Rising Stars 2014
Lawyers like Holli Feichko, who is environmental counsel for W.R. Grace & Co., are constantly asking themselves what they can do to be better lawyers. Like all the attorneys below, the answer is not only related to day job performance but to overall altruism. For example, Feichko has worked on pro bono issues, providing counsel for women who have been subjected to violence.
Although the lawyers profiled here are in different stages of their career, all of them possess immense talent and an ability to rise to the occasion when opportunity presents itself.
By Patrick Folliard
Covington & Burling LLP
San Francisco, CA
“I’m leading our initiative with companies that are either based in Latin America or working with Latin American counterparts.”
When Tammy Albarrán joined Covington & Burling LLP’s San Francisco office as a corporate transactional attorney, she was certain she had found her niche. “Coming from a District Court clerkship I thought litigators were too confrontational, and I wanted a more collaborative setting,” she says. “I mistakenly thought corporate law was the place for me.” Today, Albarrán is a Covington partner in the white collar defense and security litigation groups—two distinct practice areas, both very different from corporate law. Her primary responsibilities include representing companies and individuals in security lawsuits, FCC investigations, and internal investigations. Recently, she has been doing a lot of work involving the FCPA, working in the anticorruption space. Albarrán’s current goal is to make a name for herself in the firm’s anticorruption group.
“We’re trying to do this on a more global level. I’m leading our initiative with companies that are either based in Latin America or working with Latin American counterparts. I want to be better known. When there’s a connection in Latin America, I want people to think about me in particular. My legal experience, language skills, and bicultural background make me the perfect fi t.” Growing up as the daughter of Mexican immigrants in Southern California, Albarrán never personally knew a lawyer or professional of any type. But she’s always been ambitious and channeled that drive into a thriving law career. “I have always approached everything with a lot of passion and energy. That contributes to me standing out from some peers. Whether serving on committees or working on matters, pitches, whatever the task at hand—I dive in wholeheartedly and motivate others to do the same.”
Computer Sciences Corporation
Falls Church, VA
“Whatever the business, I really get a handle on the industry.”
“The secret sauce of my success is that I’m able to understand what a business needs,” says Tammy Brandt, chief M&A and alliance counsel at Computer Sciences Corporation(CSC), the global IT giant headquartered in Falls Church, Va. “I’m different from a lot of other attorneys in that way, and it’s what adds to my value. Whatever the business, I really get a handle on the industry. I identify what businesses need and clients are happy.” Recently CSC acquired ServiceMesh, the Santa Monica based cloud management startup company where Brandt had worked as general counsel for over five years. A driving force on the ServiceMesh acquisition, Brandt had ample exposure to the CSC corporate development team and the high level executives who tapped her for her current role.
And though she still works out of a small Los Angeles office, her role has changed considerably: As GC at ServiceMess, Brandt was the company’s only lawyer and did a little everything, including human resources. At CSC, her responsibilities are much broader. She is working on transactions and alliances throughout a large corporation. The legal team numbers over two hundred. As a practicing attorney for fourteen years, Brandt’s vitae is varied (six years of M&A at two big law firms; in-house lead marketing lawyer for Toyota Auto Sales, handling its entire racing division; general counsel at a startup; and now she has a leadership position at CSC). She has also demonstrated a unique skill set. “In the tech start-up community I’ve been able to identify ServiceMesh and rise very quickly as their GC and grow that company to acquisition by CSC, a leader in tech service and sourcing business in the world. That means something.”
New Orleans, LA
“Regardless of work load, every lawyer has a responsibility to provide legal services to persons of limited means.”
Throughout his legal career, Gary Carter has tried not to look too far ahead. “I’ve learned that when I concentrate on doing my best work, opportunities open up to me. Of course, I have aspirations and a general sense of how I want my career to develop, but I focus on the matters at hand,” says Carter, senior counsel at Entergy Corporation, the New Orleans based utility company with annual revenues of more than $11 billion and approximately 14,000 employees. Carter describes working in-house at Entergy as the best of both worlds. He not only receives the mentoring and support that a Fortune 500 company can provide, but he’s also able to handle and try casualty and commercial cases, often as first chair. He uses this experience and the resulting skill set to provide exceptional service not only to Entergy, but also to help others in his community.
