RISING STARS 2022
MCCA’s Rising Stars is an annual list featuring stellar attorneys whose accomplishments and dedication to the legal profession and to their community place them among those “attorneys to watch”. Their backgrounds are as diverse as their practice areas, but what these Rising Stars have in common is their love of law and pursuit of excellence, while possessing a compassion for those in need and a strong desire to give back to others.
MCCA is proud to announce the 2022 Rising Stars! As we continue to drive for greater equity and systemic change in corporate America, it is more important than ever we celebrate the achievements of these 25 talented diverse attorneys leading the charge for systemic change in their communities and workplaces.
The 2022 MCCA Rising Stars were profiled and recognized on our website and social media and honored at our 2022 Creating Pathways to Diversity on October 18. Their sponsored spotlight videos can be found here.
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
PAST MCCA RISING STARS
Gueter Aurelien’s practice focuses on a broad range of corporate law matters, including mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, commercial financing, equity investments, securities offerings, commercial contracts, and general business transactions. Gueter advises start-up, emerging growth, and later-stage companies in a variety of industries; financial institutions; specialty lenders; banks; investors; entrepreneurs; and nonprofit organizations. She also regularly represents community development entities and other parties in connection with Federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) financing transactions.
In addition to her general corporate practice, Gueter has experience with public finance. She represents municipalities and conduit issuers and borrowers and routinely serves as bond counsel and borrower’s counsel. She has experience advising on general obligation bonds and revenue bonds; competitive, negotiated, and public offerings; private placements; and sophisticated financing, refinancing, and refunding arrangements using tax-exempt and taxable bonds.
Gueter has been recognized in The Daily Record, Super Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America and The National Black Lawyers. She is a former contributor for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and former board member for Boys Hope Girls Hope of Baltimore.
Gueter earned her B.A. from Columbia University, her M.A. in forensic accounting from Florida Atlantic University and her J.D. from the University of Miami School of Law.
Assistant General Counsel, Head of Global Disputes,
Bryan Browning is a decisive problem-solver for key stakeholders and C-suite leaders. He is Assistant General Counsel, Head of Global Disputes at Fortune 200 company Whirlpool Corporation, where he manages a large and talented team of attorneys, claims professionals, and staff. Bryan’s team is charged with developing and delivering on successful strategies related to all phases of Whirlpool’s highly-visible and complex disputes portfolio, including product liability, product safety, commercial matters, class actions, intellectual property litigation, privacy and data security related disputes, and governmental investigations. He also proactively leads dispute risk mitigation projects and provides strategic counsel on dispute risks globally to help advance Whirlpool’s strategy and protect the company. In addition, Bryan is also General Counsel for the Hispanic National Bar Association, a national organization that represents the interests of over 65,000 Hispanic legal professionals in the U.S and its territories.
Prior to his time at Whirlpool, Bryan served as Senior Legal Counsel, Commercial and Products Litigation at global technology company, Lenovo. In that role, Bryan managed Lenovo’s material commercial, employment, privacy, consumer, and products litigation globally. He also led all class action defense efforts and provided consultation on global risk management and insurance programs. Before Lenovo, Bryan was a shareholder at Bassford Remele, P.A. in Minneapolis, MN where he focused on product liability, commercial, and class action trial work. Bryan had the honor of being the first Latino shareholder in Bassford’s then 135-year history.
Outside of his work at Whirlpool, Bryan is deeply involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives and organizations that are spearheading the efforts to make a difference. Most notably, he has served as an officer and on the Executive Committee of the Hispanic National Bar Association for many years. Moreover, he has served on various other non-profit boards and committees that share his vision of expanding the diversity pipeline in the legal profession. Specifically, Bryan currently serves on the boards of the National Foundation for Judicial Excellence, the Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy, and the University of Minnesota Office of Equity and Diversity, National Diversity Advisory Board. Bryan was selected by the Hispanic National Bar Association as a recipient of the 2017 Top Lawyers Under 40 Award, and a 2016 Attorney of the Year by Minnesota Lawyer. He has been named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers every year since 2012, and has been recognized by a number of organizations for his commitments to the legal profession and greater community.
Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC
Nakimuli primarily focuses her practice on partnering with clients to create respectful workplaces that comply with federal, state, and local laws. A key aspect of this partnership includes assisting clients with developing policies, practices, and procedures that create sustainable inclusive workplace climates. Accordingly, Nakimuli is a Shareholder in Baker Donelson’s Labor & Employment (L&E) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practice groups. Before joining Baker Donelson, she was a law clerk to the Honorable Leslie H. Southwick of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In addition to her practice at Baker Donelson, for the last two years Nakimuli has been an Adjunct Professor at Mississippi College School of Law, where she teaches Employment Law.
