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Rising Stars 2016

MCCA’s Annual List of Rising Stars proves that the profession has upcoming talent who may or may not be of a certain age group or practice law as a second career, but they all give back. Their backgrounds are as diverse as their practice areas, but what these Rising Stars have in common is their love of law, their diligence, and pursuit of excellence, while possessing a compassion for those in need and a strong desire to give back to others. They are dedicated to their profession, but have also learned the art of balancing work with a life that includes being expert speakers, authors, volunteers and leaders in their communities.

Though they are different ages and at varying stages in their careers, they share a common goal to pursue justice in its various forms. The nomination pool of talented Rising Stars was great, but the Minority Corporate Counsel Association narrowed the field down to 15 stellar attorneys whose accomplishments and dedication to the field and to their community place them among those “attorneys to watch” in the legal profession.
We salute the MCCA Rising Stars!

By Dianne Hayes

Salim E. Awad

Salim E. Awad

Attorney
Coulter Lambson LLC


Clayton, MO
Years Practicing: 6

Salim Awad is an attorney at Coulter Lambson LLC, a small litigation practice comprised of five attorneys in St. Louis. His ever-growing practice concentrates on family law and business litigation. Awad attributes his success to his own diversity, in addition to hard work. Born and raised in Colombia, South America, Awad is of Lebanese descent. He’s a veteran who is Hispanic, Middle Eastern and a foreign-born American. “I came to this country with almost nothing, and I struggled to succeed. I think the diverse elements of which I’m comprised add a lot to what I have to offer, both to my clients and the St. Louis legal community.” A significant percentage of Awad’s clients are Spanish speakers. “Hispanic people are definitely a significant demographic in my practice. In St. Louis, there aren’t a lot of other family law practitioners who are bilingual. So I’m proud to be here to help them.”

Awad first came to the United States as a student in the late ’90s but was called home when his mother was tragically murdered. He returned to the States to join the U.S. Army, serving for several years as a deep sea diver. During his time in the military, he earned a BA degree. After completing his term of service, he left the military and went on to earn his JD at St. Louis University Law School in his wife’s hometown. “In your career, the most important thing is to ‘always do the right hard instead of the easy wrong,’” Awad said. “It’s an expression that I got from the Army. It means do the right thing no matter how hard and always follow your values. For me, that means challenging stereotypes attached to being a Hispanic attorney and doing what it takes to succeed while maintaining my integrity and advocating for my clients’ interest.”

Lesley Horton-Campbell

Lesley Horton-Campbell

Associate General Counsel-Global Real Estate & Store Development
Tiffany & Company


New York, New York
Years Practicing: 8

“It’s exciting to use my skillset on behalf of a historic luxury brand that I enjoy,” said rising star Lesley Horton Campbell. As associate general counsel—global real estate & store development at Tiffany & Co. in New York, she advises business leaders on global real estate matters, including office space, industrial facilities and retail stores. Campbell negotiates leases and construction contracts and resolves disputes and litigation matters. “Anything real estate-related falls within my wheelhouse,” she said. “The work is extremely interesting. Because we’re a global company with no in-house legal outside of New York we have to work with local counsel in places like Dubai or Milan, so there are often language and regulation challenges. On any given day I might be dealing with a historic property in Paris or a Hong Kong landlord who doesn’t speak English.”

Prior to Tiffany & Co., Campbell was assistant general counsel at L+M Development Partners Inc. She simultaneously served as a commissioner with the New York City Lobbying Commission. She started her practice in Paul Weiss’ New York office.“The consistent thread throughout my career has been real estate. But I remain flexible,” said the Raleigh, N.C., native. “I’ve worked in varied areas of real estate from casino development to mixed use projects. Don’t be set in your path from the gate, but rather be open to pivot so that you can seize new or unexpected opportunities when they arise.” Early in her career Campbell learned a valuable lesson. “If a senior partner takes an interest in you and makes you their mentee and guides you along the way, that’s great. But you can’t bank on it. If you have aspirations you must be deliberate and as proactive as possible to generate your own luck.”

