Leading with Integrity and Joy and Exceeding Expectations | Meredith S. Hudgens


Meredith S. Hudgens

Partner, The Cook Group

It was in the 5th grade that Meredith decided she wanted to be an attorney. A class project required her to interview someone with a job she may like to have one day. Her family friend Bill Castillo, a well-known and successful litigator in the Elgin area, allowed her to interview him and instilled in her that you do things the right way, with passion and fight. After this meeting, she was determined to be a litigator.

Meredith Hudgens was born and raised in Elgin, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago by her parents J. Patrick Hudgens and Deborah Pribble Hudgens. Her dad owns Elgin Sheet Metal, a family-owned HVAC company. Her mother, Debbie, and best friend, is a piano teacher and master gardener.

Meredith is now a Chicago resident and practices law at The Cook Group located downtown in the Loop in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from Larkin High school in 1999 and attended Southern Illinois University (SIUC) in Carbondale, IL. She double majored in Political Science and Journalism. In college, she was active in several community organizations and was president of her sorority Sigma Kappa.  She was even Homecoming Queen in 2001.  She graduated from SIUC in 2003.

From there she went on to John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois, obtaining her Juris Doctorate in 2006. Meredith has great stories of support from her three years in law school. “I lived in Elgin during law school and commuted downtown via the train,” she shares. “I have memories of my parents coming down on the train with me and celebrating my acceptance into law school; my best friends picking up after my late night classes, so I didn’t have to take the train home; working as a clerk for dear friend’s dad, to graduating with my brother-in-law with my grandparents getting to witness that, Andy & Dorothy Pribble.”

Meredith’s first “legal job” as she puts it, was as a law clerk at Cooney & Conway, a major personal injury law firm in Chicago.  There she learned an introduction to and several skills in civil law and asbestos cases.   It was a fantastic opportunity that allowed her to experience the tort system first hand. Her first job as an attorney was at O’Connell, Tivin, Miller & Burns (OTMB). She was hired by Jackie Miller, the only female named equity partner at the firm. From day one, Meredith says she had to work hard and put in countless hours to develop into a litigator. She also learned its important to think outside the box in some cases. There was a lot of late nights and hard lessons too. Within five years her hard work paid off and she made equity partner at OTMB by 31. She was the youngest attorney and second female to ever make partner at the firm.

During her time at OTMB, she was strongly mentored and supported by Jackie Miller. Meredith proudly boasts that Jackie provided her opportunity after opportunity to excel, work on clients and showcase her talent. “That is rare to find someone who wants to give you a chance, let alone mentor you.” Meredith is extremely grateful for Jackie not only as a mentor but also as her friend. She set the example of a strong female promoting and helping other females. “I try to model that example every day of how to be a strong female leader and also help other women grow in their careers.”   Now the two (Jackie and Meredith) run a team of 10 together and just opened the Chicago office of The Cook Group with their team at the beginning of 2021.

The Cook Group is an existing New York City based women and minority owned law firm, founded by Kerryann Cook.  Meredith and Jackie opened their Chicago offices in February 2021.  Together they handle clients in the areas of insurance defense, tort, asbestos, talc and environmental litigation, construction, medical malpractice, and product liability. Meredith also handles wills, estates, business matters, personal injury, and even criminal cases. She already helped expand The Cook Group’s client base and reach in Illinois The Cook Group was founded on the belief that there is a better way to practice law for our clients and for our team members. This is why Meredith was so excited to join the firm.  The practice of law is rapidly changing in all areas and The Cook Group is at the forefront of that change, leading the charge to modernize and streamline practices to more efficiently serve our clients while aggressively advancing and protecting their clients’ interests.

The Cook Group is distinguished in its commitment to client service with legal talent across multiple jurisdictions and disciplines. “We a focus on putting the client’s needs first. That’s the number one thing.” Their attorneys hail from diverse backgrounds leading client engagements and practice groups. “We leverage our strengths and experience as defense litigators to our client’s advantage: we share ideas, our knowledge, and our diverse perspectives with clients and each other to increase opportunities and overall effectiveness,” says Meredith. “Our attorneys go out of their way to know our clients’ businesses so that you have a true partner in all stages of the legal process.”

Diversity. Inclusion. Equality. Respect. These are the core values of The Cook Group. “We are committed to recruiting, retaining and advancing highly qualified diverse attorneys and have set priorities in entry level recruitment, lateral recruitment, development and retention of minority and female attorneys, and diversity mentoring, training and awareness,” adds the steadfast leader. “The Cook Group is uniquely positioned to respond to the demand for the very real benefits of being represented by a team of diverse and experienced attorneys.”

A skilled litigator, Meredith has been named an Illinois Rising Star for five consecutive years and is experienced in creating, coordinating and implementing innovative defense strategies for a myriad of corporate defendants across the United States in her various roles as National, Regional and/or Local counsel. Licensed to practice law in three states and Federal Court, Meredith provides a unique and expansive representation for both local and national clients. Her familiarity and experience in known “judicial hell holes” extends beyond Illinois and Missouri, as Meredith has successfully resolved and settled large group and individual cases with both large and small Plaintiff firms across the country. She has litigated over a thousand cases across the country, including Illinois, Missouri, New York, California, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts and more for several clients. She is known for helping clients with experts, trial development, discovery, corporate representatives, and fact-finding missions to resolve issues. She is always available for her client; she makes it a point to give her cell to her clients with the instructions, you can call any time, and I will make time for you. She has the same motto with her team as well. 

Meredith is also known for developing outside-the-box litigation plans that have led to very successful results for her clients. Those scenarios have created tremendous opportunities to grow and learn in her practice and other areas as well:  including industrial hygiene, medical causation, industrial and commercial workplaces, product manufacturing, and more.

Since law school at John Marshall, Meredith has volunteered at Administer Justice in Elgin, Illinois, a legal and social service provider. She got involved in “AJ” after hearing the compelling story of Bruce Strom and the need to provide access and service to everyone.  Meredith is extremely dedicated to helping underserved communities and has strong convictions to serve and give to others. 

In 2015, Meredith started a legal clinic called Just City with Erick Bernardo and Kim Heffernan in Rogers Park, Chicago, a diverse and wonderful neighborhood in Chicago. The legal clinic operates as a non-profit under the arm of Administer Justice.  The clinic’s purpose is to provide free legal advice and social services to those who would otherwise never have access to an attorney. Meredith has earned several other honors, including Emerging Lawyer and Super Lawyers Rising Start over the years starting in 2015. “It is a tremendous honor and privilege. I am blessed to have had great opportunities presented to me, and supportive people in my life that helped get me where I am today.  I love being a lawyer and litigating cases,” she says. At the Cook Group, we are committed to fighting and litigating for every client, no matter how large or small, across multiple jurisdictions. We pride ourselves on advocating for and providing each client our full attention.


"I was taught to set my standards high and put forth the kind of effort that means something in the end. "

Meredith S. Hudgens

Partner, The Cook Group

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