Nakimuli has significant experience defending employers in administrative matters and single and multi-plaintiff litigation alleging discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, breach of contract, and violations of various federal, state, and local laws. She routinely identifies and assesses opportunities for clients to reduce legal risk and improve their workplace culture, which includes reviewing and developing policies and handbooks, advising clients on novel employment issues, conducting internal investigations, training employees and leaders on a variety of employment-related topics, and serving as a resource for human resource professionals and in-house counsel tackling employment issues. At the onset of the pandemic, Nakimuli quickly became adept in the changing legal landscape for employers. She counseled and advised employers across numerous industries, including manufacturing, education, banking, health care, and hospitality, on novel issues relating to leaves and accommodations, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), reductions-in-force, furloughs, COVID-19 exposures and diagnosis, hiring, terminations, return-to-work protocols, OSHA compliance, vaccination mandates, and COVID-19 testing issues and concerns. She studied and presented on issues that were important to clients, resulting in thousands tuning in to her webinars on topics such as the FFCRA, employer rights and obligations during the pandemic, and return-to-work protocols. Nakimuli exhibits this same commitment to all issues that concern her clients.
A growing aspect of Nakimuli’s practice involves partnering with clients to develop Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) plans and initiatives, which includes creating and evaluating cultural audits and employee surveys to ground and inform DEI initiatives and goals, social media policies, DEIA related policies and practices, and communication strategies surrounding issues relating to DEIA. Nakimuli partners with clients to create ongoing training programs that raise awareness of, identify tools and strategies for, and reinforce best practices to create sustainable inclusive workplaces. These measures are critical to increasing employee engagement and reducing legal risk, particularly the risk of harassment and discrimination claims. Nakimuli develops training programs for leaders, management level, and non-management level employees on topics ranging from implicit bias, inclusive leadership, increasing employee engagement, and navigating multigenerational workforces to discrimination, harassment, conflict resolution, and leave and accommodation requests. In addition to her L&E and ESG practice, Nakimuli represents clients on commercial litigation matters, specifically including breach of contract, fraud, and premises liability. She also has significant experience representing insurers on bad faith breach of contract claims and litigating federal condemnation actions.
Nakimuli has earned numerous recognitions for her community involvement and leadership. In 2013, she was named to Lawyers of Color’s inaugural “Hot List”, recognizing her as one of 100 early to mid-career minority attorneys under 40 from the South who are excelling in the legal profession. She was first-named by the National Black Lawyers as a Top 100 Attorney in 2015, with multiple recognitions thereafter. In 2020, she was recognized by the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division as a 2020 On the Rise – Top 40 Young Lawyer, and by the Mississippi Business Journal as a Top 10 Finalist on their Top 50 Under 40 List. She has been named a Mid-South Rising Star by Mid-South Super Lawyers (2014 – 2021); and was recognized as one of the top 10 up-and-coming attorneys in the Jackson metro area by Portico Magazine (2015). Nakimuli was listed in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Business Lawyers as a leading Labor & Employment lawyer in Mississippi (2022) and recently was recognized by Bloomberg Law as a 2022 They’ve Got Next: The 40 Under 40 honoree. She has received the Outstanding Service Award for two local bar organizations as well as other recognitions and honors for her volunteer service. Nakimuli is a Barrister in the Inn of Court, Charles Clark Inn and is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. She is also a Board of Trustee for the Mississippi Museum of Art (MMA) and provides pro bono counsel to the MMA regarding personnel matters.
Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP
Matt’s practice focuses on the defense of companies in complex product liability and class action litigation. Matt has represented numerous product manufacturers in federal and state jurisdictions, including multidistrict litigation and coordinated state court proceedings. Matt’s work includes taking and defending depositions, drafting motions and briefs, and preparing expert and company witnesses for depositions and trial testimony.
Matt has also gained significant experience working with and representing companies in the health care industry. Matt seconded to a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company to assist with ongoing litigation. Before joining Shook, he also interned at Walgreens where he assisted in-house counsel on various state and federal regulatory matters. And before law school, Matt interned for Shire where he helped train pharmaceutical sales professionals and compose a marketing campaign.
In addition to his practice, Matt actively participates in local and national bar associations. In 2019, Matt was elected to serve a two-year term as one of Missouri’s delegates to the ABA’s House of Delegates. Since 2019, Matt has co-chaired the Heartland Diversity Job Fair for KCMBA. Since 2018, Matt has served on the Missouri Bar Young Lawyer’s Section Council, where he has focused on helping new lawyers entering the profession.
RONAK D. DESAI
Of Counsel, Litigation,
Paul Hastings LLP
Ronak D. Desai is Of Counsel in the Investigations and White Collar Defense practice at Paul Hastings LLP and serves as firm-wide co-leader of its Congressional Investigations practice.