Michael Chang

Michael Chang

Vice President, Business & Legal Affairs
Warner Bros. Consumer Products Inc.


Years Practicing: 20

With 20 years of experience, Michael Chang said he is more late bloomer than rising star. As vice president of business legal affairs at Warner Bros. Consumer Products Inc., a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc., Chang’s name is an ever-brightening tag on the company’s marquee. Warner Bros. Studios is one of the world’s largest producer of motion pictures and television, whose Burbank-based, global practice focuses on the creation, acquisition, protection and licensing of intellectual property. “Beyond having the skill set to do the job, it’s important to make yourself indispensable,” said the UCLA Law School graduate. “I have a proven track record of success in profitably building brands and navigating deals and partnerships that grow the consumer products business, particularly in emerging Asian markets such as China, India, Vietnam and Korea. I speak English, Mandarin Chinese and Japanese. Being that purple dragon that can do things that no other young lawyer can do gives you a leg up on your career.”

At 12, Chang emigrated with his family from China to the San Francisco Bay area. He has mixed feelings about the experience: “I was bullied, and it was painful.” Yet, being intimidated by others forced him to adapt quickly. “I can pick up languages and adjust to different cultures. That ability to quickly adapt to surroundings has proved invaluable in my career.” Chang advises younger lawyers: “Everyone should define early what success means to him or her and not be afraid to let that definition evolve. If at first you don’t succeed, then redefine success. For me, success means pursuing a career that I love and having an environment where I can learn and grow and help others to grow. ”

Larry M. Chattoo

Larry M. Chattoo

Regulatory & Public Policy/Government Relations Attorney
Bank of America


Washington, D.C.
Years Practicing: 12

As a regulatory and public policy attorney at Bank of America in Washington, D.C., Larry M. Chattoo identifies, analyzes and manages emerging and current international, federal, state and local issues that affect the political and business environment for the bank and banking industry. “The work is challenging but rewarding, and the bank provides great professional and personal opportunities.” Chattoo describes himself as an absolute self-starter, but concedes he would not be where he is today without the mentors he’s known throughout his career. “At my first job out of USC Law School, my mentor said, ‘Larry, sometimes you need to jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.’ I have applied that wisdom to every stage of my career.

“Growth doesn’t happen unless you’re willing to leap without the safety net. Letting go is the key to moving ahead and creating an exciting career regardless of how long you’ve practiced.” A native of Trinidad & Tobago, Chattoo immigrated to Brooklyn with his family when he was still a young boy. “Although I grew up in some pretty rough housing projects, I was frequently reminded by my grandparents that our coming to America was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I need to make the most of it.” After high school, he joined the United States Marine Corps. There, he learned the core values of what has driven his career: discipline, a strong work ethic and duty to public service. Additionally, it was also where he learned that diversity and inclusion are more than buzz words. “The Marine Corps does an amazing job of bringing individuals from all walks of life and teaching them to move as one effective team. During my various deployments, including time in the Persian Gulf on an aircraft carrier, it became clear to me that a diverse team is critical to accomplishing missions.”

Neha Dagley

Neha Dagley

Chair of the India Practice Group
Salazar Jackson


Miami, Florida
Years Practicing: 10

Be fearless in your thought process. Never sell yourself short. These are rules to work and live by for rising star Neha Dagley. At 14, she left her native Mumbai for Las Vegas, where her mother had recently relocated to care for a sick relative. “At my mother’s insistence, my father and I joined her in the U.S. It was a gutsy move on her part. Other than an ill aunt, my mother knew no one. Despite the hardships, she was determined to survive here solely for the sake of my future.

“Even at the young age of 14, I came upon a realization when I stepped off the airplane that if ever I was to have a chance to succeed, this was it and I needed to act. It was my golden ticket, if you will.” Today, Dagley is chair of the India Practice Group in Salazar Jackson’s Miami office. “We want to capture a piece of the incredible economic growth that India is presently experiencing,” Dagley said. “We are capturing clients who are interested in doing business in India, as well as the Indian investors who are looking to grow their wealth abroad,” she said. “We launched the India Practice Group in 2014 so that I could focus upon my ties to India. Our ultimate goal is to be the go-to firm for Indian clients.”

