Devin W. Blackburn, J.D. ('99)

Senior Vice President | Senior Tax Counsel & Director of Executive Wealth Advisory
Northern Trust Wealth Management

As senior tax counsel, Devin monitors tax legislation to determine how changes will impact the wealth plans of ultrahigh net worth clients. As director of Executive Wealth Advisory, she drives the strategic direction for advising corporate executives on equity-linked compensation.

Get to Know Devin

What talent or trait would you most like to have?

What living person do you admire most?
Oprah Winfrey

Favorite fictional character?
Jessica Pearson (Suits)

Favorite musical artist?
Fred Hammond

What is your most treasured possession?
Picture of my maternal grandparents when they were newlyweds

What is your favorite pastime?
Hiking―to date, seven summits around the world

What interested you in a career in tax law?
It really is the perfect intersection of legal analysis, writing and numbers. I’ve always loved writing and literature, but did not necessarily desire a career in journalism. After earning my degree in finance, I decided to attend law school rather than pursue investment banking. I took a tax law course my second year, and the rest is history.

What has been the greatest challenge you've faced in your role?
I knew I would face barriers in the legal industry. No one in my family or circle was an attorney, so I strategically positioned myself as a person of value. I became known as someone who could convey complex, technical information in a concise manner to drive decision making. With that skill, guess who leaders often chose to attend important client meetings. And oftentimes for success you simply need an opportunity to be present in the room.

What prepared you most for this position?
The first 10 years of my career taught me to be agile, flexible and prepared for what’s next. I worked in a large law firm and a Fortune 100 corporation for nearly a decade. Then, in 2016, the corporation I worked for divested part of the organization. Overnight I became responsible for structuring the sale of multiple business units, which required staying until the businesses were ultimately sold. Next I took 18 months off to decide what to do with my career. It was then I decided to focus on utilizing my tax knowledge to transition to wealth management.

What has been your greatest success?
Being appointed as a commissioner of the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery. I’m in the first year of my appointment and am honored for the opportunity to tell the multifaceted story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture.

What advice do you have for women who aspire to become leaders in their fields?
Set a specific goal—know exactly what you are going after. And only take on roles and associations that get you one step closer to that goal.

What quality do you most admire in a woman leader?
The ability to drive meaningful decision making.

What is your leadership style?
Agile pacesetter