A seasoned international investigations, enforcement defense, and compliance attorney, Mr. Desai has extensive experience in both the public and private sectors. He advises clients on a broad range of complex investigative, compliance, crisis management, and public policy matters. Prior to joining Paul Hastings, Mr. Desai served as investigative counsel to a high-profile Select Committee on Capitol Hill. In addition to his Congressional work, Mr. Desai is a recognized expert on India and the Subcontinent, and draws upon his deep understanding of the region to help U.S. and other multinational clients navigate the unique legal and policy challenges arising in the course of their cross-border operations. He also counsels Indian companies conducting business abroad, including in the United States. Mr. Desai serves as pro bono General Counsel and independent Board Director to the Partnership for a Secure America, a DC-based foreign policy think tank that seeks to promote bipartisanship on Capitol Hill through its flagship Congressional Partnership Program. In 2016, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser appointed Mr. Desai to her Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). He recently completed his second three-year term. He also serves as Member of the Board of the South Asian Symphony Foundation and a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a frequent author, speaker, and commentator. He is a regular contributor to Forbes and Bloomberg Law, and a host of publications in the Asia-Pacific. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The National Law Journal, The Hill, Foreign Policy, The Huffington Post, and has been cited by The Congressional Research Service. He has been previously recognized by the South Asian Bar Association, the National Law Journal, and the American Bar Association for his white collar, Congressional investigations, and India-related legal work. Mr. Desai earned joint public policy and law degrees from the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School from which he graduated magna cum laude.
JASON G. DOWNS
Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck
Jason Downs, shareholder at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, taps into his experience managing one of the premier AG offices in the country and his reputation as a top-notch trial attorney to help clients engage with government regulators, including state attorneys general. As State Attorneys General practice group co-chair, he serves as lead counsel for clients facing enforcement action, takes a creative approach to educating the state AG community on behalf of clients and helps businesses understand the authority of state attorneys general. Jason also provides strategic advice on parallel civil and criminal investigations, as well as civil rights audits.
As chief deputy AG, Jason managed all legal matters brought on behalf of, or against, the District of Columbia and oversaw enforcement actions involving local and multistate anticompetitive, unfair and deceptive trade practices. Prior to that, he served as general counsel at the Office of the Attorney General. He also spent seven years at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, serving as lead counsel on 26 felony jury trials against federal prosecutors. Jason has also resolved cases without the necessity of a trial, including convincing federal prosecutors not to indict the chief financial officer of a company under investigation for foreign importation statutes violations. In another case, Jason persuaded federal prosecutors to dismiss a 17-count indictment. He successfully litigated an 8-level variance from the federal sentencing guidelines in a case involving bribery of a public official.
Jason serves as trial advocacy workshop faculty at Harvard Law School and is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.
CHARLENE A. BARKER GEDEUS, ESQ.
Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney
Charlene Gedeus, shareholder in Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney’s Labor & Employment section, represents private and public employers in labor and employment-related disputes in state and federal courts and before administrative agencies, as well as in the arbitral forum. Experienced in both single-plaintiff matters and class actions, her practice includes defending claims of wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation, unlawful harassment and hostile work environment claims. Charlene counsels employers from industries as diverse as retail, food service, education and manufacturing.
As a complement to her litigation practice, Charlene also provides extensive pre-litigation day-to-day advice and tailored counseling to employers with the objective of preventing and managing litigation risks. She counsels management and Human Resources personnel on a myriad of employment-related issues, including performance management/discipline, workplace accommodations, FMLA compliance, terminations and employment best practices. Charlene also assists employers in developing and implementing employment policies and programs in accordance with state and federal employment laws.
In 2017, Charlene was named one of Philly Biz’s Women to Watch. Additionally, Charlene has been selected for inclusion in the Pennsylvania Rising Stars® list each year since 2019.
She holds a bachelor’s degree and M.P.A from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a law degree from New York Law School.
Senior Lead Counsel,
Christopher Grant (he/him) serves as Senior Lead Counsel for the LinkedIn Corporation, operator of the world’s leading professional social network.
Chris is a member of the Products, Partnerships, and Platforms legal team and in addition to counseling on several of LinkedIn’s products, he supports the Business Development team in various licensing verticals. Most recently, Chris provided critical support and was a key advisor on bringing the successful LinkedIn Podcast Network to life.
Prior to joining LinkedIn, Chris was a corporate associate at the Tokyo offices of Jones Day and Morrison & Foerster. While at Morrison & Foerster, he worked on some of the largest M&A transactions out of Japan.