As the co-leader of Entergy’s Pro Bono Initiative, Carter helped Entergy earn the Law Department of the Year honor from the New Orleans Pro Bono Project. Carter says he truly embraces the moral responsibilities of being a lawyer. “Regardless of work load, every lawyer has a responsibility to provide legal services to persons of limited means,” Carter explains. The native New Orleanian counts social responsibility as his chief reason for going to law school, and since graduating from Tulane Law School in 2002, he has actively participated in nonprofit organizations dedicated to improving the New Orleans area.
W.R. Grace & Co.
“It’s helpful to set goals, but it’s important to be flexible and take calculate risks.”
Holli Feichko credits her success in part to a solid work ethic she learned while growing up in a small Utah coal mining town. “But it takes more to succeed,” she says. “You must always do excellent work, continually build on strengths, and tackle weaknesses.” As environmental counsel for W. R. Grace & Co., a leading specialty chemicals and materials company with operations in over 40 countries, Feichko’s responsibilities include providing environmental, health and safety (EHS) compliance counseling and training, managing complex projects and litigation, and advising on Grace’s global EHS strategy. Because the Maryland-based company has well-established product lines and a strong research and development division, Feichko’s position requires expertise in the regulation of chemical manufacturing processes and the ability to quickly grasp new issues. The work, she says, is never dull.
The University of Virginia School of Law’s reputation and strong environmental law faculty attracted her to the school. After graduation, she joined Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., a firm known for the breadth and depth of its environmental law practice. While developing her environmental expertise, Feichko coordinated and engaged in the firm’s pro bono work, ranging from complex real estate disputes to U Visas and Violence Against Women Act petitions. Feichko has followed an early interest in environmental issues, but says her career path was never set in stone: “My path is a combination of planning and seizing great opportunities. It’s helpful to set goals, but it’s important to be flexible and take calculated risks.” Outside the office, Feichko devotes her time to organizations that provide professional development opportunities for in-house counsel, women, and Hispanic attorneys and that promote diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.
Jamila B. Granger
Primo Water Corporation
“It has been tempting at times to say it’s not happening fast enough and do something else but I’ve stayed focused, persistent, and kept my vision.”
Jamila Granger was recently named vice president and general counsel for Primo Water Corporation, a water and dispenser brand based in Winston- Salem, North Carolina. As the company’s first and only attorney, her responsibilities cover all legal matters for the company including corporate, employment, contracts, litigation, intellectual property, and securities. She fulfills a longtime goal by joining the company. “From the beginning of my law career, I wanted to go in-house and eventually be a GC, preferably at a company that sells a familiar product. I’ve kept my eye on that and have tried to move forward and not laterally. It has been tempting at times to say it’s not happening fast enough and do something else but I’ve stayed focused, persistent, and kept my vision.”
Prior to her current position, Granger was senior counsel and assistant secretary for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc., concentrating primarily on domestic and international franchise transactions. Before that she was senior attorney for Sealy, Inc., where she served as the lead attorney for all commercial real estate matters. Granger started her career with law firms in the D.C. metro area. A 1998 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, Granger attributes a lot of her success to relationships. She values them highly and goes out of her way to keep them intact. “That’s how I’ve been able to draw on my experience with old colleagues from firms to identify good outside counsel. For me, relationships add connectedness and cohesion to a career.” Granger’s advice to young attorneys is to pay attention. “Everything you do in your career is something to learn from and build upon. You never know what it’s going to translate into later in your career.”
Kansas City, MO
“It is exciting to introduce [startups] to the private equity folks and see their ideas become reality.”
Once a year Quentin Jennings, a corporate and transactional lawyer in Polsinelli’s Kansas City office since 2006, meets with his mentor to review his strategic plan and set new goals. His current goal is to become an equity partner at the fi rm. Over the next five years, Jennings plans to increase his productivity and revenue for the fi rm. At Polsinelli, Jennings represents small- and mid-size businesses, Fortune 500 companies, and nonprofits on a range of legal issues. He provides support to clients in a variety of business transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, while negotiating million-dollar business deals. “I love working with startups and helping them to succeed,” Jennings says. “It’s exciting to introduce them to the private equity folks and see their ideas become a reality.”
