Carolyn M. Trenda Partner

Carolyn regularly advises public, private and non-profit employers on a range of employee benefits topics.

She designs and assists clients with the ongoing administration of tax-qualified retirement plans including defined benefit pension plans, 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, 457 deferred compensation plans, profit sharing plans and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs). She routinely helps clients with health and welfare plan matters including plan design and COBRA and HIPAA related questions. She also works with employers to establish and maintain non-qualified, stock option and fringe benefit plans.

Specifically, Carolyn has assisted clients with restructuring retiree medical programs, merging and terminating employee benefit plans, evaluating executive compensation arrangements and negotiating vendor agreements and trust agreements. She often advises employers on employee benefits matters during mergers and acquisitions, including issues related to the compensation and benefits of transferred and terminated employees. She routinely obtains rulings and determinations from the IRS, the U.S. Department of Labor and other government agencies and guides clients through agency audits and the use of government sponsored compliance and correction programs.

Carolyn also counsels employers and employee benefit plan committees on ERISA fiduciary obligations. She frequently publishes articles and speaks on a variety of employee benefits subjects.

In 2001, Carolyn completed the University of Notre Dame Law School's Concannon Program of International Law. While earning her undergraduate degree, Carolyn was a member of the Phi Alpha Theta honor society.


Advice to a manufacturing client regarding the redesign and implementation of a retiree medical program. The changes included cost-sharing for current retirees and access-only for future retirees. Provide assessments on litigation risks for various groups affected by the changes. Health reimbursement arrangements and health savings accounts were included with a program of employee/retiree communication and education.

Conduct a compliance review of health and welfare documentation, update summary plan descriptions and coordinate with newly designed wrap plan documents. Separate programs developed for active and retiree groups.

Design and implementation of a new defined contribution retirement plan for an energy company and merged several existing plans into the newly created plan. Facilitated client interaction with the third party administrator and negotiated recordkeeping and trust agreements.

Ongoing representation of global manufacturer’s qualified retirement plans and welfare plans. As this client is continuously acquiring and selling various subsidiaries and plants, we advise them through the employee benefits issues that arise in these transactions, including negotiating the terms of the sale/purchase agreements and administrative/legal considerations regarding plan mergers or terminations.

Creation of equity option plans for growing technology companies.

  • Notre Dame Law School, JD, 2002
  • University of Notre Dame, BA, History, Government and International Studies, cum laude, 1999

Fellow, American College of Employee Benefits Counsel

Member, Business Law Section, Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation, American Bar Association

Member, Assistant Vice-Chair (2015-present), Subcommittee on Welfare Plan and EEOC, FMLA and Leaves Issues, Section of Taxation, Employee Benefits, American Bar Association

Member, Steering Committee Member (2015-present), International Pension and Employee Benefit Lawyers Association

Board of Advisors Member, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Chicago, 2011-present; Legal Assistance Advisory Committee Member, 2008-present, Committee Co-Chair, 2016-present

  • Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • Moderator, "Medical Travel Tourism: Before and After Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization," American Bar Association Tax Section: Annual Fall Meeting, October 13-15, 2022
  • Guest Speaker, "Exploring Employment Law in the Age of COVID-19 (Part 2)," Deal Us In Podcast Series, July 30, 2021
  • Guest Speaker, "Exploring Employment Law in the Age of COVID-19 (Pt. 1)," Deal Us In Podcast Series, June 30, 2021
  • Speaker, "ERISA Pre-Approved and Customized Benefit Plans: Overhauled IRS Procedures and Determination Letter Process," Strafford Webinars, November 2017
  • Speaker, "Wellness Programs Update," American Bar Association Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Health and Welfare Benefit Plans National Institute 2017, September 2017
  • Speaker, Employee Benefits in the Age of Trump, September 2017
  • Speaker, "What’s the Alternative? Legal Approaches and Risks with 'Alternative' Investments - A US Perspective," International Pension & Employee Benefits Lawyers Association 16th International Conference, May 2017
  • Speaker, "Health Check: Common Approaches to Welfare Benefits," International Pension & Employee Benefits Lawyers Association 16th International Conference, May 2017
  • Speaker, "Year-End Health and Welfare Plan Round-Up," Hot Topics in Employee Benefits, McGuireWoods Webinar, November 2016
  • Speaker, "HIPAA for the Rest of Us: What Do Non-Healthcare People Really Need to Know?," HIPAA Webinar Series , McGuireWoods LLP Healthcare Webinar, March 2016
  • Speaker, "Multi-National Mega Pension Funds: Who’s in Charge? The Rise of Pension Funds as a Form of Global Financial Institution," International Pension & Employee Benefits Lawyers Association 15th International Conference, May 2015
  • Speaker, "Multiemployer Plan Mass Withdrawal: Looming Liability for Employers," Bloomberg BNA Webinar, September 2014
  • Co-presenter, "The Pension Plan is Dead – Long Live the Pension Plan," International Pension & Employee Benefits Lawyers Association Benefits Without Borders Conference, June 2014
  • Speaker, "Pay or Play Under the ACA: What Employers Should be Prepared For in 2014 and Beyond," 12th Annual Business and Legal Issues in Dialysis and Nephrology Symposium, May 2014
  • Co-presenter, "Withdrawal Liability," American Conference Institute’s 7th National Forum on ERISA Litigation, May 2014
  • Speaker, "Pension Protection in the Draw-Down Phase: Approaches to Maintaining Pension Longevity," International Pension & Employee Benefits Lawyers Association’s 14th International Conference, May 2013
  • Panelist, "Ethical Considerations in Health and Welfare Benefit Plans” and “Employment Tax Audits of Fringe Benefit Plans," American Bar Association Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Health and Welfare Benefit Plans, October 2011
  • Panelist, "Employees on the Move: Providing Pensions for Internationally Mobile Employees” and "Healthcare Benefits," International Pension and Employee Benefit Lawyers Association Annual International Conference, May 2011
  • Co-presenter, "Labor and Employment Issues Including 409A," 8th Annual Business & Legal Issues in Dialysis & Nephrology Symposium, McGuireWoods LLP Seminar, May 2010
  • Moderator, "Facing Defined Benefit Plan Challenges: Issues with Poorly Funded Plans," International Pension and Employee Benefit Lawyers Association Teleconference, December 2009
Back to top