Paula L. Ettelbrick Award

MCCA created the Paula L. Ettelbrick Award to celebrate unparalleled achievement by an individual or an organization in advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender attorneys. The award is named for the late Paula L. Ettelbrick whose quarter-century of work of organizations like Lambda Legal Defense and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission assisted thousands of individuals. Her career as an educator and mentor at institutions like New York University, Columbia University, and the University of Michigan, helped transform the national discussion regarding equality. The Paula L. Ettelbrick Award is presented at the MCCA Creating Pathways to Diversity® Conference.

About Paula L. Ettelbrick

Ettelbrick’s career included leadership positions in some of the most influential LGBT rights groups of the past 25 years: the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. She lectured on Sexuality and the Law at New York University Law School as an adjunct professor, and served as a lecturer in the Women’s Studies Department of Barnard College, according to the Stonewall Community Foundation.

Ettelbrick also served as policy director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Legislative Counsel at Empire State Pride Agenda. Ettelbrick was also the mother of three and served as Family Policy Director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Policy Institute.

2023 Honoree – Nassib Abou-Khalil

Evan Wolfson

The 2023 Paula L. Ettelbrick Award was presented to Nassib Abou-Khalil, Former Chief Legal Officer at Nokia at the MCCA Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference on October 10, 2023.

Nassib Abou-Khalil, most recently served as Chief Legal Officer at Nokia, where he led the company’s legal and compliance team. As Nokia’s first openly gay executive and an outspoken global advocate for true inclusion in the legal field, Abou-Khalil has courageously built upon Ettelbrick’s legacy. He filled the silence around LGBTQ+ lawyers’ experiences in the field with his own stories, encouraging others to pursue diversity and inclusion beyond the bare minimum and create safe spaces for colleagues to thrive through connection around shared identities.

Past Paula L. Ettelbrick Honorees

MCCA’s Paula L. Ettelbrick Award recognizes the outstanding unparalleled achievement of our past honorees who have a commitment to succeed in advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender attorneys.


Former Chief Legal Officer,

Nassib Abou-Khalil most recently served as Chief Legal Officer at Nokia. He joined Nokia in September 2014 as head of Legal & Compliance for the MEA region, later becoming General Counsel for Customer Operations and Deputy Chief Legal Officer, Business. Following the announcement of the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent by Nokia, Nassib led the compliance integration planning work, developing and implementing the initial combined company’s compliance program. 

Before joining Nokia, Nassib was Head of Public Policy for EMEA and General Counsel for MEA at Yahoo! He also held roles at GE Oil & Gas, Etisalat and TMF Netherlands. An admitted lawyer at the Ontario Bar and in England, Nassib holds a BA in Political Sciences and Civil Law (LL.L.) and Common Law (LL.B.) and Master of Law (LL.M) degrees from the University of Ottawa, the latter including a year’s study of European law at the Université de Louvain la Neuve in Belgium. 

In addition to his legal work, Nassib is an outspoken advocate for inclusion and diversity, working closely with Nokia’s LGBT+ employee resource group, EQUAL! An out leader himself, he took part in the launch of the OUT Leaders program at Nokia. 

Nassib has lived in Lebanon, Canada, The Netherlands, Qatar and the UAE. In his spare time, he enjoys contemporary art, music including opera, and hiking in the countryside, particularly in the Alps. 


Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP

Susan Baker Manning is a litigator with years of experience, and the firm’s first senior pro bono trial lawyer. In this unique role, Susan leads large impact litigation matters in support of at-risk individuals and underrepresented groups, such as those seeking access to housing, healthcare, education, and other public benefits, as well as those fleeing persecution in their home countries. She also focuses on expanding the firm’s longstanding commitment to civil liberties work across numerous issues, deepening relationships with clients and current partner organizations, and forming alliances with new ones.

Susan has dedicated thousands of hours to pro bono service throughout her career, and has meaningfully advanced the protection of human and civil rights. Susan’s work in recent years has included successfully challenging a US Department of State policy that denied US citizenship to children born abroad to married same-sex couples, even where both parents were US citizens; winning a major US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit victory for pro se asylum applicants that will ensure that even the unrepresented have a fair opportunity to present claims based on membership in a particular social group; obtaining the release of numerous US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees held in conditions that put them at particular risk during the COVID-19 pandemic; and defending the rights of Georgia and Pennsylvania voters to have their ballots counted in the 2020 election. Susan’s other major pro bono matters have included representing some of the largest businesses in the country in an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges showing how discrimination against same-sex marriage is bad for business, representing several US senators in a case involving access to the asylum system, and handling a Guantanamo Bay–related case that received international attention.

