Rising Stars 2013
Meet the 12 extraordinary lawyers ready to rise to leadership positions. Lawyers like Nadira Clarke, leader of Beveridge & Diamond’s white-collar defense and environmental crimes practice group, prove the legal profession has a very bright future ahead. Whether she’s working on high stakes and complex criminal matter involving the environment, or a pro bono and cutting-edge case to further the rights of transgendered people, she works hard to execute her job flawlessly.
The Minority Corporate Counsel Association has selected Clarke, and 11 other extraordinary lawyers as 12 people whose accomplishments and dedication will catapult them into leadership positions in the years to come and set the standards for excellence in the legal world. All 12 have impressive achievements already as well as a commitment to diversity and inclusion in the legal professional.
By Ryan Sibley
Manuel F. Cachán
Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP
Los Angeles, CA
Manuel F. Cachán’s impact if felt across continents. The son of Cuban exiles, Cachán leverages his Latino heritage in his complex civil litigation practice that includes many Latin American clients. He has counseled Phillip Morris on its legal challenges in Uruguay, Panama, Nicaragua, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Honduras. One of his passions is his pro bono work with the National Institute of Trial Advocacy’s Mexico Project. Cachán is helping Mexico transition from an inquisitorial system, where the court is actively involved in investigating the facts of the case, and is prone to corruption, to an adversarial one, like the United States.
His domestic victories include being part of a trial team that defended dick clark productions against a lawsuit brought by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association over the rights to the Golden Globe awards show. He has also represented Univision in California state and federal lawsuits against its Mexico-based supplier Televisa. His representation of Occidental Petroleum in U.S. federal court under the Alien Tort Statute, based on its operations in Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador, relied on his Spanish fluency to examine all aspects of the case. “Th¬e key to continued success is continuing to gain experience. I’m still striving to be better and working to become the lawyer people call to be first chair all the time,” Cachán says. He adds that being considered a Rising Star is a challenge and great compliment. It’s an inspiration to him accomplish more in his career.
Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.
Diversity & the Bar’s cover model is the leader of Beveridge & Diamond’s white-collar defense and environmental crimes practice group. Her colleagues describe Clarke as someone with an expert ability to break down highly complicated scientific and environmental matters in ways that anyone can understand. Th¬at is understandable, given her background as an assistant United States attorney and trial lawyer with the Department of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Division. Based on her distinguished performance, she was invited to serve as a special assistant to the assistant attorney general of the department. It was there she developed excellent trial skills. Her colleagues describe her as an “asset” and her abilities as “superb.” “She gets great results, and clients seek her out because of her talents,” says Ben Wilson, managing partner at Beveridge & Diamond.
The white-collar defense field in which Clarke practices is not known for employing minority women. ”Working in this field has made me tough.Th¬ere is no question that I have had to prove myself and my abilities to clients and other lawyers simply because I am a minority, but I’m fine with that,” she says. It’s made her work harder for her clients and be a better lawyer overall, she adds. Her pro bono work includes mentoring, training, and handling sex-discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. Clarke says providing pro bono legal services to people is good for them and good for her skills. It helps keep her in touch with the varying perceptions of the legal system, she reflects.
Weil, Gotshal & Manges
New York City, NY
Christopher Garcia’s track record was perfect when he was the chief of the Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force in the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York—all ten of the cases he personally supervised resulted in conviction, earning him a masterful reputation. He now uses his skills in the private sector at Weil, Gotshal & Manges where he is a litigation partner and a member of the securities litigation and white collar defense and investigations practices. “I’m now acutely aware of the power the government has and I appreciate the great responsibility I have now as a defense attorney and then as a prosecutor,” Garcia says. Garcia’s colleagues at Weil recognize him as a modest person with extreme talent. “Everyone is attracted to [his personality],” says Jonathon Polkes, co-chair of the Securities Litigation Practice Group at Weil. “Chris is a rare combination of intellect and humanity.”
