First, a reality check: At last count, a mere 5.4% of partners at U.S. law firms were members of minority groups. For women of color, the figure was fewer than 1.7%, according to the legal placement organization NALP.
But what an amazing group of people those numbers represent, and what a payoff for the firms, law schools and corporations that invested in diversity.
We wanted to get a feeling for how well the legal profession was integrating attorneys who not that long ago were rarely considered the right sort to practice at the elite level. We asked our readers to nominate candidates who have had a national impact in their legal fields and beyond during the past five years. Merely holding a high office or position of authority was not enough; we wanted to identify attorneys who have demonstrated the power to change the law, shape public affairs, launch industries and get big things done. Law professors and in-house counsel were eligible; judges and nonpracticing lawyers were not.
We were met with an avalanche of nominations, which we supplemented with our own research. Editors in our newsroom evaluated great drifts of paperwork to arrive at the list of 50 attorneys that you’ll find here. The thumbnail biographies were written by staff reporters Leigh Jones, Vesna Jaksic and Peter Page, and by contributing writers June Bell and Emily Heller.
We freely concede that the results are subjective. Frankly, we could publish a list twice as long and only begin to recognize all of the attorneys making important contributions to the law.
That said, there’s no question that the attorneys listed here truly represent important movers and shakers. They direct the legal affairs of mighty corporations; they invent new practice areas; they move the gears of the nation’s political machinery. And some will be in a position to become even more influential, depending on how the presidential campaign ends — they also happen to be advisers to Senator Barack Obama.
60, Greenberg Traurig, Miami
Alvarez came to the United States in 1960 as a refugee from his native Cuba. He has been the chief executive officer at Greenberg Traurig since 1996. Since then, the firm has grown from 325 lawyers in eight offices in 1997 to more than 1,750 attorneys and lobbyists in the United States, Europe and Asia. Earlier, Alvarez practiced securities, corporate and international law for more than 25 years. A strong believer in the power of education to change lives, he helped establish two diversity-focused law schools, the Florida International University College of Law and Florida A&M University College of Law. He has served as a trustee at Miami-Dade College and is a trustee at the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
66, Dickinson Wright, Detroit
Archer is a leading commercial and business litigation attorney whose career spans business, public service and the judiciary. He is a former president of the American Bar Association (2003-2004), mayor of Detroit (1994-2001) and associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court (1986-1990). His academic credentials include associate professor at the Detroit College of Law (1972-1978), and adjunct professor at Wayne State University Law School (1984-1985). Archer was named the most respected judge in Michigan by Michigan Lawyers Week in 1990 and public official of the year by Governing magazine in 2000. Recently, Archer has been mentioned as a possible 2010 gubernatorial candidate in Michigan.
Preeta D. Bansal
48, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, New York
Head of the appellate litigation practice at Skadden, Bansal has been counsel of record in the U.S. Supreme Court for a party or amicus in more than 20 cases at the merits stage and in more than a dozen at petition for certiorari stage. Upholding proposed exercise of eminent domain in 2007, the 2d U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of a complaint filed by property owners opposing the Atlantic Yards redevelopment project in Brooklyn, N.Y., which included a new stadium for the National Basketball Association’s New Jersey Nets. It was the one of the first significant constitutional takings case since Kelo v. New London. Bansal is an adviser to Barack Obama on outreach to Asian-Americans.
Sharon R. Barner
51, Foley & Lardner, Chicago
Barner chairs Foley & Lardner’s intellectual property practice. More than 20 years ago, she was the only woman on the 30-attorney team that won a $154 million patent infringement award for Hughes Aircraft Co. against the United States over satellite-stabilizing technology. A nationally recognized IP attorney, she is lead counsel for, among others, AmerisourceBergin Co., Cummins Inc. and Major League Baseball. She directs more than 200 attorneys across the firm’s 22 offices. Since Barner became Foley’s IP law chairwoman in 2006, the department has grown from 12% to 18% minority and from 23% to 28% women. Revenue generated by her department during that period has grown from $104.8 million in 2006 to $127.3 million in 2007.
57, Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, Madison, N.J.