Susan’s pro bono work builds on her two decades of practice as an intellectual property litigator specializing in patent, trademark, and copyright cases. Susan has argued numerous cases before US courts of appeal and has experience at the trial court level (including trying matters heard by government agencies such as the International Trade Commission). Susan has represented name-brand technology companies in matters involving a variety of technology areas including in the software, internet, hardware, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, and architecture spaces.


Head of Labor Relations, Americas,
LSG Sky Chefs, Inc.

Michelle is the Head of Labor Relations, Americas at LSG Sky Chefs, Inc., headquartered in Irving, TX. She is a results-oriented executive with experience managing, developing and coaching managers in employee and labor law and labor relations matters. Michelle’s deep knowledge and experience in the airline, railroad and catering industries, along with her keen intelligence, intuition and compassion enable complex, matrixed organizations to embrace difficult challenges and necessary changes. Having spent nearly two decades as a senior labor lawyer at a Fortune 500 company as an openly queer woman of color, Michelle understands the core values of authenticity, accountability and belonging, with the emotional intelligence to determine when to use a scalpel and when to use a sledgehammer.

Prior to becoming a labor relations lawyer, Michelle served five years as a prosecutor in Omaha, Nebraska, a place she still considers home. In this role, Michelle prosecuted cases in the Juvenile Courts and the Special Victims Unit ranging from simple neglect of a child to First Degree Sexual Assault.

Michelle serves as a leader in several roles at work and in the community, while also frequently speaking on legal, diversity, and community issues. As a corporate executive, she has been widely recognized for her efforts, including, Top 100 Women of Influence by Diversity MBA Magazine; Dallas Top 50 Women in Law by the National Diversity Council; Corporate Counsel of the Year by Texas State Bar Office of Minority Affairs; Top 100 Emerging Leaders under 50 by Diversity MBA; Corporate Counsel of the Year & Champion of Diversity by DCEO and Association of Corporate Counsel – DFW Chapter.

Raised in humble beginnings, Michelle beat the odds stacked against her with the same resilience she faces in today’s business environments and continues the fight toward diversity, equity and inclusion in law and in life. Michelle is not just talking about the importance of DEI; she has spent decades serving on corporate and community committees and non-profit boards including, Lambda Legal National Board; Girls, Inc. of Metropolitan Dallas; Corporate Counsel Women of Color Advisory Committee; Minority Corporate Counsel Association Advisory Committee; Texas Minority Counsel Program Committee and Association of Corporate Counsel – DFW.

Michelle received her undergraduate degree in History and Criminal Justice at Mount Marty University, Yankton, South Dakota; and her J.D. from Creighton University School of Law, Omaha, Nebraska. She lives in Grand Prairie, Texas with her wife, Lauren, and three children. When not involved in community service & advocacy, she enjoys little league sports, traveling, and most recently, meditation. Her most endearing personal charitable outreach involves a 17-year annual Christmas drive, which she organizes, collects and delivers toys personally to children of families living in low-cost motels. True to Michelle’s preference to shun the limelight, she convinces a longtime friend to play Santa, while Michelle, herself, dons elfin attire as Santa’s helper.

Kate Kendell

Campaign Manager of Take Back the Court,
Formerly Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

For 22 years, Kate Kendell led the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. Kate stepped down from this role at the end of 2018 and since February 2019 has served as Campaign Manager for Take Back the Court, an organization committed to structural reform of the U.S. Supreme Court. She accepted the role of Interim Legal Director and Senior Advisor at the Southern Poverty Law Center in August 2019.

Growing up Mormon in Utah, Kate learned about the complexities of religion and politics from an early age. After receiving her J.D. from the University of Utah College of Law in 1988 and a few years practicing corporate law, she pursued her real love- civil rights advocacy-and became the first staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. There she directly litigated many high-profile cases focusing on all aspects of civil liberties, including reproductive rights, prisoners’ rights, free speech, the rights of LGBT people, and the intersection of church and state. In 1994 she joined NCLR as legal director, and was named executive director two years later.

Under her leadership, NCLR’s programs, budget, and impact grew exponentially, and the issues facing the LGBT community-from homophobia in sports to immigration policy- have taken center stage in our nation’s discussion of civil rights and justice. Kate is a nationally recognized spokesperson for LGBT rights and has an active voice in major media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Advocate, NPR, CNN, and many others. Despite the national success of NCLR under her tenure, her most rewarding responsibilities still include fostering alliances on the community and organizational levels, and advocating from a grass-roots perspective on issues concerning social justice.