Jennings was raised by a single mother in Kansas City, Mo. “She was the first in the family to go to college. I was the second. Seeing her work two jobs and struggle motivated my drive for success. I wanted to be able to care for her one day. That was the impetus for me to work hard and do my best.” He attended the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and then earned his J.D. at the University of Missouri. Following law school he worked as an in-house attorney in the financial services industry focusing on estate planning and securities work. And though he enjoyed the client interaction, he was eagerly joined a firm.
Natasha G. Kohne
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Abu Dhabi, UAE
As partner-in-charge of Akin Gump’s Abu Dhabi office, Natasha Kohne is member of a select group–there are very few women representing global law firms in the Mideast. “The firm took a chance in giving me the position. Not just because of my gender but my age as well. I wasn’t the logical choice in a region that is more traditional. But to the credit of the mostly male United Arab Emirates business community, I’ve been very well received. They’ve demonstrated open-mindedness and appreciation for diversity.” Kohne’s job has many facets. In addition to representing the firm in Abu Dabi, she is responsible for her own international litigation practice; maintaining client relations; business development; and human resources issues.
Prior to joining the Abu Dhabi office, Kohne was an associate with Akin Gump in New York. “In coming here, I realized I had nothing to lose. I recognized an opportunity and went for it. Of course it was made possible by the support of my mentors and the firm’s intrinsic entrepreneurial spirit.” Kohne, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 2000, encourages younger attorneys to take a chance. She tells them that a legal career is no longer a linear journey. Sometimes they must be willing to get off the beaten track to get ahead. She credits her ongoing success to a willingness to adapt. “Adaptability is important,” she says. “And it’s important to anticipate and get in front of changes whenever you can.”
Nadia El Mallakh
“Going in-house allows me to be more of a local player. As a native Coloradoan, that’s important to me.”
Every morning when Nadia El Mallakh passes through the doors of Xcel Energy’s Denver offices, she experiences a rush of satisfaction. “I played a big part in an intensive eight-month negotiation to get this office built and to make Xcel its lead tenant,” says El Mallakh. “And as an environmentally friendly building with LEED Platinum certification, it reflects both Xcel’s and my own values.” As assistant general counsel at the multibillion-dollar utility holding company, El Mallakh focuses on real estate, negotiating utility franchise agreements with municipalities and supervising condemnation cases for land Xcel has acquired. She works with a variety of business units from governmental affairs to regulatory.
Her Egyptian father arrived in the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship in the 1950s; her mother has a PhD. El Mallakh attributes much of her professional success to a basic tenet she learned at home: treat everyone with respect and dignity. “Respecting and listening to people creates a personal dynamic that helps to make me a happier person, and it definitely helps in my work,” she says. “It’s important to step back and hear what the client is trying to achieve. I enjoy working with them to reach their end goal while protecting the legal interest of the corporation.” Prior to Xcel, El Mallakh (whose law degree is from the University of California, Berkeley) was in private practice at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in San Francisco and Denver. “At the firm I was working mostly on national deals and not rooted in the community. Going in-house allows me to be more of a local player. As a native Coloradoan, that’s important to me.”
Marcus Law Group
Beverly Hills, CA
Marcus Lee, a transactional and litigation attorney at Peter Law Group in Beverly Hills, recently took depositions from members of the Kardashian clan. “When your practice includes entertainment law, there are some surreal moments,” says Lee. “But mostly you’re dealing with the nuts and bolts of contracts or IP and you rarely even see the clients.” At Peter Law Group for about two years, Lee says the learning curve is much steeper there than at other firms because of its small size. “Once I’ve demonstrated I can handle something, I’m handed something else. It’s challenging and sometimes scary. The payoff is I’m doing things here that I’d have to wait years to do some place else.”
In his first year at the firm, Lee second chaired a wrongful death case. “It was a full blown jury trial. Peter Arnold [the firm’s founding partner] did the opening and closing, but I did the direct and crosses of expert witnesses. I was very nervous, but fortunately Peter was there to guide me through it and we did very well. It was really an unparalleled learning experience.” A Los Angeles native, Lee graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, and then spent several years as an LSAT instructor before going to law school himself (Southwestern Law School’s accelerated J.D. program, SCALEd). “I’d decided to be a lawyer in college,” he says. “Friends said I was eloquent and capable of seeing all sides of an issue rather than bullheadedly arguing one opinion. I like to think I’ve retained those qualities now that I’m in the profession.”