Chris is deeply engaged with organizations that advance positive change: (1) he is on the leadership team for Out@In, an employee resource group at LinkedIn that creates a space of belonging for LGBT+ employees and allies; (2) he is on the LinkedIn legal team’s diversity, inclusion, and belonging committee which aims to increase and support diversity in the legal field and to foster learnings on diversity; (3) he is a singing member and a board member for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, a historic 501(c)3 organization that “leads by creating extraordinary music and experiences that build community, inspires activism, and fosters compassion at home and around the world”; and (4) he is a volunteer at the LGBT Asylum Project which aims to “provide accessible legal representation for LGBT asylum seekers”.
A native of Belize, Chris is a 2012 JD/LLM dual-degree graduate of the Duke University School of Law, holds CIPP/US accreditation, and speaks fluent Japanese and Kriol.
Senior Corporate Counsel,
Shanelle Henry is a Senior Corporate Counsel at Microsoft, where she helps lead a team of business and sales clients supporting our vast partner ecosystem to drive digital transformation for customers in the areas of cloud, AI, IOT and other innovative technologies. At Microsoft, Shanelle has also served as a product attorney supporting engineers who developed leading business application cloud solutions for small, medium and large companies. Prior to joining Microsoft, she was an Associate at the leading AmLaw100, international law firm of Nixon Peabody where she specialized in Intellectual Property and Enforcement matters. Outside of her legal work, Shanelle is passionate about serving her community and is an Executive Committee member of a coding program designed for children in underserved communities in partnership with DMV NSBE, Jr. She is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center where she received her Juris Doctor, and a double major graduate of Brandeis University with her Bachelor of Arts degree.
NAOMI K. HILLS
Naomi K. Hills is Senior Counsel at GSK within the Specialty/Oncology team. Naomi is lead counsel for the US sample program, patient engagement leadership team. Naomi is responsible for advising on promotional and non-promotional initiatives for specialty and oncology biologics. Naomi advises on the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, Anti-Kickback Statute, PhRMA code and other promotional and regulatory rules. Naomi is a member of the Legal & Compliance core team for a “Inclusive Culture Workstream” which is tasked to help shape DEI within leadership behaviors, recruitment, and talent assessment. In addition to the above, Naomi provides Pro-Bono legal services with the Innocence Project. Prior to her role at GSK, Naomi was US Head of Legal for a multinational private label juice corporation.
Naomi is an active member in the legal community and is the Chair of the New York State Bar Association (“NYSBA”) Corporate Counsel section, a member of NYSBA’s Audit Committee and Committee on Leadership. Naomi was a 2021 Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Fellow. Naomi received her BA from the Pennsylvania State University, University Park and J.D. from Roger Williams University School of Law.
Naomi is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.® and The President of The Pearls an Ivy Foundation of Queens, Inc., she is also an active member of The Links Inc., Long Island Chapter.
Senior Corporate Counsel,
Tennille Hoover is Senior Corporate Counsel at U.S. Bank, the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States. She has served in this position since January 2021. In her role as Senior Corporate Counsel, Tennille is responsible for advising the organization on the legal risk and compliance for all areas of employment law in the United States and Canada.
Prior to joining U.S. Bank, Tennille worked for The Employment Law Solution: McFadden Davis, LLC, a woman- and minority-owned law firm, where her practice focused on management-side employment litigation and advisement. In that role, Tennille successfully defended employers against actions brought by current and former employees in federal and state courts, as well as the Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and other administrative agencies. She also performed complex investigates for private, governmental, and educational organizations.
Outside of the office, Tennille is actively engaged in the legal community as a member of Atlanta Legal Aid Society’s Advisory Committee and annual evaluator for the Georgia High School Mock Trial Competition. She also serves as a mentor to aspiring attorneys in the Spelman Sister-2-Sister Program.
Tennille is also very active in her local community as a board member for her homeowner’s association and President of The Quad Academy Parent Teacher Organization, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization she cofounded at her daughter’s school. She is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Tennille graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. She earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School, where she served as the President of the Black Law Students Association and as Editor-in-Chief of Law and Inequality: A Journal of Theory and Practice.
Tennille has been recognized as a 2020 and 2021 Super Lawyers Rising Star, and a 2022 Georgia Legal Awards On the Rise Awardee.
In her spare time, you can find her exploring the world and trying to keep up with her 4-year-old polyglot.
MICHAEL J. HUI
Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, LLP
Michael J. Hui is a trusted advisor and collaborator to startups and emerging growth companies. He guides them through the entire employment lifecycle from hire, compensation, EEO compliance, termination, and beyond. Michael works to develop real life solutions to help clients achieve their mission and maximize value for the business. As a former high stakes employment litigator, Michael leverages this background when counseling clients to limit or eliminate risk, as well as providing support when disputes arise.