H. Gwen Marcus

Executive Vice President & General Counsel,
Showtime Networks Inc.

H. Gwen Marcus, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, is Showtime Networks Inc.’s chief legal officer, with responsibility for all of the company’s legal affairs, including its programming and distribution transactions, intellectual property, compliance, litigation and regulatory issues, and other legal policy matters.  An integral member of the Showtime Networks senior management team, Ms. Marcus is often recognized by industry publications as a top executive in her field, including CableFax, which has named her one of the Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Cable and has included her in its CableFax Top Lawyers List; Multichannel News, which awarded her its prestigious Wonder Woman honor; Variety, which has included her in both its Power of Women Impact Report and Legal Impact Report; and The Hollywood Reporter, which has included Ms. Marcus in its Women in Entertainment Power 100 list, and conferred on Ms. Marcus its Power Lawyers Raising The Bar Award in 2018.  Ms. Marcus has also been honored by: the New York County Lawyers Association in its 2017 celebration of Outstanding Women in the Legal Profession; the National Law Journal, which in 2016 named her one of America’s 50 Outstanding General Counsel; and Inside Counsel, which in 2010 named her the recipient of its First Annual Transformative Leadership Sharing the Power Award for advancing the economic empowerment of women in the law.  Ms. Marcus has been with Showtime Networks for over 30 years, having joined the company in 1984 as Assistant Counsel.  Prior to joining Showtime Networks, she practiced entertainment law from 1981 to 1984 as an Associate at the New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Ms. Marcus is a frequent speaker on diversity and management issues, and has delivered keynote addresses before the National Association of Minority & Women Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF), the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL), and the Capitol Region (NJ) Minority Chamber of Commerce.  Ms. Marcus serves as Vice Chair of the Board of TDF (formerly Theatre Development Fund), and on the Advisory Board of WILEF (Women in Law Empowerment Forum). She is a former Board member of MCCA (Minority Corporate Counsel Association) and a former Board Co-Chair of the LGBT Community Center of New York, which honored her with its Corporate Leader Award in 2006.  She also has been recognized by numerous other not-for-profit organizations, including POWER UP (Professional Organization of Women in Entertainment Reaching Up, which named her one of the Ten Most Amazing Gay Women in Showbiz), Cable Positive (the cable industry’s AIDS action organization), GMHC (for which she was the largest individual fundraiser for AIDS Walk New York for several years), and the YWCA of the City of New York (which named her a Woman Achiever).  She also has been published in Out and About: The LGBT Experience in the Legal Profession, a joint publication of the American Bar Association and the National LGBT Bar Association.

Ms. Marcus is a member of the New York Bar.  She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University, with a Phi Beta Kappa key.  A cum laude graduate of New York University School of Law, she was an Articles Editor of the New York University Law Review and was elected to the Order of the Coif.  In 2009, the law school recognized Ms. Marcus for her outstanding professional achievements.

She is based at Showtime Networks’ headquarters in New York City.


Founder and President of Freedom to Marry

Long-time civil rights leader Evan Wolfson lives in New York City, where he founded Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide, and served as president through its epic victory in June 2015 until its closing in early 2016. Having achieved the goal he had pursued for 32 years, Wolfson now devotes his time to advising and assisting diverse movements and causes in the US and around the world eager to adapt the model and apply the lessons learned that made the Freedom to Marry campaign so successful. Wolfson has been named a Distinguished Visitor from Practice at Georgetown Law Center, teaching law and social change, and Senior Counsel at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, with 125+ offices in 50+ countries.

Widely acknowledged to be the architect of the movement that won the freedom to marry in the United States, Wolfson has received many awards, from induction into his high school hall of fame to being presented the Barnard Medal of Distinction alongside President Barack Obama in 2012. Citing his national leadership on marriage and his appearance before the U.S. Supreme Court in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, the National Law Journal in 2000 named Wolfson one of the “100 most influential attorneys in America,” and he has been honored by the American Bar Association and the American Psychiatric Association, among many others. Wolfson has been called “the godfather of gay marriage” by Newsweek / The Daily Beast, and “the indispensable man in bringing marriage equality to America” by Andrew Sullivan. In 2004, Time magazine named Wolfson one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

From 1989 until 2001, Wolfson worked full-time at Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund, the nation’s preeminent advocacy group working on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and people living with HIV/AIDS. As director of Lambda Legal’s Marriage Project throughout the 1990s, Wolfson created the National Freedom to Marry Coalition, the first full-fledged campaign to win marriage for same-sex couples. He was co-counsel in Hawaii’s landmark Baehr case for the freedom to marry, which launched the ongoing global marriage equality movement, and contributed to virtually every marriage win thereafter. Wolfson has also played a part in work to win the freedom to marry in other nations, including Canada, Argentina, the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, Ireland, and others still underway.

