She came to focus on family law only in the last 15 years; by all accounts, her life experiences and personal values have contributed to her steady rise in the field. For one thing, she worked to promote mental health before becoming a lawyer; after becoming a lawyer, she worked as a children's advocate.
With her clients today she projects a sense of compassion and charity, all stemming, she says, from her strong roots, mostly in Beverly on Chicago's Southside, where she grew up in a family that valued education and fair play. As the first daughter with three older brothers, she developed an early ability to stand up for herself, be a team player - and resolve disputes - all skills to which members of large tight-knit families can well relate.
Today, she says, only half joking, "There were so many rules in our house, I'm surprised we didn't all become lawyers." Three today are lawyers, one's a doctor, a sister is a nun, two are in business and another brother is a commodities trader; their late father operated more than twenty gas stations, on behalf of the extended family around Northern Illinois. Her brothers all attended Marist High School, Beverly's parochial school, and the girls attended Mother McAuley High School. She found "my thing" in the school orchestra; she went on to Loyola, with an eye on becoming a social worker. While there she spent a year working with the mentally ill and advocating on their behalf. "For me, my life had always been about working with people, and that's what I wanted to do." In fact, she began to see the world - a year in Rome, as well as a semester at Georgetown in Washington.
After college she went immediately to law school at Notre Dame. After law school she worked in a shelter for runaway youths in New York City. Upon her return from New York she worked for William J. Harte. Early on she was tackling the intricacies of legal writing and federal court and appellate work - "Baptism by fire," she says. After nearly two years she joined a small firm that handled legal work for Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police. The work spanned defending police officers facing administrative charges, civil claims against FOP members, and civil litigation jury trials. One aspect of the practice included work on police officers' divorce cases, which Lacy took on.
Within a few years she sought more opportunities in civil trial work and began work at the well-established trial firm of Steinberg & Polacek (today Steinberg, Goodman and Kalish), handling an array of plaintiff's personal-injury litigation. Then, in the late 90s, Bernard Rinella, with one of the best-known firms and best records in Chicago divorce law, came calling: "When I told lawyer friends I was headed to work for Bernie, everyone knew him. It was a great opportunity." She adds: "I had already handled hundreds of depositions and worked on some tough cases, so I had a good skill set for trial work walking in the door."
Since then Lacy has built her own following - gaining clients "almost entirely" from the referrals of old clients. Her network today, too, extends to grade-school classmates. "I don't let people go that easily." Prior to joining Rinella, Lacy took a series of courses in finance, now the source of important skills, especially on her more complex cases. In fact, she has taken on some of the toughest and largest-asset cases in the past several years; one settlement was in the tens of millions and involved hard-to-resolve business valuation issues.
For all that, Lacy remains self-effacing, quick to extend credit to her colleagues; they are relationships that have made her more effective as a lawyer. Recently Lacy was named an equity partner of Rinella & Rinella, a major milestone. Her advocacy work has hardly slackened: She has volunteered for Concern in Chicago and has been a board member and chaired fundraisers for the organization over the past ten years. The funds raised have gone to relief work in post-earthquake Haiti through Concern Worldwide International, which honored her in 2003 for her work in the Chicago area. To relax she enjoys a night at the opera, and she spends time with her family in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. She lives today on Chicago's north side.