Don't fear for the future of the legal profession in Chicago; judging by our survey of the city's rising stars, it's in very good hands. We asked our readers to nominate up-and-comers and snooped around on our own to compile this list of achievers in Chicago's law firms, corporate law departments and the legal academy.
Rachel Cantor, Kirkland & Ellis
Rachel Cantor went to the University of Chicago Law School with an eye toward becoming a litigator. But following graduation, she was drawn to tax law by her love of puzzles and the practice's similarities with writing computer code. "Tax rules are kind of like programming — it's all logic," she said. "It's about stringing together concepts and ideas and making them work."
Cantor got her start in the field working under tax legend William McKee at Washington's McKee Nelson from 2001 to 2005. She and her husband, now a professor at her alma mater, then moved to Chicago, where she landed with Kirkland & Ellis.
As a tax specialist, Cantor is brought into deals early, to structure them in the most tax-efficient manner possible. "I've worked on lots of big, $1 billion-plus deals," she said. "But a lot of times, the small deals are the interesting ones, because there's a lot more opportunity for planning."
She's represented Chicago-based Madison Dearborn Partners LLC in a number of transactions, including its $915 million purchase of container maker Bway Holding Co.; its $2 billion buyout of credit score firm TransUnion Corp.; and its $1.6 billion sale of food company Wm. Bolthouse Farms Inc. to Campbell Soup Co. She is working on the preparations for the initial public offering of computer-seller CDW Corp.
"Unlike most tax lawyers, Ms. Cantor has the ability to describe complex rules in simple, clear terms easily understandable by nontax professionals," said Michael Fondo, tax director at Boston-based private-equity firm Audax Group, whom Cantor often advises. "She also brings a refreshing practical view to business issues."
A board member of the American Jewish Council, Cantor is the mother of three children, ages 4, 6 and 8. She is a triathlete who said that completing an Ironman race is on her "near-term bucket list."
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