Christine Evans: Chicagoan of the Week

Working on a second, specialized law degree at Northwestern. Served previously as a public guardian, defending the rights of children in the care of Cook County. Helped to protect American exchange students as they lived abroad. Lived in Zambia for four months making sure Zambian widows could continue living on and working the land that was rightfully their own. Worked for nine months in India to free people from forced labor in a rice mill. Leaps tall buildings in a single bound. Faster than a speeding bullet.

Okay, two of these are not like the others. But you would think after that resume, it could be possible. Local lawyer Christine Evans is a truly extraordinary woman of super hero proportions…not to mention laid back enough to (hopefully) appreciate my pop culture nod, while she can rattle off Latin like a pre-Vatican II pope.

Christine Evans, originally an East Coaster**, which we’ll forgive her for, came to Chicago when she was accepted into Northwestern’s law school. Evans and her husband planned to return to the East Coast after her education, but he started a company here, and she saw wonderful career opportunities in her chosen specialization of law: human rights.

I don’t have to tell you, UPChicago readers, that our city is unbelievably diverse. Yet, a united human rights front is lacking here. Christine says that in the city of Chicago, when activists talk about human rights, they are usually talking about largely domestic issues like LGBT rights, or race and socioeconomic issues. And while these are surely important and pressing, the international community that makes Chicago so wonderful is largely ignored. And, unfortunately, because of this community, and because of Chicago’s location in the center of the country, with one of the largest international airports, we often become the end destination or at least a stopping point along the way for human trafficking (more commonly known as “modern day slavery”).

Christine’s first job out of law school was advocating for the rights of children who had been removed from their guardians. Her case load was about 155 clients — the recommended maximum is 75. She was burning out, and she eventually found an opportunity to work abroad with a human rights organization, International Justice Mission. She was gone for a total of 13 months, living and working in Zambia and India. Until recently, she was working in corporate law, and last month took again to the quads and hallowed halls of Northwestern to earn her LLM, which is a specialized law degree. Through her work and studies, she had come to realize her passion was in a much more international context, and within human rights law specifically. Yet with all of her experience, she still felt ill-equipped for the field. So much has changed since 9/11 and the impact of the Bush years (renaming certain torture methods “enhanced interrogation,” for example) that she felt the need to hit the books.

So what prompts someone to seek out time in Zambia, or face down slave owners in an Indian court of law? Her undergrad degree in journalism really sparked her interest as she read so many publications, she couldn’t help but become aware of the problems around the world. But addressing them as a journalist became less appealing as she realized the big business behind a lot of publications might prevent her from writing risky, exposing stories. So, now she finds herself a young lawyer, back in school, who already has life stories and experiences to put the rest of us to shame. After meeting her, I am sure there is only more excitement to come. Mark my words, Chicagoans. This is one of our own we’ll be hearing about.

And while her job might have you visualizing Christine soaring around the skyscrapers of Metropolis, she actually spends most of her time on the ground in Chicago. She loves supporting small local theatres, which makes her a hero of a new sort to this artsy geek, and especially loves The Neo-Futurists, Strange Tree Group, and House Theatre. When she’s craving some grub in the Windy City, she prefers brunch. Edgewater neighborhood spots Tweet and M. Henry are her favorites.

**Sorry, Christine Evans fans! You have been heard! In my interview with this lovely lady I asked where she had lived prior to Chicago and I had understood her to say she was FROM Boston. Turns out, Beantown only gets to claim some of her success. Sorry, Wisconsin!

Mary-Margaret McSweene

About Mary-Margaret McSweene

Mary-Margaret McSweene makes her home in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago with the love of her life, a pit bull/black lab mix, named Jake. Buying old things that no longer function but offer extreme aesthetic pleasure is her vice; typewriters and rotary phones are favorites. Mary-Margaret also believes that anything in life can be articulated by a Tom Petty song.

4 Comments

  • Jeff C.
    October 9, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    Having had something to do with this wonderful young woman’s life, I want to say that “East Coaster” is either not quite right or a new moniker for people who live north of Chi-town, in that state where the east coast is Lake Michigan. She can say she is from Boston, but SOME people know better… :)

  • October 9, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    I agree with everything about my awesome sister in law except the part about her being an ‘East Coaster’. Wisconsin is not the East Coast in my books! Yay for Christine!!

  • Beth
    October 9, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    What an awesome woman. I wish i could sit and have coffee with her.

  • October 9, 2010 | Permalink | Reply

    Hey readers! I’m glad we all agree on her awesomeness! And sorry about ignoring the Midwest roots! I knew her last city was Boston, but you might want to take it up with Christine that she did not mention Wisconsin in our conversation! :o) Regardless, The Windy City, Beantown, and the Cheese Heads up north alike all have bragging rights here!

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