Prior to joining Gunderson Dettmer, Michael was a litigator at an international labor and employment law firm representing tech companies and multinational corporations in all types of employment matters, including sexual harassment lawsuits, wage and hour class and PAGA actions, and wrongful discharge matters. Michael also was seconded as an in-house employment counsel to a publicly traded fintech company, giving him unique insight into client needs and expectations.
Michael currently serves on the board of directors for the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association and sits as the president of the Northern California Employment Round Table, which partners with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to educate the public and employers regarding issues of discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Paul Humphreys is a partner at Freshfields in New York. He focuses on cross-border public and private M&A, private equity transactions, venture capital and general corporate governance matters. Paul advises clients across a number of industries, including industrials, chemicals, life sciences and private equity. He was elected to Law360’s 2021 M&A editorial board for his significant contributions to the thought leadership discourse.
Paul is a founding member and partner sponsor of our US Halo network, Freshfields’ LGBT+ network that supports the firm’s LGBT+ colleagues and the broader LGBT+ legal community. He also leads our alumni engagement efforts in the United States.
Paul received his J.D., cum laude, from Pace University School of Law and his B.A., magna cum laude, from the University of Texas at Austin. He currently serves on Pace University School of Law’s Board of Visitors. Prior to Freshfields, Paul worked in international education and spent two years in Kyushu, Japan.
Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
Advises lenders and borrowers in a broad range of ﬁnance transactions, including leveraged and investment-grade acquisition ﬁnancings. A 2022 Law360 “Rising Star.”
Vanessa’s practice focuses on the representation of ﬁnancial institutions and corporate borrowers in a broad range of corporate ﬁnance transactions, including leveraged and investment-grade acquisition ﬁnancings, asset-based credit facilities, debt restructurings, spinoffs, working capital ﬁnancings, debtor-in-possession ﬁnancings, exit ﬁnancings, and other secured and unsecured ﬁnancings.
In 2022, Vanessa was named a “Rising Star” in banking by Law360. The Partnership for New York City named Vanessa to its 2022 Class of David Rockefeller Fellows and Crain’s New York Business named her to its 2022 “Notable Women in Law” list. She serves as co- chair of Davis Polk’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee and is a member of Law360’s 2022 Diversity & Inclusion Editorial Advisory Board.
JUSTIN T. JOHNSON
Senior Counsel, Global Affiliate Governance,
Justin joined AbbVie in January 2021 where he serves as the principal attorney for the governance oversight of AbbVie Inc.’s 300+ affiliates, leads the global legal integration of Allergan Limited following its acquisition by AbbVie Inc. in spring 2020, and oversees the Global Affiliate Governance Team in the day-to-day management of AbbVie Inc.’s subsidiary governance. Justin serves on AbbVie’s HBCU Legal Career Promotion Committee, which seeks to enrich the pipeline of diverse talent from HBCU’s in the legal profession, including professions in the health care industry. Justin is also a member of AbbVie Inc.’s Corporate Legal, Governance, and Operations 1L Legal Internship Committee, where he serves as a mentor to first year law students, a fundamental component of the summer internship program.
Prior to joining AbbVie, Justin worked at Rush University System for Health (RUSH) where he most recently served as its Senior Corporate Counsel, Senior Associate General Counsel, Managing Director of Corporate Development, and Assistant Secretary to the Board of Trustees. Justin was the principal attorney for major corporate health care transactions such as: the formation and expansion of RUSH, significant asset acquisitions and dispositions, and RUSH’s tax-exempt bond issuances, re-financings, and disclosures. Justin developed and managed the RUSH Deals Team, an interdisciplinary group consisting of system senior leadership which tracked, evaluated, prioritized, and implemented all major external growth opportunities and transactions. Justin was an Assistant Professor of Rush University’s Department of Health Systems Management, where he co-directed its Health Law and Ethics course. Additionally, Justin served as a member of RUSH’s Institutional Conflict of Interest Committee, the Diversity Leadership Council, and as the Co-Chairperson of the Demographic Strategy Team.
In his volunteer time, Justin serves as a member of the Citizens Police Oversight Committee of the Village of Oak Park, a committee charged with evaluating complaints about police conduct and interpersonal/community relations.
Justin recently served as an Adjunct Professor for Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, were he established and lead two courses covering the topics of health care law, ethics, and bioethics.
Justin attended Princeton University and received his law degree from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
John Kim is Counsel at State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company where he is based out of the company’s home offices in Bloomington, Illinois, which is also his hometown. John provides strategic advice and counsel to business partners on labor, employment, and immigration matters across the enterprise and in support of State Farm’s mission to help customers manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams.
At State Farm’s Law Department, John has led the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and spearheaded the department’s engagement with minority bar associations. He is active with the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association where he is the immediate past president of the NAPABA Law Foundation. In 2020, the Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago recognized John with its Vanguard Award.
