Chuhak & Tecson wins national innovation award for Women Helping Women

April 7, 2017

The women attorneys at Chuhak & Tecson, P.C., were nationally recognized this week for a unique initiative allowing professional women to build their businesses while simultaneously providing support for underrepresented women and children in the community.  

Women Helping Women is a 2017 winner of the IDEA (Innovation, Development, Engagement and Advancement) Awards sponsored by the Association of Legal Administrators. The annual honor recognizes one-of-a-kind programs, services and events that enrich the legal community and advance the business of law.

Michelle Schadler, chief operating officer at Chuhak & Tecson and one of the visionaries for Women Helping Women, accepted the award for the firm April 5 in Denver, Colo. With 14 Women Helping Women gatherings under their belts the group has seen attendance nearly double since the early days.

“We’ve designed an event for women that works for the demands on women’s time,” Schadler said. “Women play a lot more roles in life than men do, and they need time to focus on networking, business development and philanthropy. We’ve figured out how to do all that in two hours.”

Women Helping Women blends networking and business building with charitable service in a single, two-hour event known as Mix-and-Mingle. Local women business leaders, entrepreneurs and strategic partners come together to develop relationships over wine and hors d’oeuvres, then sit back for a brief presentation by a selected charitable partner organization providing services to women and/or their children.

Each agency chosen to be a charity partner is feted with in-kind gifts from the women in attendance. Chuhak & Tecson also looks for other ways to add value to the organization—helping to develop their website, for example, or providing legal assistance.

“When we partnered with Jewish Child & Family Services,” said Lindsey Paige Markus, a principal at Chuhak & Tecson, “we collected more than 250 multicultural and diverse ability dolls. These were meant to help children with trauma therapy and comfort those entering the foster care system. To walk into the Mix-and-Mingle that night and see the hundreds of dolls guests had brought was just incredibly moving.”

At another event, when the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network was the charity partner, attendees filled goody bags with personal hygiene items one needs when fleeing their home, wrote inspiring notes for the women who would be receiving the bags, and attached donated pieces of jewelry to each bag.

Women Helping Women provided school supplies for the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School, hosted a baby shower for New Moms, and showered clothing on women emerging from homelessness and sex trafficking. They collected pajamas and slippers for newly released female prisoners, teddy bears for children affected by disaster, and art supplies for children with disabilities.

“From my perspective, the number one key to building a successful book of business rests on building relationships,” Markus said. “But there seems to be a unique recipe for success based on the underlying purpose of giving back. There’s something about this mix of professional women coming together not only to grow and develop their business but also make a difference for the charity that produces an incredible energy in the room. It’s not all about us.”

Besides the obvious benefits to the community agencies and to the business builders, there have been unanticipated outcomes from Women Helping Women. Primarily, the events have further built on the firm’s a culture of firm-wide community service—implemented by the founders 30 years ago—that has led to more firm-sponsored service projects, including 25 separate initiatives during Chuhak & Tecson’s 25th year.

“The Women Helping Women events are motivational and stirring,” Schadler said. “People are giving help, and people are receiving help. The fact that all these different women continue coming together to connect with each other and build on opportunities together is exactly what we envisioned—and it never stops being awe-inspiring.”


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