI task force and working to improve the recruiting of lawyers from diverse backgrounds, as well as their retention and advancement to partner.
 
CRAIN’S: You’ve been practicing since 2008—what did diversity look like then?
LUTZ: I began my career during a period when law firms put recruiting and retention of diverse attorneys on hold to contend with the recession. Only 2% of attorneys in law firms around that time were women of color, according to the National Association for Law Placement.
 
And today?
Unfortunately, the numbers haven’t moved much since then, and the disparities are particularly stark at the more senior levels in law firms. In 2020, only 2.1% of partners were Black, with less than 1% of partners being Black women, and only about 10% of partners are people of color. The numbers are not much better for openly LGBTQ+ partners or differently abled partners. Back in 2008, I was lucky enough to join a firm with an unusually diverse class of associates, and in my litigation group, approximately a third of the associates were women of color. I relied on their insight and companionship, and I value those relationships to this day.
 
What has improved?
The biggest improvement is recognition. We no longer need to make the business case for diversity. People understand that if you want your law firm to be sustainable in the long term, you need to ensure that it looks like the world we live in. People are willing to invest their resources as a result. Budgets for DEI initiatives are no longer smaller than the coffee budget. People recognize now the power of inertia and that it takes an investment to move the needle.
 
What are the biggest obstacles to overcome?
Law firms often operate in siloed fashion, and people gravitate towards working with people who remind them of themselves. That extends to opportunities to work on interesting deals or cases, with important clients, or to go on pitches, client lunches or networking opportunities. This ultimately can result in unequal experience levels when it comes time for promotion and poor retention of diverse attorneys who feel they are not having the same experience as other associates.
 
How do you disrupt that cycle?
Breaking out of this convention requires thinking mindfully about how you incorporate more junior attorneys into your daily practice and whether you are equitably extending opportunities for informal mentorship.
 
What specifically did you do in entertainment, and what was it like to work for George Carlin?
 After working for George Carlin, I worked in television for several years, first as an assistant and then in programming. I have so many great memories of George; he was one of those unique souls who was even funnier in person than he was on stage, which is saying something! We shared a love of words (George was famous for his monologue about the seven words you can never say on television).
 
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