Brown is co-author of the landmark 2006 report, Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms, which documented the exclusion of minority women in law firms and corporations. The report increased awareness of the need to integrate minority women into law firms and their clients’ work. The American Bar Association gave Brown a Spirit of Excellence Award for her contribution. A partner in the labor and employment practice group in Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge’s Madison, N.J., office. Brown’s practice includes defense-oriented litigation as well as workplace training issues and collective bargaining. She is her firm’s chief diversity officer. Brown is a frequent lecturer and speaker on the subject of discrimination and diversity in law and business.
Peter C.B. Bynoe
57, DLA Piper, Chicago
Senior counsel Peter C.B. Bynoe heads the sports facilities practice at his firm’s Chicago office. He has negotiated new stadium or arena deals for numerous teams, including the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals, the Miami Heat and the Washington Redskins. Bynoe has chaired his firm’s diversity committee and in 2005 was the only lawyer in private practice named to Fortune magazine’s list of the most influential minorities in business, sports, politics, academia and the arts. Bynoe is the first minority owner of a National Basketball Association franchise, the Denver Nuggets, which he bought in 1989 for $65 million, and was the team’s managing general partner before selling his controlling interest. As executive director of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority, Bynoe negotiated a $250 million deal to develop a new stadium for the Chicago White Sox. Before joining DLA Piper in 1995, Bynoe, a licensed real estate broker, also ran his own consulting firm. He serves on numerous boards, among them that of the Rush University Medical Center.
59, Cooley Godward Kronish, Washington
Campos is a senior partner and partner in charge of his firm’s 30-lawyer Washington office, having joined the firm only last year. He advises corporate management teams and boards of directors on corporate governance and securities and international regulation, drawing on his experience as a former commissioner of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission; in 2002, he became the first Hispanic appointed to the commission, then led the commission’s diversity task force and recruited minority lawyers for senior positions. He is a leading expert on the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, having helped to develop the rules involved in its implementation.
Stephen L. Carter
53, Yale Law School, New Haven, Conn.
When he’s not teaching contracts or trademarks law at Yale Law School, Carter keeps busy writing mystery novels. In 1982, he began teaching as an assistant professor at the school, where he received his juris doctor degree in 1979, after clerking for Judge Spottswood W. Robinson III of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He also clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Carter’s other professional interests include constitutional law, intellectual property, and law and religion. His books include New England White, Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, God’s Name in Vain and The Emperor of Ocean Park.
58, Dorsey & Whitney, New York
Carter is head of Dorsey & Whitney’s New York trial department and co-chairman of its white-collar crime and civil fraud practice. As U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York from 1993 to 1999, he prosecuted front-page cases, including that of New York City police officers for the abuse of Abner Louima. In 2006, when Cablevision Systems Corp. disclosed through a restatement of earnings instances of options backdating, Carter was appointed to the board as a member of a special litigation committee to act on the company’s behalf to resolve all litigation arising from the disclosure.
53, O’Melveny & Myers, Menlo Park, Calif.
Chao is partner in charge of O’Melveny & Myers’ Asia practice, which includes 120 legal professionals. In 26 years with the firm, Chao built the group’s China team from its inception in the mid-1990s with offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai, adding an office in Beijing in 2003. Chao, also a member of the firm’s mergers and acquisitions group, is a highly regarded figure in financial markets, deal-making and legal issues. In 2006, O’Melveny’s group was named China practice of the year by Asian Legal Business magazine. In 2007, O’Melveny closed 16 Chinese public offerings — raising nearly $6.5 billion on exchanges in the United States, Hong Kong and London — and closed 70 private equity and venture capital deals in China.
57, Irell & Manella, Los Angeles
A leading intellectual property litigator, Chu leads the charge at national powerhouse Irell with major verdicts, including $74 million for TiVo Inc. in a 2006 patent infringement case in Texas federal court and a $500 million jury award in 2002 for City of Hope Hospital against Genentech Inc., one of the largest intellectual property verdicts recorded. In 2004 and 2005, Chu led six Irell teams to victory in four trials, one arbitration and one appeal, including an $82 million jury verdict for Immersion Corp. against Sony Computer Entertainment. In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed TiVo’s 2006 jury verdict win.