André De La Cruz

André De La Cruz

Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP


Orange County, California
Years Practicing: 9

Be fearless in your thought process. Never sell yourself short. These are rules to work and live by for rising star Neha Dagley. At 14, she left her native Mumbai for Las Vegas, where her mother had recently relocated to care for a sick relative. “At my mother’s insistence, my father and I joined her in the U.S. It was a gutsy move on her part. Other than an ill aunt, my mother knew no one. Despite the hardships, she was determined to survive here solely for the sake of my future.

“Even at the young age of 14, I came upon a realization when I stepped off the airplane that if ever I was to have a chance to succeed, this was it and I needed to act. It was my golden ticket, if you will.” Today, Dagley is chair of the India Practice Group in Salazar Jackson’s Miami office. “We want to capture a piece of the incredible economic growth that India is presently experiencing,” Dagley said. “We are capturing clients who are interested in doing business in India, as well as the Indian investors who are looking to grow their wealth abroad,” she said. “We launched the India Practice Group in 2014 so that I could focus upon my ties to India. Our ultimate goal is to be the go-to firm for Indian clients.”

William T. "Toby" Eveland

William T. "Toby" Eveland

Partner Arnstein & Lehr LLP


Chicago, Illinois
Years Practicing: 11

When mentoring younger lawyers and students, Toby Eveland said he cheekily references Elle Woods from the 2001 comedy “Legally Blonde.” “Elle questions Aristotle’s philosophy that law is reason free from passion,” said Eveland. “I agree with Elle. To be good at what you do, you must be passionate. I happen to have a passion for advocacy. Pursuing that passion benefits my clients and my career.” As a partner in Arnstein’s Chicago office, Eveland’s litigation practice focuses on all aspects of business disputes, premises and product liability defense, class actions and complex insurance matters in fields such as real estate, manufacturing, higher education, risk management, employment and governmental law. He is often retained by a variety of clients given his track record and savvy in the courtroom.

Before attending Loyola University Chicago School of Law, he worked for a NASCAR team in North Carolina where he learned marketing. From there, he joined Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman’s staff . “I really liked the job, but after a while I thought I can help someone who is governor or I can better myself and potentially become a governor down the road someday, so I pursued law school,” he said. Also, as an openly gay man who came of age in Alabama, he understands the challenges those before him faced and the importance of laws protecting the LGBT community. “And while laws have improved in recent years,” said Eveland, who is marrying his partner in May, “we still have to change hearts and minds and cultures.” Eveland devotes a lot of his time to fighting for equality. Like other Rising Stars, Eveland credits his success to a strong work ethic he inherited from his parents, who made endless sacrifices to ensure he was the family’s first college graduate. “Since I was a kid they taught me if I worked hard, I could do anything,” he said. “I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I refuse to let anyone outwork me, and it’s always been that way.”

Karla Gilbride

Karla Gilbride

Cartwright-Baron staff attorney
Public Justice


Washington, D.C.
Years Practicing: 8

As a staff attorney at Public Justice, an organization dedicated to protecting consumer rights, the rights of low income workers and environmental sustainability, Karla Gilbride focuses her practice on consumer fraud. Her cases typically address conduct that abuses or targets low-income vulnerable consumers. She also challenges mandatory arbitration provisions that prevent people from bringing individual and class actions to the judicial forum. “My work is interesting because of the legal issues, and it’s rewarding because we’re going after people who are manipulative in the worst ways,” said Gilbride, a graduate of Georgetown Law School. “It’s one thing for a business to operate in good faith, but when people are taking advantage, it feels great to be able to hold them accountable.”

