It was while moonlighting as an economics tutor in college that Cary Martin Shelby discovered her passion for teaching. Shelby, who now teaches corporate and securities law as the Ralph Brill Endowed Chair Professor of Law at Chicago-Kent College of Law, says she particularly enjoys making complicated areas of the law accessible to students from varying backgrounds. “Teaching is a fantastic mechanism for me to give back.”
This altruism stems in part from her youth as she navigated completing her education while in the foster care system. Shelby has shared that experience eloquently on her blog and in public speaking engagements, as well as through the company she founded, DaCasiom LLC. In partnership with Chicago nonprofit Foster Progress, DaCasiom assembles and sends care packages to college students who have also faced adversity in their pursuit of higher education.
“As a college student in my dorm, watching friends receive care packages and letters from their loved ones enhanced the loneliness I felt,” Shelby says. “This is something really small that I can do for these students.”
After earning her bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and her JD from Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, Shelby joined Sidley as an associate with the firm’s Investment Funds group in Chicago. In her practice, she represented clients on matters involving hedge funds, commodity pools, and derivatives trading.
Practicing law was integral to her success as an educator: “My experience at Sidley is literally the gift that keeps on giving. It provided me with a launchpad for my scholarship as a law professor.” Shelby’s academic research examines the extent to which corporate and securities laws can better protect against financial instability generated by racially biased practices and policies.
Her mentors at Sidley were essential to her success in law and research, among them partner Janelle Ibeling, who Shelby says “helped me have a deeper relationship with the field.” So too was partner Liz Schubert, of whom she says: “Watching Liz build her expertise and teach others, including myself, was extremely inspiring.”
After leaving Sidley in 2010, Shelby completed the William H. Hastie Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Law School, a competitive two-year LL.M. program designed to prepare candidates for a career in law academia.
She joined the faculty at DePaul University College of Law in Chicago in 2012, where she taught for seven years before accepting a position with Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia in 2019.
She now teaches on topics such as contracts, business associations, securities regulation, and corporate finance. This is in addition to having developed an innovative Investment Funds seminar based on her research and practice experience, which she describes as a rarity within law school curriculums.
Contemplating the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action and how it might impact students from diverse backgrounds, Shelby says that law firms must continue to forge a path forward. “This ruling may entail higher degrees of creativity and innovation in terms of recruiting and retaining diverse teams of lawyers. But having a diverse group of individuals partaking in solving complex problems, which is what we did in my practice group at Sidley, is essential.”
To recharge her batteries, Shelby carves out quality time with her husband, son, and daughter as often as possible. She also enjoys painting, reading, and running, and although she wanted to join Sidley’s Race Judicata team this summer, she resisted the urge because, “I teach an evening class. I thought about it, but I was like, ‘No, Cary.’”
Published September 2023
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