R. Ted Cruz
37, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Houston
The son of a Cuban immigrant, Cruz was the first Hispanic to serve as solicitor general of Texas and the youngest state solicitor general in the country. Cruz has authored more than 70 U.S. Supreme Court briefs and argued before the justices eight times. He represented Texas successfully in litigation concerning First Amendment separation of church and state, civil commitment for violent sexual predators and state sovereignty from World Court decisions. Cruz joined the Houston office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius as a partner to build the firm’s U.S. Supreme Court and national appellate practice. Earlier, he was director of policy planning at the Federal Trade Commission.
John W. Daniels
59, Quarles & Brady, Milwaukee
Named chairman of Quarles & Brady in September, Daniels became one of the first African-Americans to lead a top U.S. law firm. He is a real estate and business transactional lawyer who represents Fortune 500 companies, life insurance companies and large minority entrepreneurs. With his sister, Valerie Daniels Carter, he owns V&J Foods Inc. of Milwaukee, which operates more than 100 Burger King and Pizza Hut restaurants nationally. He has led complex real estate redevelopment projects, he’s a director of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, and he’s the former national president of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers.
Drew S. Days III
66, Morrison & Foerster, Washington
Days, of counsel to Morrison & Foerster’s Washington office, has argued 24 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, most of those while he served as solicitor general of the United States from 1993 to 1996. He began his legal career at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in New York, where he litigated cases involving civil rights issues — an interest he continued to pursue as solicitor general. Days currently is involved in national and international efforts to resolve environmental and social issues. As a board member at the MacArthur Foundation, he has worked to provide affordable rental housing in areas struck by Hurricane Katrina. He received an LL.B. from Yale Law School, where since 1981 he has taught in areas including civil procedure, federal jurisdiction, constitutional law and international human rights. He was the founding director of Yale’s Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for Human Rights.
Christopher Edley Jr.
55, University of California, Berkeley School of Law, Berkeley, Calif.
Edley is dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. He moved west in 2004, after 23 years as professor at Harvard Law School. Edley’s work focuses on civil rights and administrative law; he also has taught federalism, budget policy, procurement law, national security law and environmental law. Edley co-founded the Harvard Civil Rights Project, a multidisciplinary research and policy think thank focused on racial justice. He has served several presidents and in 2006 was named to a national commission created to review the No Child Left Behind Act. Edley was an assistant domestic policy adviser under President Jimmy Carter, and was national issues director throughout the 1987-88 presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis. Additionally, Edley was a senior adviser on economic policy for President Bill Clinton’s transition team in 1992. He held several positions in the Clinton administration. He served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and in 2001 was a member of the Carter-Ford National Commission on Federal Election Reform.
50, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Austin, Texas
Fernandes racked up defense wins in three multimillion-dollar lawsuits during his first year with Akin Gump. That was in 2003, after he’d already founded one of the largest minority-owned law firms in Houston. Fernandes is still winning — two years ago, for example, he won a $153 million trade secrets verdict for client Hexion Specialty Chemicals Inc. against storied Texas litigator Rusty Hardin. Fernandes, whose family immigrated from the Cape Verde Islands when he was a child, represents some of the country’s largest companies in complex litigation involving trade secrets, international banking transactions, intellectual property and more. For all his success, he’s not one to put on airs — he’s been known to hang out in dive bars to suss out local attitudes about the issues in his cases. He manages the litigation team in Akin Gump’s Austin office, is a director of the State Bar of Texas and sits on the steering committee of the State Bar of Texas Minority Counsel Program. He’s passed along his trial advocacy skills as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center.
Sergio J. Galvis
50, Sullivan & Cromwell, New York
Billion-dollar deals might seem a bit old hat for Galvis — he’s helped out on rather a few while also staking out a niche specialty in sovereign finance and debt restructuring. He published a well-regarded analysis of the topic while still in law school; more recently he was among the specialists who helped refine sovereign workouts for the Group of 10 finance ministers. He applied the theory in helping to arrange Argentina’s $100 billion debt restructuring, the largest such debt exchange to date. He participated in U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.’s 2007 conference on U.S. capital markets competitiveness. A native of Colombia, Galvis is active in education initiatives in the United States and Latin America. He heads his firm’s Latin American group and coordinates its practice in Spain (where in 2006 he represented Endesa S.A. during a high-stakes international bidding war for the utility company).
