Ever since turning 40 a few (!) years ago, Mary has been trying to become harder to introduce, and, at 66, she finds she’s been succeeding. Her conventional resume includes almost forty years of practicing law, first with Sidley & Austin and then with Winston & Strawn, two of the largest firms in Chicago. She was a partner at both in the advertising, trademark, copyright, entertainment and sports law areas, and then as Of counsel to Winston, giving her additional time to write, do community service and pursue hobbies such as golf, sailing, tennis and bridge. She retired from the practice of law on February 1, 2015.
Mary was raised in Crystal Lake, Illinois, then a small town forty five miles from Chicago. Her mother was a librarian and her father a PhD in chemical engineering, and that should explain everything. She has one sister, Donna C. Steele, born eleven months and two weeks after her, who skipped first grade so that the “Hutchings girls” were very much like twins—Donna the creative one (the Founder and Artistic Director of Steel Beam Theatre, St. Charles, IL) and Mary the logical one, and that should explain the rest of it!
She attended Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, where she loved being editor-in-chief of the school newspaper and on the speech events team, but was happy to graduate and move on to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She is “ever true to Brown” and grateful for lifelong friends she met there, as well as the intellectual encouragement she received from an inspirational faculty. She received both her bachelors (in public policymaking, an interdisciplinary program) and her masters (in economics) in four years, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1973. She then entered Yale Law School (having just missed the Clintons), where she won second prize in the Moot Court of Appeals competition–(“My husband doesn’t really believe in women in law,” one of the judge’s wives told her afterwards)–and chaired the Moot Court Board in her last year. She joined Sidley & Austin in 1976 and was elected to partner in 1983. Winston & Strawn recruited her in 1989 to help start their intellectual property department. She was frequently listed on “super lawyer” and “best lawyers” lists, and was named Chicago’s Advertising Lawyer of the Year by Best Lawyers in 2012 and 2014.
Mary married William R. Reed, an internist, in 1982. They just celebrated thirty-two wonderful years together. It’s his fault she’s now a writer. In 1992, Mary took a leave of absence from law to sail from Norfolk, Va. to St. Thomas, U.S.V.I. with Bill in a 32 foot boat. (See Mary’s book, Captain Aunt), which took 22 days and nights. After three storms at sea and a few weeks of recovery at anchor in the Caribbean, Mary resigned her partnership in order to reduce her workload and refocus some of her energy on writing. She began to write every day and to study with Enid Powell in Chicago and Fred Shafer in Evanston. She has attended numerous writing conferences around the country, including Breadloaf (Middlebury, Vermont), Tin House (Portland, Oregon) and Words and Music (New Orleans).
Mary and Bill have a new, smaller sailboat, If, still ocean-worthy, which they occasionally cruise up Lake Michigan and which they hope to take to salt water some time soon.
Mary also believes in community service, and for many years has served on the boards of various nonprofit organizations, including American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago, Off the Street Club, the Chicago Bar Foundation and the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan chicago (and chair of its development committee). She currently serves on the boards of Steel Beam Theatre and her longest-standing service involvement, Lawyers for the Creative Arts. In June, 2015, she will receive LAF’s highest honor, its “Champion for Justice Award.”