Meet 2019 Forward under 40 Award Recipient Bethany Biesenthal ’00

UW Major: Journalism and Political Science
Age: 39 | Chicago
OF Counsel, Investigations and White-Collar Defense Practice, Jones Day

When others are forced to be silent, Bethany Biesenthal is proud to raise her voice. She uses her legal acumen to fight against forced labor and human trafficking, and she’s known for her thoughtful approach to justice.

When she was an assistant U.S. attorney for the northern district of Illinois, the director of the FBI twice honored Biesenthal’s leadership of the office’s human trafficking section. Mindful of providing a sense of security to victims, she personally trained law-enforcement agents and fellow attorneys about how to detect human trafficking and how to work with victims of trauma.

Biesenthal traces her advocacy to her time at UW–Madison, where she was active with organizations focused on preventing sexual assault and learned the principles that shape her career.

“I was taught the value of activism: the importance of working hard and using my voice to effect change,” she says.

During her decade in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago, Biesenthal led hundreds of investigations, including national security, fraud, corruption, and cybercrime cases. She also prosecuted high-profile criminal
cases against fraudsters and violent gang members.

Today, Biesenthal represents companies in investigations, litigation, and matters of compliance, with her eye on new efforts that could solve the global problem of forced labor.

According to a white paper she coauthored last year, an estimated
25 million adults and children worldwide are forced to work, including within supply chains that contribute to products sold in the United States, such as cell phones, cars, and shoes. Biesenthal advises companies on compliance with modern, responsible labor policies designed to bring forced labor to an end.

“I have practiced law with confidence that I can make a difference and have sought opportunities to use my voice in service of those who may not have otherwise been heard,” she says.

Photo courtesy of Jones Day

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