Garcia participates in Latinos@Weil, a program at his firm where he can be a mentor to younger lawyers with diverse ethnic backgrounds. “Being a mentor is more than being available during a scheduled hour, but instead being there whenever my mentees need me,” Garcia says. Garcia’s Cuban grandfather came to the U.S. from Venezuela. e self-taught electrician once worked at the Harvard Club in New York City but wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom there. His grandfather endured discrimination and segregation that paved the way for Garcia to succeed in his career. He recognizes that it’s no coincidence that he’s now a member of the Harvard Club and can use the bathroom there whenever he wants.
New York City, NY
Blossom Kan has written two books, China Doll and Young, Restless and Broke, that explore barriers put in place by gender and ethnic stereotypes—themes that are present in her everyday personal and professional life. Kan is also an assistant general counsel at MetLife. She handles complex litigation matters and represents her company on regulatory matters with both federal and state regulatory authorities. Her colleagues know her for being an excellent litigator and great communicator who regularly gets great results for her clients. “She adapts her style depending on her situation and is an effective litigator because of it,” says Sheila Murphy, a Metlife colleague. “Her writing gives her a better ability than most to perceive what’s happening around her and adds to her skills as a litigator,” Murphy adds.
Her best skill is her ability to marshal a team. “One of the most challenging parts of my work is being an effective conduit for all the different parts of a large company, and I really strive to make sure that all our partners are being brought together to provide their respective views and experiences and effectively collaborate so that we can reach the best resolution,” Kan says. The author and litigator treats increasing diversity in the legal world as part of her core mission as a professional. More diversity would increase the kinds of talent found amongst lawyers and have a beneficial impact on the legal profession, according to Kan.
Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear, LLP
Orange County, CA
What do Oscar De La Hoya, Taco Bell, Diedrich Coffee, Ruby’s Diner, and Shaquille O’Neal all have in common? They trust Tirzah Lowe with their brands. Lowe, an accomplished intellectual property lawyer and partner at Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear, LLP, has built an impressive foreign trademark practice while remaining at the forefront of new media technology in order to protect infringement of copyright materials by major social media outlets. In addition to an impressive practice, Lowe works hard, pro bono, as a leader and organizer for ending human trafficking and homelessness among teens. She was recognized by other organizations as an up-and-coming lawyer as well as a top lawyer under 40 to watch out for. She knows that her hard work, willingness to help, and desire to contribute to many causes has factored into her recognition and her success. “It’s important to get involved in the broader legal community. As lawyers, we hold a lot of power in society and with that power comes responsibility… We should take broad actions to help a greater society,” she says.
A third-generation lawyer, Lowe was exposed to the legal system as a child and learned to appreciate its value early. She says being considered a Rising Star gives her an opportunity look back at her work and use the knowledge she’s gained to help other younger attorneys and law students. “I want them to love the law and to love being a lawyer. If people can look at me and see the law can help people, and see a mentor in me, then that’s very satisfying.”
The Gap, Inc.
San Francisco, CA
Marie Ma is the only rising star who went directly in-house after law school. She worked as a paralegal for e Gap, Inc. before she completed law school. She is one of only two attorneys who have been hired straight out of law school by Gap. Ma says her nine years with Gap have made her very comfortable dealing with corporate law and its ever-changing landscape. Ma has made the most of going in-house immediately after law school, which even Ma sees as atypical, and something some believe can halt the growth of new lawyers. “I am lucky to work for Gap because the company participates in and encourages a number of pro bono and diversity-focused initiatives in the legal world, something that many in-house legal departments have trouble doing because of a lack of resources,” she says.
Ma participates in a number of pipeline programs to encourage young people and minorities to pursue law school and to ultimately increase diversity in the legal field. She also donates some of her time to teaching high school students about the legal process through mock trials—she is the mock trial vice committee chair for the Bar Association of San Francisco. She is currently planning the annual Gap Inc. Legal Department fundraiser, which she started three years ago. Ma’s proudest accomplishment is the U-Visa program. She initiated Gap’s involvement with the program and continues to be involved in it. It provides undocumented immigrants who have been victims of a crime, and cooperate with law enforcement, to bear witness against offenders, and get temporary visas that become a gateway to permanent residency status.