On April 26, 2000, Wolfson became the first Lambda attorney to argue before the United States Supreme Court when he urged the justices to reject the Boy Scouts of America’s appeal of a unanimous ruling from the New Jersey Supreme Court striking down their ban on gay members and leaders. Wolfson had represented Eagle Scout James Dale since he was expelled from the BSA in 1990. Following the 5-4 vote, Wolfson helped shape the extraordinary national response from non-gay and gay people and institutions against the BSA’s discrimination, challenging their harmful message to youth. In 2015, the Boy Scouts of America renounced their discriminatory national policy.

In other cases, Wolfson championed gay and lesbian military personnel fighting for the freedom to serve, gay parents wishing to adopt children and preserve their visitation rights, a Florida deputy sheriff fired for being gay, a person with AIDS seeking life-saving medical treatment refused to him by his insurer, a woman denied work as a Dallas police officer because of the state’s anti-gay “sodomy” laws, and NYC employees demanding equal health benefits and recognition for their partners.

Before joining Lambda, Wolfson served in Washington, D.C. as Associate Counsel to Lawrence Walsh in the Office of Independent Counsel (Iran/Contra), and in 1992, was appointed by Governor Mario Cuomo to the New York State Task Force on Sexual Harassment. Wolfson has taught as an adjunct professor of law at Columbia University and Rutgers University Law Schools, and as a teaching fellow at Harvard College.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Pittsburgh, Wolfson graduated from Yale College in 1978. For two years after graduation, he worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in a village in Togo, West Africa. Upon returning, he attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1983 and moving on to teach political philosophy as a teaching fellow at Harvard College. Wolfson then served as assistant district attorney for Kings County in Brooklyn, NY. There, he wrote amicus briefs that helped win the U.S. Supreme Court’s ban on race discrimination in jury selection (Batson v. Kentucky) and the New York State high court’s elimination of the marital rape exemption (People v. Liberta).

Wolfson has published numerous articles on sexual orientation and civil rights, beginning with his historic — and prophetic — 1983 law school thesis on the freedom to marry for same-sex couples. As a pro bono cooperating attorney for Lambda Legal from 1984 to 1989, Wolfson wrote Lambda’s amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in Bowers v. Hardwick and NGTF v. Board of Education of Oklahoma City.

Wolfson’s first book, Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry was published by Simon & Schuster in July 2004, and re-released in paperback with a new foreword in June 2005. Wolfson is a highly sought-after speaker, makes frequent appearances in the media, and provides counsel to a broad range of organizations and causes in the United States and globally, with a particular focus on human rights and changing hearts, minds, and the law.


Lisa A. Linsky is a partner in the New York office of international law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP. As a member of the Trial Group, she focuses her practice on complex litigation, including commercial,products liability, trusts and estates and civil rights litigation with a focus on LGBT issues, and business-related investigations.

Lisa is a frequent public speaker, published author and creator of The Huffington Post blog, “Out and About: LGBT Legal”. She recently co-lead a team of McDermott lawyers who submitted an amicus brief to the United States Supreme Court in the Obergefell consolidated marriage cases. The brief has been referred to by members of the media as the “Animus Amicus” and was submitted on behalf of McDermott client, The Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. The partnership between the Mattachine Society and McDermott entails “archive activism” and the rescue of historic governmental documents demonstrating a paper trail of animus and discrimination exhibited against LGBT Americans dating back to the 1940s. The work of the Mattachine Society and McDermott has been featured in a Yahoo News! Documentary entitled, “Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government’s War on Gays.”

Lisa was McDermott’s first Partner-in-Charge of Firm-wide Diversity and created and chaired the Firm-wide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Diversity and Inclusion Committee from 2006-2014. For 7years, Lisa was also a Member and Officer of the Board of Directors for Lambda Legal, the leading LGBT civil rights legal organization in the United States. She is now a member of Lambda Legal’s National Leadership Council and the co-chair of the organization’s National Law Firm Committee and National Liberty Awards. In 2014, Lisa became a member of the Board of Directors for the LGBT Community Center of NYC and co-chairs the annual Women’s Event for The Center.

Lisa comes to McDermott with extensive trial and public speaking experience. She was formerly with the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, where she ran the Special Prosecutions Division which included the Child Abuse, Elder Abuse and Sex Crimes Bureaus.