Arturo J. González
47, Morrison & Foerster, San Francisco
González chairs Morrison & Foerster’s 500-attorney trial practice. The San Francisco-based lawyer has been with the firm for 23 years and made partner at 31. As an associate of the American Board of Trial Advocates, which works to protect the right to a jury trial and educate lawyers, González advocates for a more diverse trial bar. González, 47, has helped Latinos in California win landmark civil rights cases against law enforcement, helped to change a law to give California high school students two additional years of instruction if they fail their exit exam, and argued a case that protected children’s rights to education if a school district runs out of money.
Cecilia H. Gonzalez
52, Howrey, Washington
Gonzalez co-chairs Howrey’s intellectual property practice. She specializes in representing large corporations in litigation, particularly before the International Trade Commission, where she has handled more than 50 patent cases involving technologies including optics, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals and software. Gonzalez recently was named to Hispanic Magazine’s “Elite 20” minority professionals in law and service and is widely recognized as a top litigator. She wrote a chapter in the American Bar Association intellectual property section’s Patent Litigations Strategies Handbook. She serves on Howrey’s executive committee and is managing partner for practice development.
67, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, New York
Harper is a retired partner who remains of counsel to the firm he joined in 1971 and became the firm’s first black partner in 1974. He was the first black president of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. During his presidency, that association issued a statement of diversity principles that has been adopted by more than 130 New York City law firms and corporate legal departments. He served as legal adviser to the U.S. State Department during the Clinton administration, building the case under international law for condemning the genocide in Rwanda. Earlier, he served as a litigator with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. He resigned from Harvard University’s governing board in 2005 to protest former university President Lawrence H. Summers’ comments seen as demeaning to women and minorities.
Keith M. Harper
41, Kilpatrick Stockton, Washington
A member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Harper heads Atlanta-based Kilpatrick Stockton’s Native American affairs practice group, representing tribes in labor relations, land use and treaty rights cases. He is counsel for more than 500,000 Indians in the Indian trust funds lawsuit, Cobell v. Kempthorne; filed in 1996, it is the largest class action ever filed against the federal government, with potential damages and interest of $137 billion. Harper is a principal adviser on Native American policy and the national chair of the Native American Policy Advisory Committee for presidential candidate Barack Obama, past president of the Native American Bar Association of Washington and former head of the Washington, D.C, office of the Native American Rights Fund.
Gary A. Hernandez
49, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, San Francisco
The firm launched its insurance regulatory practice in 1998 by hiring Hernandez, a former chief of enforcement for the California Department of Insurance. Hernandez, 49, a Mexican-American with roots deep in the Central Valley of California, has since expanded the practice to 20 attorneys with a client roster highlighted by American International Group Inc., Allianz Life Insurance Co. and United Health Services Inc. Hernandez counts among his most satisfying achievements helping to build, with private funds, the University of California, Merced, the first new campus in the University of California system in 40 years.
Jennifer L. Hernandez
48, Holland & Knight, San Francisco
A partner who co-chairs Holland & Knight’s national environmental team, Hernandez specializes in the redevelopment of contaminated properties, called “brownfields.” She led a first-of-its-kind project involving a polluted oil refinery in California; the facility was shut down, cleaned up and redeveloped, setting the standard for brownfields projects. Hernandez helped lead the fight for the California Land Environmental Restoration and Reuse Act of 2001, which established local hazardous cleanup programs. She has written two books and more than 30 articles on environmental and land use law. San Francisco’s mayor proclaimed Oct. 9, 2002, “Jennifer Hernandez Day” for her work on sustainable land use.
Eric H. Holder Jr.
57, Covington & Burling, Washington
Holder’s day job is engaging in high-stakes litigation and white-collar criminal defense. On the side, he serves as national co-chair of the Barack Obama presidential campaign, offering policy advice and serving as a surrogate on the campaign trail. In a recent case, Holder brought to a close a criminal investigation into payments made by Chiquita Brand International’s former Colombian subsidiary to a paramilitary group that had been designated a terrorist entity by the U.S. government. Earlier, Holder served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and later as deputy U.S. attorney general. He has represented the National Football League in the “Spygate” affair, in which a former employee of the New England Patriots alleged that the team videotaped its opponents’ pregame warm-ups.