Jeremy D. Protas
Marshall, Gerstein, Borun LLP
Jeremy Protas’ experience as an engineer in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory makes him more than ideal to tackle the varying types of technology he deals with as a patent lawyer. Protas works for Marshall, Gerstein, Borun LLP, and his job is to prosecute and secure patents for clients with products of various technologies. To do his job well, he has to try to gain intrinsic knowledge of the products his clients bring his way. Protas also works to increase diversity in the patent law world by awarding scholarships to law students in the LGBT community interested in pursuing patent law. His program is called Jeremy Protas LGBT Patent Law Scholarship. “I think all types of diversity are important in all fields of law, and I am committed to improving diversity generally in the legal field.
However, as an openly gay patent lawyer, it quickly became clear to me that there are relatively few openly LGBT attorneys practicing patent law, and I decided that I was in a position to do something about it,” Protas says. Protas committed himself to taking part in pro bono work, because “[attorneys] have an ethical obligation to provide our services to those who could not otherwise afford them; everyone deserves access to the protection of our nation’s judicial system, regardless of whether they have the means to hire a lawyer.” He’s taken on pro bono cases inside and outside the patent law arena including a case that helped a teacher patent a vest that helps autistic students learn.d Jeremy Protas LGBT Patent Law Scholarship.
Cravath, Swaine & Moore
New York City, NY
Anyone remember the music sharing software LimeWire? Teena-Ann Sankoorikal represented Warner Brothers Records and other record companies in a case that ended poorly for the peer-to-peer file sharing site. People that have worked with Sankoorikal sing her praises. “What sets Teena apart is her mastery of soft skills that make the difference between a good lawyer and an exceptional lawyer,” says DeAnna Allen, who worked with Sankoorikal as counsel to co-defendants in a high-stakes patent infringement suit. “She demonstrated an innate ability to read people and manage interpersonal relationships among a collection of very accomplished—and highly opinionated—patent lawyers.”
A partner in Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP’s litigation department, Sankoorikal focuses on copyright, patent, and trade secret matters. She also has experience with antitrust law, securities, Alien Tort Statute, and internal investigations. Her high-profile clients include IBM, Qualcomm, and choreographer Mary Anthony in litigation. She has written about her own work, and how she succeeds at it, “It requires me to strategize about the ‘big picture,’ while also understanding the intricacies and details that make each matter and client unique.” Sankoorikal mentors and inspires younger lawyers by sitting on panels organized by the NYU Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), a Harvard APALSA “Asian Pacific American Leadership in Law Firms” panel, and a Harvard Association for Law and Business “Minorities in Corporate Law Panel.”
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Imagine being responsible for the daily operations, including the negotiation of music-related deals, of TNT, TBS, TruTV, Cartoon Network, CNN, HTV, and other Turner networks. Noni Ellison-Southall relishes the task. She is currently senior counsel for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (Turner) and heads Turner’s music division. And that’s only the beginning of a list of 11 organizations that she’s either a member of, chairs, and in some cases, like the Black Professionals at Turner, founded. Ellison-Southall is known as an excellent lawyer who can get to the heart of a legal issue, lead as a consensus builder, and then execute to perfection.
The list of achievements on the Louisiana native’s resume states undeniably that she is a natural leader, and Ellison-Southall recognizes that in herself. ”I am always willing to step up and lead if I can make a positive change. However, I know the importance of following, too, if the situation calls for it. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get things done, “ she says. Her work ethic comes from an awareness of how hard others have worked to pave the way for her. Ellison-Southall is a fervent advocate for diversity in the legal profession and on a mission to continue to develop her skills and expand her perspective. She considers a Rising Star as someone who is positioned to go on and achieve his or her ultimate goals.
