By William Hageman
Some kids watch sports on television and want to be an athlete.
Mareile Cusack used to watch “Perry Mason” and decided to become a lawyer. Not the flashy attorney of TV courtroom dramas; she wanted something more cerebral. Today, she’s senior vice president and general counsel at Ariel Investments in Chicago.
“I used to watch ‘Perry Mason’ and I always imagined I’d be a litigator, and people would melt in front of me,” she says. “But I realized I was a much more transactional lawyer. So the desire to really conclude things and come to a final point is what attracted me.”
Cusack (her first name is pronounced ma-RYE-lee) joined Ariel in 2007. Before that she was associate general counsel and chief enforcement counsel at the Chicago Stock Exchange. Previously, she served as chief legal counsel for the Illinois Gaming Board and as an attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission. She also worked at two Chicago-based law firms. It was a slow, steady climb, one that had a tumultuous beginning.
Cusack was born in Haiti in 1958. Her father worked in government, but was sent into exile in 1959, leaving his wife and three children behind. They lived in hiding for about a year.
“(My mother) tells the story of one day coming home, and the police were on both sides of the street,” Cusack says. “They were ransacking our house. A friend of hers, a police officer, said, ‘You have to get out of here.'”
They eventually escaped to Guinea in northwest Africa, where they were reunited with her father.
“He worked with the government, which was in transition,” she says. “We were there till I was 7. It was wonderful, wonderful. I was surrounded by all sorts of foreigners. Chinese, French, Russians. My friends were from everywhere.”