Karen P. Layng (’84, BA, international economics and French commercial studies; '87, JD) wears several hats. From leading her own consulting firm to serving as the national president of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, Layng says the skills she picked up during her undergraduate studies have helped her find success and pursue her passion.
Occupation: Strategic C-Suite executive, board member, arbitrator, mediator and president of M.A.I.T. Co. I am also an adjunct professor of ethics, alternative dispute resolution, and due diligence at Northwestern University’s Engineering Masters in Design and Construction (EMDC) program. I am also the National President of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
Briefly describe a typical workday at your current position.
I never have a typical day, and that is the most interesting aspect of all the balls that I juggle. After almost three decades practicing in Big Law, the opportunity to now pursue varied board and other positions, including devoting my efforts to supporting the best youth leadership program in the country, are tremendously exciting and an honor to serve.
Describe your career path since college graduation.
I worked as an associate and then became partner as soon as I was eligible in the firm, billing 2,400 hours-plus every year. I took on every additional responsibility for leadership that the firm would allow: first as the chair of the summer associate program; next as hiring partner; then chair of the litigation department; member of the board of directors; chair of the compensation committee (as the first woman in that role); and served on a myriad of other committees inside and outside of the firm. All the while, I formed and chaired the Construction Law Practice. Outside of the firm, I was very active in legal and other not-for-profit activities, including becoming the first woman president of the 7th Circuit Bar Association in its 51-year history and being the room mother for each of my kids’ classrooms, every year, and one of the Troop Leaders for my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop for 13 years. These experiences allowed me to make new friends and contacts and hone my strategic leadership and crisis and enterprise risk management skills.
In hindsight, what about college best prepared you for your life and career?
Working and going to school, all while playing in the university band, being in a sorority, and being an active member of intramural teams, helped me become extremely organized, and my time management skills are now exceptional. I also learned that I could survive on little sleep! Also, I met my husband at the law school in our tax class!
How did your major prepare you for your career?
My majors (and my “cognate” in political science, as we called them then) still provide daily support in my work. I employ the statistical analysis I learned and the analytical thinking on a daily basis and credit my strategic business acumen and success from the exceptional education I received from the U of I.
Describe your proudest achievement.
Being married to the greatest person I have ever met and my best friend, Patrick Layng, for 31 years this last September and raising three exceptional children (Alex, Shannon and Kane) together.