Charles A. James
54, Chevron Corp., San Ramon, Calif.
James is vice president and general counsel for the San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron Corp. Before joining Chevron in 2002, he was assistant attorney general in charge of the Antitrust Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. Earlier, James was deputy assistant attorney general in the first Bush administration, headed the antitrust and trade regulation practice at Jones Day in Washington, and held several legal posts at the Federal Trade Commission. James has been active in numerous professional and public service organizations, including the American Bar Association’s sections of Business Law and Antitrust Law.
Jeh C. Johnson
50, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, New York
In 1994, litigator Johnson became the first black lawyer to be named partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Johnson has handled numerous complex and high-profile civil and criminal cases and arbitrations. Earlier, he made his mark as a federal prosecutor in New York. In 1998, he took a sabbatical from the firm to serve as general counsel of the U.S. Air Force. Johnson is a foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and a member of Obama’s national finance team, as well as a pledged delegate from New Jersey. Johnson worked for Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign as a fundraiser and special counsel representing Kerry publicly on issues relating to his war record. Johnson is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
72, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Washington
A well-known troubleshooter during the Clinton administration, Jordan was chairman of the Clinton presidential campaign in 1992 and subsequently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Iraq Study Group. His corporate posts include senior managing director with Lazard Freres & Co. and directorships with American Express Co., Asbury Automotive Group, Howard University, J.C. Penney Co. Inc., the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation and Xerox Corp. He has served on the international advisory boards of DaimlerChrysler A.G. and Barrick Gold Corp. His past civic titles include president and chief executive officer of the National Urban League Inc. and executive director of the United Negro College Fund Inc.
53, Vinson & Elkins, Dallas
In 1995, Kirk became the first black mayor of Dallas. Today he is a leading public policy lawyer, having participated in history’s largest leveraged buyout, the $45 billion takeover of energy utility TXU Gas Co. by private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Texas Pacific Group in 2007. He shepherded the deal through legislative and regulatory hurdles and continues to represent the new owners. Kirk is co-chair of Compete, a national coalition of energy companies seeking deregulation. He represents Southwest Airlines Co., he’s a board member of Brinker International Inc., Dean Foods Co. and PetSmart Inc., and a member of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV host committee. In 2005, Kirk led the lobbying effort that convinced the Texas Legislature to increase juror pay from $6 to $40 a day, the first increase in 52 years. He is co-chair of Barack Obama’s Texas presidential campaign.
Ronald D. Lee
48, Arnold & Porter, Washington
Lee has had a long career in national security matters, having served as director of the Executive Office of National Security, general counsel of the National Security Agency and as chief of staff of the Central Intelligence Agency. As a partner at Arnold & Porter, he focuses on national security, cybersecurity and technology law and policy, touching on aspects of homeland security, information security, privacy law and the development of homeland security technology. Lee represents clients on novel matters in data security and security breaches, information privacy and security and liability aspects of computer systems and networks.
William F. Lee
58, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, Boston
Lee is co-managing partner of his firm, a deft litigator in high-stakes intellectual property cases, a mentor to young lawyers and an avid runner. He represented Broadcom Corp. in multiple cases against Qualcomm Inc., securing three victories — two in California federal court and one before the International Trade Commission. He has tried more than 20 cases in the past three years, including successfully representing GlaxoSmithKline PLC in cases involving Requip, a Parkinson disease’s drug, and Valtrex, a herpes treatment. Lee is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and guided Hale and Dorr’s 2004 merger with Wilmer Cutler & Pickering.
Ronald C. Machen
39, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, Washington
A former federal prosecutor, Machen handles complex civil litigation, white-collar criminal defense and internal corporate investigations. Often he represents public companies and corporate officers in parallel civil and criminal proceedings by the U.S. Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Association of Securities Dealers. He co-chairs WilmerHale’s diversity committee and an American Bar Association criminal litigation committee. Machen led a joint pro bono team of WilmerHale and American Civil Liberties Union lawyers representing five black people who alleged in a civil rights suit in Texas that they were improperly targeted for drug charges because of their race. The case settled favorably.