Blind since birth, Gilbride attributes her rising star status to determination, a strong work ethic and a willingness to take on the next challenge. Prior to joining Public Justice, she spent three years as an associate at Mehri & Skalet; before that, she was at Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, Calif. “I’ve always been eager to learn from people who are doing work that interests me. I’ll put myself in the path of that person. “Being blind sometimes opens conversations, and it’s also taught me to be flexible,” Gilbride said. “Very often, I’m navigating a new environment or inaccessible technology that I must figure out. By necessity, I’ve learned to come up with work-arounds and solutions to succeed. These skills translate to dealing with questions, reshaping arguments.” Gilbride likes many aspects of her work, especially the process of taking a challenging case from “almost impossible” to the realm of “hey, we might be able to win this.” Getting to that place is the most satisfying part of the job,” she said.

Khurram Nasir Gore

Khurram Nasir Gore

General Counsel, Chief Strategy Officer, Corporate Secretary
Personal BlackBox Company PBC


New York, N.Y.
Years Practicing: 7

As general counsel and chief strategy officer at Personal BlackBox, Khurram Nasir Gore is the executive focused on the daily legal needs of a growing business and the strategic direction of the company’s technology platform for personal data ownership and consumer privacy. “Data is an incredible opportunity for companies, but only if people trust the services that they use,” said Gore, who was born in Pakistan and immigrated with his family to New York when he was three. In 2015, Gore led the company’s transition to become one of the few Delaware public benefit corporations in the country. “As a benefit corporation, the company is mission-led and obligated to consider the impact of its actions on consumers. Our commitment to consumer privacy and transparency is baked into the company’s DNA, technology and marketing tools.

“When I met the company’s leadership two years ago, this was a clear opportunity to blend my work as an attorney and an engineer in unique way.” Gore was a senior associate in Reed Smith’s IP and data privacy practice groups in Philadelphia and New York and earned both his graduate degree in engineering and law degree while working as a full-time engineer at Lockheed Martin. Gore said being part of a startup is an entirely different experience from life at a firm. “The company’s existence is in your hands. There is a lot to be done, and the reward potential is great. ” He owes his work ethic and drive to his family; as a boy, he spent his weekends and summers working at his father’s pharmacy in the South Bronx. Today, he lives with his wife and two young children on Staten Island, not too far from his old paper route.

Stacia Jones

Stacia Jones

Senior Director and Legal Counsel, Global
Abercrombie & Fitch


Columbus, Ohio
Years Practicing: 15

“I don’t think of myself as a rising star. In fact, I’m pretty set,” said Stacia Jones, senior director and legal counsel at Abercrombie & Fitch since 2008. Currently, she is responsible for the upscale casual clothing retailer’s labor and employment efforts around the world, which includes more than 50,000 associates in more than 21 countries. Prior to joining Abercrombie & Fitch, Jones was a senior associate in Vorys’ Columbus office where her practice focused on employment and litigation. “I was happy at the firm. Just months before a vote for partnership a mentor asked me to join her in-house at Abercrombie. After a lot of thought, discussion and prayer, I decided to make the move.”

Ambition and aggressiveness have been Jones’ calling card throughout her career. “I try to contribute as much as I can, whether that means billing a lot of hours or getting involved with as many matters as I could at the firm or expanding my areas of responsibility while in-house. Abercrombie provides an environment that allows me to grow and also let’s me wear ripped jeans to the office.” After going in-house, Jones regretted her decision for exactly five minutes. “Suddenly, I panicked. I realized that I would no longer be litigating and that I wouldn’t be a partner. Then I remembered how much I enjoy the team environment in-house and being a critical part of management.” Looking ahead, Jones wants to focus on her team of attorneys. “My goal is to help them be successful. And, of course, I’d like to continue to expand my role and move even further up the corporate ladder.”