The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) has named Todd G. Sears, Founder and Principal of Out Leadership, a recognized LGBT global strategic advising firm, as the 2015 recipient of the esteemed Paula L. Ettelbrick Award. Sears will receive the award at the MCCA Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference Opening Plenary on Monday, June 29, 2015 at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel, in Washington, D.C.

Out Leadership works at the intersection of LGBT and business, developing initiatives that build business opportunity, cultivate talent, and drive LGBT equality forward around the world. Out Leadership’s initiatives include Out on the Street, Out in Law, OutNEXT and Quorum.

“Todd’s lifelong innovation and insight on inclusion has allowed for many major companies to benefit from diversity,” said MCCA President and CEO Joseph K. West. “I believe Todd is very much deserving of this recognition”.

“I thank MCCA for this tremendous honor,” said Sears. “I had the privilege to personally know Paula Ettelbrick, and I learned a great deal from her work and her example. I am personally very moved to accept this award, while noting that there’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done to achieve true LGBT equality around the world.”

Before founding Out Leadership, Sears was an investment banker and wealth manager. He created the first national team of financial advisors on Wall Street focused on the LGBT community at Merrill Lynch, before moving into diversity leadership at that firm and then at Credit Suisse. At Out Leadership, Todd works closely with the C-suite leadership of some of the world’s most influential companies to build business opportunity through diversity innovation.

Jennifer L. Levi, Esq.

The Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) has named Jennifer L. Levi, Esq., director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project and a nationally recognized expert on transgender legal issues, as the 2014 recipient of the esteemed Paula L. Ettelbrick Award. Ms. Levi will receive award at the MCCA Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference Opening Plenary on July 24, 2014 at the Washington Hilton.

“Jennifer has shown remarkable grace and leadership in promoting transgender human rights in the field of law,” said MCCA President and CEO Joseph K. West. “Not only does the award honor Jennifer, but she honors the award itself through her unfettered passion and dedication.”

Ms. Levi is the director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project and a nationally recognized expert on transgender legal issues. She co-edited Transgender Family Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy, the first book to address legal issues facing transgender people in the family law context and provide practitioners the tools to effectively represent transgender clients.

She has served as counsel on a number of precedent-setting cases establishing basic rights for transgender people including: O’Donnabhain v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, which established that medical care relating to gender transition qualifies as a medical deduction for federal income tax purposes; Doe v. Yunits, in which she represented a transgender student denied the right to attend school because of the clothing she wore; and Adams v. Bureau of Prisons, which successfully challenged a federal prison policy excluding medical care for transgender inmates who came into the system without a transition-related medical plan, among many others. She also has worked on a number of high profile family law cases including the Miller-Jenkins case establishing full parental rights for a Vermont civil union spouse and cases in Connecticut and Massachusetts that established the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Ms. Levi is a law professor at Western New England University. She serves on the Legal Committee of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and is a founding member of both the Transgender Law & Policy Institute and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.

She is a graduate of Wellesley College and the University of Chicago Law School and a former law clerk to Judge Michael Boudin at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.


The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is receiving the award for its work promoting equality for all Americans. Among its many outreaches, the HRC has championed marriage equality, and has worked to create a support network for LGBT teens and to prevent bullying. HRC promotes LGBT workers rights and seeks to prevent transgender discrimination.

“The Human Rights Campaign is at the forefront of the march toward equal rights, and their work has inspired many others to join the struggle” said Joseph K. West, MCCA’s President and CEO. “MCCA is proud to honor their efforts with this year’s Paula L. Ettelbrick Award.”

About the Human Rights Campaign

As the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, the Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide — all committed to making HRC’s vision a reality. Founded in 1980, HRC advocates on behalf of LGBT Americans, mobilizes grassroots actions in diverse communities, invests strategically to elect fair-minded individuals to office, and educates the public about LGBT issues.

D’Arcy Kemnitz

D’Arcy Kemnitz has more than 20 years of experience working in the nonprofit arena and the social justice movement. In her present position as Executive Director of the LGBT Bar association, she organizes the only national, annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) law student Career Fair and Continuing Legal Education Conference. Additionally, Ms. Kemnitz orchestrates collaboration between over 25 affiliated local, state, and regional voluntary LGBT bar associations and dozens of LGBT law student associations.

Ms. Kemnitz has published in the University of Baltimore Journal of Environmental Law, MCCA’s Diversity & the Bar magazine, various ABA publications and, most recently, the GP/Solo Magazine on LGBT issues. She has appeared in the media presenting issues of LGBT diversity in the profession at ABC News, The Advocate Magazine, and Time Magazine, among others. Ms. Kemnitz is a distinguished graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the Hamline University School of Law.

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