Northwestern Women's Leadership Coalition


Tina Tchen Lunch

The author of this post is Jaime Zucker, WLC's Director of Alumnae Relations

On November 27, Tina Tchen and three Buckley Sadler Associates sat down for lunch with a small group of WLC members. To facilitate conversation between Tina and the students, we limited the guest list to just 15 students. Unsurprisingly, the 15 slots filled up only 20 minutes after the invitation was emailed to WLC members. As I prepared questions for the event, the significance of this visit weighed on me--for the WLC members in attendance, Tina's career is the dream.

After graduating with her JD from Northwestern, Tina began working in corporate litigation at Skadden. She represented corporate clients and public agencies, and even successfully represented the State of Illinois before the United States Supreme Court in Artiz M. v. Super, 503 U.S. 347 (1992). She went on to spend eight years in the White House as an assistant to President Barack Obama, Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls, and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama. Luckily for the WLC, Tina returned to Chicago to head Buckley Sadler's Chicago Office. She has received recognition for her work from the Women's Bar Association of Illinois, the Anti-Defamation League, and was named Chicago Lawyer Person of the year in 1994.

While we all wanted to know what it was like to work in the Obama White House, I also had questions about current administration. The roundtable also happened to take place during the barrage of sexual harassment and misconduct revelations which exposed the despicable acts of men in Hollywood and in D.C. Senator Al Franken's misconduct was exposed two weeks prior to our lunch with Tina (and we learned of his resignation a week later). These revelations arising in the wake of the 2016 election reiterated the uncomfortable notion that Washington was still a difficult place to be a woman.

Tina's stories restored my faith that women not only have a place in D.C., but that they can also thrive in leadership roles if the administration breeds a culture of respect and zero tolerance for harassment. She shared some of her exciting projects for the President and the First Lady in the White House, describing her years in the White House as overwhelmingly positive. When I asked Tina about the allegations of sexual harassment in Congress, she told me about the projects that she oversaw for the White House Council on Women and Girls to eliminate harassment and advance the goals of working women. She also spoke about how she is able to continue that work in the private sector with Buckley associates combatting workplace harassment. We talked about how the culture of an organization, whether private or public, can be key in preventing misconduct and supporting female employees.

Before concluding the roundtable, I asked whether we could expect a Michelle Obama presidential bid.  Disappointingly, Tina confirmed that Michelle will not run for president.

Tina is an inspiration and a wonderful reminder of the quality of lawyer that is educated at Northwestern. I am excited to continue to follow her career, and also to see my fellow WLC members go on to lead similarly incredible careers. 


Samantha Fidler