Three Alumni Named to NLJ's Chicago "40 Under 40"

Chicago 40 Under 40
National Law Journal
July 2, 2013

Rachel Cantor, '00

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."

Thomas Levinson, '05

Reed Smith

Very few Harvard Divinity School graduates grow up to specialize in complex commercial litigation and high-level dispute resolution, but Tom Levinson is the exception to a lot of rules.

During the past year, he served as lead defense counsel in a significant commercial dispute, obtaining dismissal of all claims, and represented plaintiffs in a monthlong racketeering trial, obtaining a multimillion-dollar jury verdict. He guides internal investigations in the health care and technology sectors plus regulatory compliance.

And then there's his writing. In 2003, he documented his 9,000-mile road trip to study faith in the book All That's Holy: A Young Guy, an Old Car, and the Search for God in America. He has contributed to National Public Radio, Newsweek and the Chicago Tribune.

Levinson never reached a point where he felt he had to choose between religions and the law. "I'm grateful that it really hasn't been a fork in the road — more like an on-ramp onto a very wide highway," he said. "My work as a lawyer has actually afforded me terrific opportunities to stay active in the religious world." For the past several years he's been outside general counsel for Interfaith Youth Core, training college students in interfaith leadership. He's a volunteer for the Big Shoulders Fund supporting inner-city Roman Catholic schools. "Getting to provide instrumental help to organizations doing phenomenal work on the ground is a privilege."

The managing partner of Reed Smith's Chicago office, Michael LoVallo, described Levinson as "a natural leader. By all accounts, he's a gifted communicator, in the courtroom, on the written page, across a conference table. He has a special ability to think from points of view different from his own — not just the client's or his adversary's, but also from others on his teams — in service of finding the best answer and outcome."

Kara McCall, '00

Sidley Austin

Kara McCall is a partner in Sidley Austin's products liability group, attracted to the specialty "because I wanted litigation that had a human element. Cases involving everyday people who have used products and clients who have developed products that are important and beneficial to everyday people."

During the past year, she helped defeat a false-advertising class action against Bayer HealthCare LLC. The case established that private plaintiffs must show actual falsity when challenging marketing and labeling statements, and cannot force the defendant to prove the truth of its statements. "The Bayer probiotics cases are interesting cases because, in some ways, they are an attack on the entire dietary-supplement industry and the regulatory framework that governs dietary supplements," McCall said.

James Gibb, vice president and assistant general counsel at Owens Corning, called McCall "a calm, tough, creative problem solver. She gets results for us. We've been working together for four years on a products liability class action in addition to other products liability issues.…[McCall] consistently stakes out defensible positions and is very persuasive in her advocacy with the court, our opposition and internal stakeholders."

Within the firm, the 2000 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and former clerk to Judge Diane Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit established a training program for associates joining the group and sits on Sidley's compensation and assignments committee for nonlawyers and helps with recruiting.

McCall hopes in the future to work more extensively in pre- and early-litigation risk assessments. "Before a product even launches, we can provide beneficial counsel regarding advertising and marketing claims to ensure that consumers have the right information available to them, and to help manufacturers and distributors avoid (or at least better prepare for) litigation."