William ‘Billy’ Martin
58, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, Washington
Martin is a high-profile defense attorney with penchant for celebrity clients, including National Football League quarterback Michael Vick, who he represented in Vick’s federal dog-fighting case and is defending against those same charges in Virginia state court; Idaho Senator Larry Craig; former National Basketball Association star Jayson Williams, acquitted of aggravated manslaughter in the shooting of his chauffeur; former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, acquitted on charges of racketeering and bribery; former heavyweight boxing champion Riddick Bowe; the parents of murdered federal government intern Chandra Levy; and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and her mother, Marcia Lewis. Martin leads the white-collar criminal defense practice at Sutherland and is a frequent legal analyst on cable TV.
Walfrido ‘Wally’ Martinez
41, Hunton & Williams, New York
Martinez is managing partner of Richmond, Va.-based Hunton & Williams, having taken on the job at the tender age 39. He focuses on complex business litigation and white-collar criminal defense. Martinez was one of the founding partners of the firm’s Miami office. He later joined Diageo North America, a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest alcoholic beverage companies, where he was senior vice president and general counsel. Since rejoining Hunton, he has made diversity a firmwide responsibility and is credited with helping to boost minority lawyer retention to 80% last year.
48, O’Melveny & Myers, Los Angeles
Mayorkas is a partner in O’Melveny & Myers’ white-collar defense and corporate investigations practice. He was the youngest federal prosecutor in the nation when appointed U.S. attorney in Los Angeles in 1998. Since joining the firm in 2001, he has represented major corporations in high-stakes civil actions and federal investigations. He chairs the American Bar Association’s ethics and professionalism committee and serves on the board of Bet Tzedek Legal Services, which provides pro bono representation to the indigent. His pro bono docket at O’Melveny focuses on foster children and disadvantaged youth.
L. Londell McMillan
41, Dewey & LeBoeuf, New York
McMillan began his career as a corporate lawyer in the New York office of the former LeBoeuf Lamb, then founded his own firm, The McMillan Firm, which became one of the largest minority-owned law firms in New York state. He now heads Dewey & LeBoeuf’s entertainment, media and sports group. He has represented such high-profile clients as Prince (relieving the client of an unwanted contract with Warner Bros. and then negotiating a fresh $120 million recording deal), Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Spike Lee and the Reverend Jessie Jackson. Other clients include TIAA-CREF and Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC. He helped lobby the National Basketball Association to launch the Women’s National Basketball Association. He is a co-founder of the Artist Empowerment Coalition, which aims through pressure from the government, artists and public to reshape an entertainment industry business model that he accuses of exploiting artists. His sideline interests include real estate development and an entertainment company, NorthStar Business Enterprises, which fosters African-American artists.
Prakash H. Mehta
39, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Washington
Mehta is head of Akin Gump’s private equity and investment funds practice, representing some of the largest and most prominent hedge and private equity funds in the world. He evaluates, structures and negotiates mergers, acquisitions and investments, and is expert in legal and regulatory matters in diverse markets including India, China, Russia, the Middle East and Latin America. He is the rare practitioner who can take a fund from its inception through its various stages of growth, and is well placed to spot complex investment trends as they emerge. His clients have included The Carlyle Group, Warburg Pincus LLC and Soros Fund Management LLC. Mehta left Clifford Chance in 2002 to join Akin Gump’s Washington corporate practice.
42, Greenberg Traurig, Miami
Co-chair of Greenberg Traurig’s global practice group, Menendez-Cambo specializes in mergers and acquisitions, cross-border projects and structured finance transactions. She is the former chief U.S. legal counsel for Telefonica S.A., representing the company in several multibillion-dollar deals. She served as primary counsel to a consortium of investors in a $700 million purchase of 1,600 McDonald’s restaurants in 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries, a deal that was named “2007 M&A Deal of the Year” by Latin Lawyer magazine. She also has expertise in handling international banking and telecommunications deals.