Vivian Lee Thoreen
Holland & Knight
Los Angeles, CA
Vivian Lee Thoreen is known for sorting through the detritus of fame. She helped free Mickey Rooney from elder abuse inflicted upon him by family members. She represented Howard K. Stern, the executor of Anna Nicole Smith’s estate, in a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court twice. Throughout it all, she has maintained her drive to seek justice wherever it is needed. A trial lawyer and litigator who focuses on complex trust, estate, conservatorship, and guardianship matters at Holland & Knight, she was recently appointed to the executive committee of the Trusts & Estates Section of the California Bar Association. “Vivian is one of the best young lawyers I have ever worked with,” says Bruce Ross, co-chair of Holland & Knight’s national private wealth services dispute resolution team and one of the country’s most distinguished trust and estate litigators.
Ross plans to transition leadership of the firm’s trust and estate litigation practice to Thoreen when he scales back or retires in four or five years. She successfully represented the court-appointed guardian of a minor for more than five years in the guardian’s efforts to adopt him. She did the work pro bono. Thoreen recognizes the challenges she faces as a woman and admits that it has made her job harder in the past. However, she says the extra work she had to do to establish her credibility in the courts and to clients has made her a better lawyer. According to Thoreen, being considered a Rising Star is a privilege, and it gives her the opportunity to have a positive impact throughout the legal community.
Sullivan Cromwell, LLP
New York City, NY
Krishna Veeraraghavan handles high profile and highdollar cases, to the tune of $50 billion worth of headline-making M&A transactions. Veeraraghavan is a partner at Sullivan Cromwell LLP in the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions group. He focuses on corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions, and private equity matters. Veeraraghavan’s portfolio of work includes helping Anheuser-Busch InBev acquire the remaining stake in Grupo Modelo that it does not already own—a transaction worth more than $20 billion. He is also advising the biotechnology company Amgen’s $315 million acquisition of KAI pharmaceuticals. Veeraraghavan says a good M&A lawyer is a good negotiator, knows and understands business law, and the U.S. securities laws that affect corporate transactions.
Despite his impressive resume and the recognition he’s already received for being a great lawyer, Veeraraghavan won’t take full credit for his success. “I work at a firm that is full of lots of talented people and they all work hard for our clients,” he says. Veeraraghavan will admit that he loves negotiations and finding solutions to problems, which motivates him to work very hard at his job. In addition to working very hard for large corporate clients, Veeraraghavan donates his skills and his time to the nonprofit group South Asian Youth Association, which is committed to furthering the educational and career development of south Asian children from underserved and immigrant communities. “I love my work,” Veeraraghavan says, “but it’s important to focus on things that are much bigger than just the legal world.”
Knobbe, Martens, Olson and Bear, LLP
Orange County, CA
Bryan Wahl is a practicing medical doctor and lawyer, a remarkable combination of achievements, with each requiring a great deal of hard work and dedication on their own. A medical doctor before going to law school, Wahl made partner at Knobbe Martens in just five years. Wahl specializes in intellectual property protection, infringement studies, financings, and strategic transactions. “[Because of my] interest in the many biomedical devices and technologies I was around, I decided to go to law school after my internal medicine residency to explore the intellectual property aspects of the healing profession,” Wahl says. He says he owes his work ethic to his parents who instilled the importance of hard work, humility, and embracing challenges.
Wahl, a third-generation descendant of immigrants from southern China, says his grandparents’ struggle inspired him to accomplish so much. “I am very grateful for my grandparents’ many sacrifices in coming to America virtually destitute, in search of a better life for themselves and their families. I try and incorporate that immigrant spirit of self-reliance, perseverance, giving back, and not taking anything for granted into my law and medical practices and also daily life,” Wahl explains. In managing his busy schedule, the doctor and lawyer finds opportunities to mentor other young associates by delegating tasks to them that they can learn from—the same way he was mentored when he first became a lawyer.