Adeel A. Mangi
Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP
New York, NY
“I’d wither on the vine if I were in an environment where I never got into court.”
Adeel Mangi’s path to partner at a New York firm was unconventional. He left his native Pakistan for England to study law at Oxford University. He graduated and became a barrister. Soon after, he was awarded a Kennedy scholarship (a sort of Rhodes scholarship in reverse), which allowed him to earn a master’s of law from Harvard Law School. He liked America, so he decided to stay. “Patterson is the ideal place for me,” says Mangi, who joined the firm in 2000. “I’m in the profession because I love being in court. I’d wither on the vine if I were in an environment where I never got into court. At Patterson, I’m allowed the time and focus to refine my trial skills. Here I learn from mentors who are some of the best trial lawyers in the country.” Mangi’s practice area focuses on complex commercial litigation.
In recent years, he spends the majority of time litigating cases related to pharmaceutical pricing and false advertising. “Cases involve major ad campaigns for major corporations as seen on TV and in newspapers,” he says. “It’s a very accessible topic.” His ingredients to success are parents who provided him with a top-notch education, a supportive spouse, and strong mentors at the firm. Early in his career, a partner gave him the chance to take a very significant deposition, allowing him to show off his abilities in that area. “I could have easily been someplace else and not have gotten the opportunity to perform. Rather than being an on-my-feet advocate so early on, and I might have spent all my time second seating someone else.”
Nina C. Martin
Bechtel Oil, Gas, & Chemicals
“Whether compliance or ethics, I strive to bring everyone to where we’re all on-board with a solution.”
For Nina Martin, ethics is a mission. “I believe in being fair and honest. I like to work in an environment where that’s an expectation, and where you’re rewarded for it. My job is in perfect alignment with that.” As ethics and compliance officer at Houston-based Bechtel Oil, Gas, & Chemicals (the largest business unit of the global Bechtel Corporation), Martin focuses on ensuring employees understand work expectations, codes of conduct, and laws and regulations that apply to their job wherever they might work in the world. With employees in over 40 countries worldwide, training and education about legal compliance risk areas can be tricky. “It is important to communicate in the employees’ native language, so we engage interpreters and external law firms to ensure the right message gets across. “Other challenges include ever changing standards and keeping employees up-to-date on those and being available to the workforce; when you’re going to sleep at night someone else is coming into the office,” says Martin, who has been with Bechtel for five years.
Prior to Bechtel, Martin was an ethics and compliance officer in Boeing’s Chicago office, and before that a compliance team member at the Atlanta based Southern Company. But Martin started her career as public defender in Athens-Clarke County, Ga. “When you’re a public defender you go down to the mat to win for your client every time. That’s not always effective. Whether compliance or ethics, I strive to bring everyone to where we’re all on-board with a solution. Collaboration has been the key to my success.”
San Francisco, CA
“Be a good firm citizen. But be yourself, too. If you’re a homeboy from the East Bay like me, be that.”
“I do good work, and I’m a dependable go-to guy,” says David Mesa, a litigation attorney in Sedgwick LLP’s San Francisco office. “When partners need something fast and done right, they go to me. Whatever it is, I’ll get it done. I’m like a Swiss Army knife that way.” Recently he worked with his mentor, Sedgwick partner Michael Healy, on a case going to trial. “He essentially gave me the case,” says Mesa. “I took all the depositions, did all legwork, and prepped the experts for trial. I positioned the case so that a few days before trial we got a favorable settlement. Our client was very happy.” Mesa, a lawyer for seven years, practices in the products liability group, defending automobile, medical device, and consumer product manufacturers. He is also part of the retail and fashion industry group representing retailers in litigation and counseling clients in compliance with state and local laws, regulations, and agency mandates.
A San Francisco native of mixed Asian descent, Mesa was one of six children his parents pushed to do well. “An A- or B+ was the equivalent to an F for my parents,” Mesa says. “They wanted straight A’s, varsity sports, student government, etc., and they usually got it.” His advice to new attorneys: “Be involved. Be a good firm citizen. But be yourself, too. If you’re a homeboy from the East Bay area like me, be that. And be your biggest cheerleader. – is can be a challenge for Asians in particular. Our culture frowns on bragging. But at firms if you don’t [talk about your accomplishments], it’s like they never happened. I’ve learned to toot my horn tactfully.”