John also led the Law Department’s Ethic and Professionalism Committee. Currently, he serves as the Vice-Chair of the Illinois Supreme Court’s Commission on Professionalism, which promotes a culture of civility and inclusion among Illinois lawyers and judges.
As a good neighbor, John is an active participant in State Farm’s pro bono program and collaborates with state-wide and local providers. In partnership with The Immigration Project, John has organized immigration clinics, as well as provided direct legal services. John serves as Treasurer of Prairie State Legal Services, Inc., which provides access to justice to low-income, elderly, and vulnerable clients throughout central and northern Illinois. John is a long-time volunteer at the Community Health Care Clinic, a free and charitable medical and dental clinic in McLean County, Illinois, where he received the 2022 Commitment to Health Award.
Prior to joining State Farm, John engaged in private practice in central Illinois. He received his J.D. from the American University’s Washington College of Law and a B.A. from Wheaton College (IL). Before attending law school, John worked as a refugee and asylee caseworker in Nairobi, Kenya, and as a policy analyst for a faith-based organization in Washington, D.C.
Senior Counsel – Global Product,
Michelle grew up in Utah, moving to Salt Lake City from Los Angeles at the age of five. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Northwestern University and her law degree from Vanderbilt University, Michelle began her legal career as a federal judicial clerk in the District of New Mexico and then later in the Middle District of Tennessee. After clerking, Michelle worked for several national law firms with a focus on intellectual property law, including patent prosecution and copyrights. Her experience living and working around the country (as well as a summer spent living in Venezuela and in New York City) allowed Michelle to see many different perspectives and helped her develop communication skills that she has integrated into her practice. At eBay, Michelle is putting her background in computer science and electrical engineering to good use, first in her role as Senior Counsel for Patents and Open Source, and now as a Global Product Counsel. She works closely with her team to encourage innovation, protect ideas, and develop relationships within eBay and with eBay’s customers.
Michelle is a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Legal Committee at eBay, and works with her teammates to educate employees and the community to further one of eBay’s core tents: Be for Everyone.
Michelle is passionately involved in supporting adolescent STEM activities, including as a volunteer and presenter for Expanding Your Horizons, SheTech, Girl Scouts, and World IP Day. In addition, Michelle previously served as a Trustee for the MountainWest Capital Network, and she is currently on the Board of Directors for the Utah Chapter of the American Heart Association. Michelle’s free time is spent traveling, drinking coffee or acting as a bus driver for her kids.
EVA J. PULLIAM
ArentFox Schiff LLP
Eva Pulliam is a Partner at ArentFox Schiff, splitting her time between the firm’s Washington, D.C. and San Francisco offices. With a focus on the retail, technology, and consumer products industries, she regularly advises on best practices in the areas of data privacy, advertising and marketing, and trademark. Household names, tech giants and startups, non-profits, and other innovative organizations call on Eva to guide them through product development, compliance, and brand management. Clients value Eva’s ability to merge business goals with legal requirements. She enjoys collaborating with clients to create fun and exciting offerings that incorporate technology and innovation while complying with an evolving legal landscape.
Eva has been recognized as a “Next Generation Leader” in The Recorder’s 2018 Women Leaders in Tech Law for her extensive work in the tech industry. She regularly presents on advertising, intellectual property, and privacy. Her recent presentations have spanned topics such as the evolution of adtech, the metaverse, the evolving US privacy landscape, and more. She is also a frequent commentator for Law360. Additionally, Eva is a certified privacy professional (CIPP/US) and a member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.
As an advocate for racial and social justice, Eva is an active member of the ArentFox Schiff Center for Racial Equity and the firm’s Pro Bono Committee. She is also a proud board member for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and a 2018 Leadership Council for Legal Diversity (LCLD) Fellow.
JULIUS M. REDD
Beveridge & Diamond PC
Julius is a litigator and counselor who maintains a national practice.
He represents clients in various industries in complex civil litigation, enforcement actions, and administrative regulatory proceedings. Much of his litigation practice is focused on environmental issues, representing clients in matters related to contaminated property; toxic tort; contractual disputes; and complex commercial litigation. His ability to connect with clients and learn the intricacies of their businesses allows Julius to align his legal counsel with targeted actions to advance clients’ goals.
Handling cases in state and federal courts throughout the United States, his multifaceted experience in resolving conflicts enables him to achieve favorable results that satisfy both practical and economic objectives for the firm’s clients.
Julius also co-founded and co-chairs B&D’s Environmental Justice (EJ) practice group. He advises clients on EJ issues, evaluates EJ operational risks, designs and implements comprehensive EJ strategies, and proactively implements EJ considerations in project development. Julius regularly speaks and writes on EJ issues and is routinely quoted on EJ developments in publications such as Law360, Bloomberg, InsideEPA, and E&E News. He also frequently hosts episodes of Groundtruth, an EJ-focused podcast series created in partnership with the Environmental Law Institute.