Rodney G. Moore
47, Greenberg Traurig, Atlanta
Moore, of counsel to the Atlanta office of Greenberg Traurig, has built a litigation practice in labor and employment. He is president-elect of the National Bar Association, the nation’s oldest organization for African-American attorneys. In his new post he plans to lobby the next president on judicial appointments and push for greater law firm diversity. In 2005, Moore secured a major ruling concerning the separation of church and state by the Georgia Supreme Court; the court said that the Atlanta school system did not offend the state constitution by renting kindergarten classroom space from a church.
Charles J. Ogletree Jr.
55, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Mass.
Ogletree got his start as a public defender in Washington, an experience that continues to shape his approach to the law as a veteran professor and legal theorist at Harvard Law School. In the classroom, in courtrooms, in numerous books and on television, Ogletree is a major voice for equal justice for everyone. As founder and executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, Ogletree pursues civil rights litigation. Among his high-profile work, he was legal counsel to Anita Hill during the 1991 Senate confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, NBC’s legal commentator during the O.J. Simpson murder trial, and he is chairman of the board of trustees of the University of the District of Columbia. Ogletree started his career as a staff attorney for the District of Columbia public defender office and left in 1985 for a private firm, now called Jordan, Keys & Jessamy, where he remains of counsel.
Roderick A. Palmore
56, General Mills Inc., Minneapolis
When they write the history of the racial diversification of the legal profession, they should run Palmore’s picture. As general counsel for Sara Lee Corp., Palmore issued the Call to Action, telling corporate law firms to diversify or else risk losing their best clients. Earlier this year, he moved over to General Mills as executive vice president, general counsel and chief compliance and risk management officer. Earlier, Palmore was a partner at two major Chicago law firms, where he focused on business litigation. Before that, Palmore spent three years as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois. He has been widely praised for the business and legal skills with which he helps steer some of the world’s largest and most important corporations, including his expertise in corporate ethics and security.
61, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Washington
Payton arrived as president and director-counsel of the NAACP’s legal arm in March. Before that, he had been a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, where he handled complex commercial cases and led the litigation section. Payton has had a hand in some of the country’s most important civil rights litigation. He was lead counsel for the University of Michigan in Gratz v. Bollinger, the school’s successful defense before the U.S. Supreme Court of its affirmative action programs for student admission; it took six years to devise the legal strategy and litigate that case. He defended the American Legacy Foundation, created as part of the master tobacco settlement agreement to help warn kids off tobacco use, against a tobacco company’s lawsuit over its advertising. Payton is active in the American Bar Association, having served in the House of Delegates and other ABA organs. He was corporation counsel to the District of Columbia and is a former president of the District of Columbia Bar.
Karl A. Racine
45, Venable, Washington
Racine is managing partner of his firm and a litigator who focuses on corporate defense and white-collar and commercial cases. He served as associate White House counsel during the Clinton administration, advising on the range of investigations launched by Congress, the Justice Department and the independent counsel’s office, and helping to vet candidates for the bench and other presidential appointees. In December, the District of Columbia Bar tapped him for the commission that recommends appointees to the District of Columbia Superior Court and Court of Appeals. A 1989 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, Racine began his career at Venable that same year as a litigation associate. In 1992, he left the firm to become a staff attorney with the D.C. Public Defender Service. Before returning to Venable, he practiced with Cacheris & Treanor.
Anthony D. Romero
42, American Civil Liberties Union, New York
Romero became executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union just four days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Since then, he has raised the ACLU’s profile by defending aliens from unfair deportation, challenging provisions of the USA Patriot Act and wielding the Freedom of Information Act to uncloak government secrecy. Under his leadership, the ACLU has more than doubled its national staff, raised membership from 300,000 to 550,000 and nearly doubled its revenue. Romero is the first Latino and openly gay man to lead the organization. He is co-author of In Defense of Our America: The Fight for Civil Liberties in the Age of Terror (2007).
Lorna G. Schofield
52, Debevoise & Plimpton, New York
Schofield is a litigator who next year will become the first Asian-American woman to chair the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation, a culmination of 15 years’ service to the professional organization. She was one of the first Asian-American women to serve as an assistant U.S. attorney in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. She became her firm’s first minority woman partner in 1991. Schofield has successfully handled numerous lawsuits, including the successful defense of Rosie O’Donnell in a $100 million suit filed by her publishers over her decision to walk away from Rosie magazine amid a dispute over editorial control.
