Tacy Flint, ’04: Beating Cancer and Becoming a “Rising Star” in Appellate Litigation

Tacy Flint, ’04

Tacy Flint, ’04, a partner at Sidley Austin, has established herself as a premier appellate lawyer, recognized in 2015 by Law360 as one of seven nationwide “rising stars” in appellate litigation and named last year as one of the 60 most influential women lawyers in Chicago by Crain’s Chicago Business.

Her enthusiasm for a well-crafted legal argument began early, at a mock contracts class during Admitted Students Weekend. “Saul Levmore led the class, and he demonstrated to us what every Chicago student learns but wasn’t evident to me then as a newcomer to the law, about following the logic without being constrained by formulas and labels,” she said. “It was thrilling, and that feeling of fog lifting and clarity settling in continued—I would still say that my Elements class was the most illuminating nine weeks of my life.”

After that high, Flint suffered a low during the summer between her 2L and 3L years when she was diagnosed with a relapse of Hodgkin lymphoma—a form of cancer she had first been treated for four years earlier. She spent the first quarter of her 3L year as a patient at the University of Chicago Hospital. Even though she took a step back from studies, she came to appreciate the Law School in a new way: “During that quarter, the Law School felt like home. Dozens of classmates visited me in the hospital and brought me books, movies, and board games. And Dean Levmore showed up with homemade cranberry bread.”

Flint returned to the Law School in winter quarter and graduated the following December. She went on to clerk for Richard Posner at the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and then for Justice Stephen Breyer at the Supreme Court. “Working with Judge Posner was a continuation of the eye-opening learning I had experienced at the Law School, and Justice Breyer’s pragmatism taught me a lot about how effective arguments are constructed,” she said. “Plus, they were both real characters, in the best sense of that word, which made work more fun than it’s sometimes supposed to be.”

She joined Sidley in 2007 and is a member of its Supreme Court and Appellate Litigation team. Her arguments have been instrumental in achieving favorable outcomes for her clients in a wide range of commercial cases, including intellectual property, antitrust, taxation, and privacy protection.

Her extensive pro bono practice has included cases related to legislative redistricting, First Amendment protections, and education reform. She is currently engaged in litigation contending that the State of Michigan has violated the federal Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses by excluding students in certain Detroit schools—which the state has run for many years—from access to literacy. “The literacy rates in some Detroit schools are close to zero,” she said. “Access to literacy is a right held by all children, and this systemic failure to provide that access needs to be rectified.”

She is the mentorship coordinator for Sidley’s litigation practice group and participates each year in the Law School’s Women’s Mentorship Program. “I thrived at the Law School because it offered both intellectual rigor that challenged me analytically and a close-knit community that held me up. I hope to help students and Sidley associates thrive in the same way by fostering mentorship,” she said. She is also one of Sidley’s recruitment partners—working, she said, “to bring the next generation of University of Chicago superstars to the firm.”

She said that the nature of her work has not only been a source of professional satisfaction, but it has helped her achieve a highly satisfying personal life, as well. “I get to spend my time thinking big thoughts about things that matter,” she observed, “and the flexibility in my work has helped me build and sustain a wonderful family life.” She and her husband, Graham Meyer, have three children: an 8-year-old and twin 3-year-olds. Meyer, whom Flint met while they were in college, is a freelance writer, editor, composer, and crossword puzzle constructor. “We love living in Chicago, and I can’t imagine a better place to practice law than where I am right now,” she said.