Environmental Compliance Counseling
Additionally, Julius is a trusted advisor who provides strategic advice to C-suite executives and operational personnel on various environmental compliance and emerging ESG risks. He counsels clients on developing and implementing environmental compliance programs, and helps clients test the effectiveness of programs through environmental audits.
Civic Involvement and Pro Bono Legal Service
Julius maintains an active civic volunteer profile. He is a founding member of the Men of Color Project (MoCP), an organization designed to build leaders in the legal sector, facilitate intergenerational support, and encourage community service and civic engagement amongst men of color in the legal profession. He is also involved in prisoner advocacy, having spearheaded the firm’s participation in the Clemency Project, where attorneys assisted low-level, non-violent federal inmates in obtaining executive clemency via an Obama Administration initiative.
Since law school, Julius has been committed to providing pro bono representation, which included his work that secured the release of an inmate who was wrongfully convicted of murder after he had served 24 years in prison. Additionally, has represented pro bono clients in various areas of the law, including immigration, education, and landlord/tenant matters, to name a few.
Julius is also a board member of Unity Christian Fellowship, a STEM-focused non-profit youth development organization.
HELEN L. RESPASS
Senior Legal Editor & Global Pro Bono Co-Chair,
Helen Respass is a Senior Legal Editor at Practical Law, Thomson Reuters, where she creates legal know-how on topics such as commercial and cross-border transactions, employment, anti-corruption, corporate governance, compliance, and non-profit organizations. At Thomson Reuters, Helen was also seconded to the Employment Practice Group of the General Counsel’s Office, where she provided legal advice on a broad range of employment issues.
Prior to joining Thomson Reuters, Helen was Assistant General Counsel for the Americas region at Sojitz Corporation of America, a global trading company. Among her responsibilities, Helen handled corporate, M&A, commercial, and employment matters, developed and oversaw the global ethics and compliance program, and managed the Trade Compliance Unit.
Helen started her legal career at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP and Linklaters LLP in the corporate and employee benefits practices. While an associate, Helen led and trained attorneys at Kelley Drye to represent refugees in asylum proceedings in partnership with Human Rights First, and served as Co-Chair of the Linklaters New York Pro Bono Committee.
Helen is passionate about pro bono and diversity, equity, and inclusion. At Thomson Reuters, she currently serves as the Co-Chair of Global Pro Bono, where she oversees the global pro bono program, coordinates with internal teams to align pro bono initiatives with corporate goals, and supports and organizes pro bono opportunities and training for employees. Helen is also an executive committee member of diverse business resource groups at Thomson Reuters, including Women @ Thomson Reuters and the Asian Affinity Network, and an ally member of the Global Allyship Community and Black Employee Network.
In 2020, Helen received the Cornerstone Award from Lawyers Alliance for New York, which recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions through pro bono legal services to nonprofits. In 2016, she received the Outstanding Volunteer Award from Open Hands Legal Services, honoring her exceptional commitment and kindness to clients at the organization’s legal aid desks.
Helen received an A.B. from Princeton University and a J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and a three-time recipient of Outstanding Pro Bono Work awards.
CHRISTOPHER R. RIAÑO
Holland & Knight LLP
Christopher R. Riaño is Of Counsel at Holland & Knight LLP and is a nationally recognized attorney with extensive experience in constitutional, public, and administrative law, particularly in highly regulated industries. His experience includes service as a Commissioner for the New York State Gaming Commission, the General Counsel to the New York State Liquor Authority, Assistant Counsel to the Governor of New York for Education, Arts, and Constitutional Law, as well as service as a New York State Administrative Law Judge.
Riaño also is an award-winning author and scholar in the fields of constitutional and public law. He has lectured on constitutional law, jurisprudence, and public/administrative law for dozens of organizations across the country. His first book “Marriage Equality: From Outlaws to In-Laws,” co-authored with Professor William Eskridge of Yale Law School and published by Yale University Press, presents the 50-year history of same-sex marriage equality in the United States from 1967 – 2017. The book has received numerous accolades, including the 2021 Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association.
Riaño also currently serves as the President of the nation’s Center for Civic Education, as the Chair of the LGBTQ Law Section for the New York State Bar Association, and as a member of the Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association. He has previously held numerous additional roles in service to the profession.
