Lynn Alice Schenk was born on January 5, 1945 in New York City, New York. She moved with her family to California at the age of 14 where she attended Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, California. Upon graduation, Schenk attended Santa Monica College before transferring to the University of Los Angeles. Schenk graduated in 1967 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and entered Law School at the University of San Diego. She graduated in 1970 with her Juris Doctor degree. Schenk went on to study international law at the London School of Economics in London, England from 1970-1971.
In July 1971, Schenk took a job with the State Attorney General Office working as a Deputy Attorney General in the criminal division. In May of 1972 she was offered a position with San Diego Gas and Electric as an in-house lawyer and remained until 1976 when she was appointed a White House Fellow by President Ford. She served as a special assistant to both Vice Presidents Nelson Rockefeller and Walter Mondale. Around the same time that she was appointed to the position of in-house lawyer for San Diego Gas and Electric, she married University of San Diego law professor, C. Hugh Friedman, and subsequently, became step-mother to his three children.
From 1977 to 1983, Schenk served as California's Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing as part of Governor Jerry Brown's cabinet. She was the first women to hold this position and oversaw 14 departments that included 30,000 plus employees and a budget of nearly $2 billion. In addition she also played a large role in California's international trade relations between Mexico, Canada, Japan, Korea, and China.
In 1984, Schenk ran for San Diego County Supervisor against Republican Susan Golding. Schenk lost the election 45% to 55%. Late in the election, Golding's campaign mailed out literature accusing Schenk of financial irregularities and Schenk later sued Golding for slander. The two settled out of court.
In 1992, Schenk ran for Congress from California's 49th congressional district, which covers most of San Diego. Schenk won and became the first woman elected to the United States House of Representatives to represent the San Diego area and the first Democrat to represent the area in 40 years. Schenk sat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its subcommittees on Telecommunications, Finance, Transportation, and Hazardous Materials. She also sat on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee. Schenk was recognized as the congressional leader on matters relating to biotechnology and high-speed rail. She was defeated for re-election in 1994 by Brian Bilbray, the Republican mayor of Imperial Beach.
After serving in Congress, Schenk held various positions in the California state government during the tenure of California Governor Gray Davis. One of those positions included serving as Chief- of- Staff from 1998 until Davis was recalled in 2003. As Chief of Staff, she oversaw the day-to-day operations of the states' government. She was the Governor's chief executive and top policy advisor.
As of late, Schenk has been practicing corporate law. She sits on the boards of various organizations including the Scripps Research Institute Board of Trustees. She is a member of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, on the Board of the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, a director of Sempra Energy, and a member of the University of San Diego School of Law, Board of Visitors. In 2006, she completed her term as a commissioner of the California Medical Assistance Commission.