41, O’Melveny & Myers, Washington
Srinivasan has spent most of his career practicing before the U.S. Supreme Court, having argued 12 cases before the high court since 2002. He is widely recognized for his successes, including two high-profile but unrelated wins decided on April 17, 2007. Following a clerkship with a U.S. court of appeals judge, a stint working for the U.S. solicitor general and a clerkship with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Srinivasan was recruited by former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger in 1998 to help start O’Melveny & Myers’ appellate group. He worked on Democrat Al Gore’s legal team in the Florida recount litigation following the 2000 presidential election. In 2002, Srinivasan was hired away by Theodore B. Olson, who’d been lead counsel for George W. Bush in the recount litigation, to re-join the Office of the Solicitor General. Srinivasan returned to O’Melveny’s appellate group in 2007.
Brian A. Sun
53, Jones Day, Los Angeles
Sun specializes in complex business litigation and white-collar criminal defense. He served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, later moving to the Justice Department in Washington to lead a multiagency federal task force targeting sophisticated money laundering operations. Sun later testified before Congress and helped draft legislation to combat money laundering. In private practice, he has distinguished himself representing a wide range of businesses and individuals in court and before administrative agencies, while his criminal practice encompasses the full panoply of business crimes. In one notable case, Sun was lead counsel in a civil action against the federal government brought by former Los Alamos nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, alleging unlawful leaks concerning the government’s discredited prosecution of Lee for espionage. Sun won a $1.645 million judgment against the government and several major media organizations.
Ashley L. Taylor
39, Troutman Sanders, Richmond, Va., and Washington
Taylor is a partner and executive committee member at Atlanta’s Troutman Sanders. A former deputy attorney general for Virginia, he is carving out a practice helping some of the country’s largest corporations defend multistate investigations brought by state attorneys general, and recently co-founded a new section of the American Bar Association focused on state attorneys general investigations. Taylor sits on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Active in GOP politics, he was counsel to unsuccessful 2005 Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore.
Theodore V. Wells Jr.
58, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, New York
Wells has a nationally known practice in high-stakes civil litigation and white-collar criminal cases. Litigation co-chairman at Paul Weiss, Wells was The National Law Journal’s 2006 lawyer of the year. Also in 2006, The American Lawyer named his group the litigation department of the year. Wells has defended a number of high-profile and political figures — among them Eliot Spitzer, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jr. and Michael Milken. He represents corporations in class actions and other civil cases and government investigations. Among his numerous cases, Wells represents Merck & Co. Inc. regarding its painkiller Vioxx; Citigroup Inc. in a New Jersey state court trial against multibillion-dollar claims brought by Parmalat SpA over its 2003 collapse; Philip Morris USA Inc. against $280 billion in racketeering claims; and Exxon Mobil Corp. against environmental criminal charges. In 2006, Wells became co-chair of the board of directors of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Thomas S. Williamson Jr.
61, Covington & Burling, Washington
Williamson chairs Covington & Burling’s employment practice. He is the first black member of the firm’s management committee. Major corporations rely on him for advice about employment law and to litigate complex discrimination cases. In 2002, the National Football League asked him to help design and implement a plan to increase racial diversity among head coaches and front office executives. Williamson started his career at the firm in 1974 and became the firm’s second black partner in 1982. President Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. solicitor of labor in 1993.
Debra Wong Yang
48, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Los Angeles
Being pushed out of her job as U.S. attorney for the Central District of California last year sure hasn’t done anything to damage Yang’s professional reputation. To the contrary, allegations that Yang and several colleagues were victims of a political purge was one of the factors that cost former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales his job. Yang, who in 2002 was the first Asian-American woman to be appointed a U.S. attorney, and who was widely respected in that role, landed at Gibson. There, she co-chairs the firm’s crisis management practice group alongside senior partners Theodore B. Olson and Randy Mastro. Yang co-chairs the white-collar defense group as well, and somehow finds time to parlay her prosecution background to counsel media and securities litigation clients. In November, Yang was chosen for the Committee of 100, an international organization that promotes good relations between the United States and China.