Arthur Luk

Arthur Luk

Partner
Arnold & Porter LLP


Washington, D.C.
Years Practicing: 12

For Arthur Luk, working with colleagues and clients is the most rewarding aspect of his practice. Luk is a partner in Arnold & Porter’s securities enforcement and litigation practices. He represents corporations; directors, officers and executives; and “Big 4” accounting firms and individual auditors in investigations conducted by the Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission and Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. He also has extensive experience with complex commercial litigation in federal and state courts, including putative class actions arising out of data breaches. Luk humbly ascribes his success to mentors. “I’ve been lucky to receive mentoring from unexpected sources and fortunate that partners have been committed to my personal development. This has been a fantastic break,” he said, “and I hope to return the investment by mentoring others.”

When Luk expressed an interest in expanding his practice to include data breaches, the firm was supportive. “The partners were receptive, even though I didn’t have as much of a technical background and data breach wasn’t an obvious fit with securities enforcement. And they helped introduce me to clients. At Arnold & Porter, there’s a very collaborative firm culture.” Luk grew up in northern New Jersey. As an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins, he considered pursuing a career in consulting or investment banking but opted instead for the legal profession and went on to attend Columbia Law School. He stressed the importance of being flexible and curious. “It pays to be proactive and pursue interests even if it’s not immediately evident how it may tie into something you’re currently working on,” he said. “And create solid relationships with clients and colleagues. It’s rewarding and will spur you to do better work.”

Alice Palmer

Alice Palmer

Assistant General Counsel
Nationwide Financial Legal/Retirement Plans


Columbus, Ohio
Years Practicing: 7

At Nationwide’s Columbus, Ohio, headquarters, assistant general counsel Alice Palmer leads a team of attorneys and a paralegal in supporting the company’s retirement plans business. Nationwide’s Retirement Plans Business is a full-service plan provider that operates in the public and private sector market. The plans Nationwide supports vary significantly and include qualified and non-qualified plan types. “I love the dynamics of law. It’s always changing and never boring. It’s the challenge that keeps me interested,” she said. “My manager is very supportive and knows I want to do new things, to be stretched. If something comes across his desk that is uniquely challenging, like partnering with our clients to develop strategies to navigate the DOL Fiduciary Rule, he knows I’m his woman.”

Prior to working at Nationwide, Palmer was a litigator with the Chicago Transit Authority. In 2011, she, her husband (an IT professional) and son moved to Ohio to support her husband’s career at Nationwide. Soon after, Palmer joined the company, too, first doing document review in the basement and later moving upstairs as part of the Retirement Plans Group. A native Chicagoan, Palmer cannot remember a time before she wanted to be a lawyer. “My parents will definitely tell you that I’ve always been a self-starter.” At Chicago Kent College of Law, she was interested in employment law but later opened to other practice areas. Palmer’s five-year professional plan is not big on specifics but is clear nonetheless. “I want to progress, and I expect to move forward. If I get to a point that I’m not growing, I’ll do what it takes to find opportunities that will satisfy my need to become a better version of myself every day.”

Austin So

Austin So

Division General Counsel
Heraeus


Philadelphia
Years Practicing: 14

Austin So’s career is decidedly unique. He started as a transactional lawyer at Cravath and later practiced litigation at Akin Gump. He also founded his own firm. In 2012, after 10 years of practicing as outside counsel, So went in-house at Heraeus, a Fortune® Global 500 conglomerate that manufactures medical devices, photovoltaic paste, chemicals, quartz glass, sensors and other industrial products. Founded in Germany over 160 years ago, Heraeus recently established a holding company to support the 12 operating companies in the Americas. As one of Heraeus’ first lawyers in the U.S., So helped build a new legal department. “As you can imagine, it was a challenge to convince 12 separate companies that had been operating successfully for decades that we lawyers are here to help.”

