Member Monday: Debjani Desai

General Counsel // Illinois Office of Comptroller

Description of your practice:
I am the chief legal officer for the Illinois Office of Comptroller, and I head up a team of lawyers in Chicago and Springfield. Together, we provide counsel on what people consider the “usual” state comptroller functions, such as ordering payments out of the treasury, managing the state’s fiscal accounts, and conducting audits and reports on the state’s fiscal health. We advise the office on litigation, legislation, finance, operations, compliance, and labor and employment matters. We also help the office in making government more efficient and effective, advancing transparency, and finding ways to save taxpayers money.

Why are you a member of the WBAI?
I have been a member of WBAI for most of my career, and I am fortunate to be a part of all of the great work this organization is doing. As an attorney in government practice, WBAI was instrumental in connecting me to other lawyers in the public sector. In a sea of thousands of lawyers here in Illinois, and especially Chicago, it is easy to feel drowned out. WBAI gives members a real opportunity to shape the legal community and community-at-large, by providing opportunities to lead, network, develop professionally and personally, and mentor/be mentored.

What do you think is the best way to empower women in law? 
To empower other women in law, I use what I have learned in my journey, and that is to pull others up along the way. One of my favorite mentors, Judge Neera Walsh taught me to be more than a mentor or one-time helper. She taught me the value of sponsorship and to really invest in good people. As a woman and person of color in this profession, it is wonderful to say that I have found that type of camaraderie and support from WBAI, so I try to pass that on to others.

What are you most looking forward to in the following year, personally/professionally?
I am eagerly looking forward to an end to the COVID pandemic and to travel freely to see family and friends.

Tell us something interesting about you.
According to a 23andMe ancestry analysis, I am 99.7% Bengali and Northeast Indian.