RICHARD C. ROSALEZ
Vice President, Litigation,
Samsung Electronics America
Rich Rosalez is the Vice President, Litigation at Samsung Electronics America, Inc., the US subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., one of the largest electronics and high-tech manufacturing companies in the world. As a leader in the legal department, Rich manages the company’s litigation docket, pre-litigation, investigations, responses to enforcement matters, and related activities. Since joining Samsung in 2011, Rich has been actively involved in some of the most followed and influential legal matters in the US, and he has counseled the company and its leaders through fourfold growth. Rich regularly advises Samsung on significant strategic issues, competition, brand protection, and public relations matters, including serving as a company spokesperson with numerous leading media outlets. Long passionate about DEI, Rich is a founding member, mentor, and executive sponsor of Unidos, Samsung’s Latino/Hispanic employee resource group, and he serves on the company’s DEI Advisory Council.
Outside of the office, Rich is active in the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association (In-House Committee), and the Hispanic National Bar Association (Deputy Regional President), where he has recently focused on mentoring programs, and he previously held numerous positions over several years with the American Bar Association’s trial practice committee (newsletter, website, membership, and diversity subcommittees). Rich has also served as an adviser to a leading DFW charter school, an adventure guides leader, a youth sports coach many times over, and a school and community volunteer. Rich has won a number of awards for his professional and community endeavors, ranging from the DFW Association of Corporate Counsel/D CEO Magazine Outstanding In-House Counsel of the Year Award, to the Hispanic National Bar Association Top Lawyers Under 40 Award, and a City of Dallas Service Award. Rich has been featured on the cover of Modern Counsel magazine’s Resilience Issue, and twice been highlighted in Hispanic Executive magazine.
Prior to joining Samsung, Rich practiced white collar, government enforcement, antitrust, intellectual property, and complex commercial litigation at Jones Day in Dallas, and Latham & Watkins in New York. Originally from rural Ohio, Rich attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia Law School.
CHRISTINE N. SWIFT
VP, Litigation & Corporate Insurance,
Lincoln Financial Group
Christine Swift joined Lincoln Financial Group in 2011 and is a member of Lincoln’s Enterprise Litigation team, focusing primarily on complex litigation. In addition, Christine leads Lincoln’s Corporate Insurance function, where she is responsible for the placement and oversight of all of Lincoln’s management and professional liability and casualty insurance programs.
Prior to joining Lincoln, Christine was a litigation attorney for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Philadelphia, where she handled a variety of matters including class actions, federal appropriations litigation, as well as labor and employment disputes.
Christine is passionate about diversity and inclusion, serving as Co-Chair of the Lincoln Legal Department’s Diversity Action Team, as well as Co-Chair of the Women’s Business Resource Group at Lincoln.
Outside of Lincoln, Christine is Vice-Chair of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and previously served on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana.
Christine received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania and her Juris Doctor from Temple University, Beasley School of Law. She currently lives in Indiana, with her husband and two boys.
Senior Product and Regulatory Counsel,
Nikolas Takacs has focused his career on payments, banking, and cross-border legal issues. He currently serves as Senior Counsel at Marqeta in Oakland, California, where he advises the company on product and regulatory matters.
Prior to joining Marqeta, Nikolas was Senior Counsel at Visa, providing guidance on compliance with sanctions, anti-bribery, anti-money laundering, export controls, and political law. Nikolas started his in-house legal career at Wells Fargo, initially serving as commercial counsel for the International Trade Services line of business and later as a regulatory counsel in the Anti-Bribery, Sanctions, and Anti-Money Laundering Division of the Legal Department. Before moving in-house, Nikolas was an associate attorney in the International practice group of Armstrong Teasdale LLP, advising clients on international compliance matters including import and export, sanctions, and anti-bribery laws.
Nikolas has been a strong advocate for inclusion and diversity throughout his legal career. He currently serves on the board of directors of the California Minority Counsel Program and as chair of their Ambassador’s Council. Nikolas was a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for Visa’s Legal and Compliance Department. While at Wells Fargo, Nikolas was a member of the Legal Department’s Diversity and Inclusion Council and chaired the San Francisco office’s diverse summer internship program.
Nikolas is a graduate of American University Washington College of Law and earned his bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Hispanic Studies from the College of William and Mary.
Senior Counsel – Patents and Open Source,
Sue Xia is lead counsel of patents and open source at Walmart. She leads Walmart’s patent program where she manages the growing patent portfolio and supports all areas of the company including retail, eCommerce, Sam’s Club and Walmart’s innovation incubator Store No.8. She also advises on all open source issues across Walmart.
During her time at Walmart, Sue built the patent program at Walmart and grew Walmart’s small patent portfolio to what is now today the largest patent portfolio among US retailers.
Prior to joining Walmart, Sue practiced at major law firms where she represented semiconductor and software companies in a variety of IP matters including patent portfolio counseling, patent prosecution and litigation. She has litigated complex patent cases in district court and the International Trade Commission.
Sue earned her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering from UCLA and JD from Santa Clara University. Sue lives in Silicon Valley with her husband and two boys.