So and his team quickly earned the trust of their internal clients by being effective business partners. According to So, “In-house lawyers should take the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. We do harm when we slow down the business, or when we say ‘no.’ A good in-house lawyer finds a way to say ‘yes’ while minimizing risk.” As So was laying the foundation for the legal department, Heraeus was hit with several “bet-the-company” and other high-stakes matters, including a Department of Justice antitrust investigation of its steel-sensor business, a patent infringement litigation over photovoltaic paste, a Chicago Mercantile Exchange investigation of precious metals trader and a Chinese government anti-dumping investigation affecting its optical-fiber preform business. “It’s rare for an in-house lawyer to tackle so many high-stakes matters in such a short time,” So said. “Although these issues weren’t good for our business, it gave me the opportunity to showcase the value of having a great legal department.” As a result, in just a few years, So and his legal department won numerous awards for excellence.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Harvard University, So advises aspiring in-house lawyers to network. “It’s critical to network both externally and internally. I got my current job through networking and will get my next job the same way. And in order to be a successful in-house lawyer, you need to network internally within your company. It’s hard to build consensus and get buy-in from the right stakeholders if you sit at your desk all day with the door closed. “As a lawyer, I’m committed to diversity and inclusion,” said So, who was born in South Korea and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. “Diversity is a critical factor when I hire outside counsel. Study after study proves that diversity adds tremendous value, so it’s a win-win for the client and the outside counsel.”

Kendra Thomas

Kendra Thomas

Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion
Pearson PLC


Boston
Years Practicing: 13

As global director of diversity and inclusion at Pearson PLC, a multinational education company, Kendra Thomas sets and implements strategy throughout the Americas. “Our goal is to ensure that everyone at Pearson is included in our business and able to leave their unique imprint on our work,” said Thomas, who is based in Boston. “We know that when our teams are diverse, and when that diversity is valued, our business is more innovative and productive and we are better able to meet the needs of learners around the world.” To help accomplish this vast task, Thomas established Pearson’s diversity advocates program, comprised of 25 individuals from Pearson business units throughout North America. The advocates were selected in a competitive process to implement Pearson’s corporate D&I strategy on a local level. They assist with diversity and inclusion training programs, foster engagement through employee networks and establish business-aligned diversity initiatives.

In 2015, the team addressed the needs of Pearson employees who transition genders with a handbook that has been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign, Thomas said. “We work to create a place where people can be themselves. When that happens, our colleagues do better and so does our business.” A Missouri native, Thomas graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. She began her career at a class action firm representing employees who were suing their companies for harassment and discrimination. “That experience taught me that to have maximum impact, I really needed to be working internally. I now have the opportunity to ensure that any organization I work with flourishes because of its diversity.” Before joining Pearson in 2012, Thomas led diversity and civil rights efforts at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (Boston’s public transit agency) and worked as an HR business partner for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Temitope K. "Tope" Yusuf

Temitope K. "Tope" Yusuf

Associate
Arent Fox LLP


New York
Years Practicing: 7

Temitope “Tope” Yusuf began her legal career at Arent Fox LLP in September 2008 on the same day that Lehman Brothers crashed. “I went to work expecting the economy to be a certain way, and then suddenly everything fell apart. But because Arent Fox is a well-positioned, financially conservative firm, we have thrived during a severe economic downturn. Ultimately, my experience has turned out to be better than I’d imagined.” As part of Arent Fox’s complex litigation practice, Yusuf focuses mostly on white collar investigation, labor and employment and some commercial litigation. “Uniquely, I’ve been able to balance my interest in labor and employment and white collar work at the firm, two areas with some crossover but not a lot of overlap.

During her first year at the firm, Yusuf was already sitting in on client interviews and conducting witness interviews. “That kind of hands-on experience isn’t typical. When I asked why I was being singled out, my mentors said it’s because I ‘get it’ and that I’m able to anticipate needs of the partner whom I’m working for, think through ideas and be there in ways that other associates aren’t. From the start I demonstrated dedication and drive that solidified my reputation as the go-to person for white collar matters.” Yusuf grew up in New York’s Westchester and Rockland counties ,where she excelled in academics and sports. “My early aspirations pointed toward a career in medicine, but then in high school I participated in a mock trial and was sold on law. From the start it drew on my strengths and struck me as much more interesting than the bio and chemistry classes I was taking.” Looking forward, Yusuf hopes to continue to expand her practice in both white collar and labor and employment.

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