NELC Outside Counsel Rising Star Award

Daveante Jones

The NELC Outside Counsel Rising Star Award recognizes a management side labor and employment law practitioner of color with less than 10 years of experience who has evidenced the skills and aptitude for excellence both to the legal profession and to giving back to the community, as well a commitment to NELC.

Daveante has been actively involved in NELC since 2020. He participated in the 2020 and 2021 NELC Academy and led a roundtable discussion on Employee Monitoring and Privacy at the 2023 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. In September 2023, Daveante completed the third iteration of the Labor and Employment Law Trial Institute, organized by NELC, the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law, and Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology. He also serves on the editorial committee for the NELC quarterly newsletter.

Recently elevated to partner at Wright Lindsey Jennings in Little Rock, AR, Daveante’s practice focuses on helping employers navigate day-to-day employment issues related to discipline, leaves and accommodations, administration of other workplace policies as well as managing investigations and lawsuits that may arise.

NELC In-House Counsel Rising Star Award

Erica McKinney

The NELC In-House Counsel Rising Star Award recognizes a management side labor and employment law practitioner of color with less than 10 years of experience who has evidenced the skills and aptitude for excellence both to the legal profession and to giving back to the community, as well a commitment to NELC.

Erica is a natural leader, a trusted colleague and a mentor to many. Thoughtful in her approach to her clients and her work, Erica balances both the short term and long-term goals of the company and the people she services. She always seeks to grow to become a better partner for her clients.

Erica recently served as interim managing counsel during her manager’s maternity leave, managing both high profile employment cases and junior attorneys on her team allowing her to not only raise her profile in McDonald’s legal department and utilize her important skillsets, but also learning how to manage a team effectively.

Inside McDonald’s, Erica is an active member of the Legal DEI Committee, and serves as a manager and mentor for the legal department’s summer interns.

She continues to give time and effort to opportunities that contribute to the legal field. Outside of McDonald’s, she has done volunteer work for Just The Beginning – A Pipeline Organization, and is an active NELC member and a NELC Academy alumnus and facilitator.

NELC Rafael E. Medina General Counsel Award

Gerald L. Walden, Jr.

The Rafael E. Medina General Counsel Award recognizes a general counsel who has reached the pinnacle of success within their company and who has contributed significantly to the development of diverse labor and employment law practitioners.

With over 20 years of legal experience and numerous promotions at The Fresh Market, Gerald now serves as General Counsel & Corporate Secretary. His unwavering commitment to legal diversity is evident through his mentorship of NELC Academy Fellows and leadership on various NELC committees, including the In-House Career Accelerator Program (ICAP), NELC Strategic Planning committees, and now as Vice President of NELC.

Gerald has pioneered diversity initiatives, becoming The Fresh Market’s first Head of Diversity and consistently advocating for diverse talent. He has championed diversity within and outside the company throughout his career, hiring diverse legal interns and outside counsel whenever possible, and his contributions extend to multiple boards and associations.

Gerald’s dedication to diversity, equity and inclusion embodies the spirit of the late, great Rafael Medina. He tirelessly works to provide opportunities for deserving diverse attorneys, just as Rafael did.

NELC Trailblazer Award

Richard S. Amador

The NELC Trailblazer Award recognizes a management side labor and employment law practitioner of color who works at a law firm with more than 25 years of experience and who is viewed as a pioneer in the field and champion of diversity, inclusion and mentoring in the legal profession, as well a commitment to NELC.

Richard receives the 2024 NELC Trailblazer Award for his pioneering work in the field and unwavering commitment to mentoring and championing young attorneys of color. Having led the creation of the highly acclaimed NELC Academy, tirelessly chairing NELC conferences, developing programming, and mentoring the next generation of legal professionals, Richard’s dedication to the NELC community is exemplary.

A seasoned and successful management-side employment law attorney with over 30 years in the practice, Richard is passionate about ensuring newer attorneys excel in challenging environments. His continuous support, both professionally and personally, has been instrumental in guiding so many through career transitions and professional challenges.

Richard Amador embodies the mission of furthering diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. His commitment to mentoring attorneys of color, investing his time and energy, and creating opportunities for others is a testament to his character and dedication.

NELC President’s Award

Yvette Gatling

The NELC President’s Award honors an individual who has provided outstanding service to the organization and demonstrated unwavering commitment to the furtherance of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the management side labor and employment bar.

Yvette has been a steadfast and dedicated supporter of NELC for many years, demonstrating her commitment through her service on the NELC Board of Directors, most recently as Board secretary. Her unwavering advocacy for NELC within the legal community is complemented by her instrumental role in securing her law firm Littler Mendelson’s continual substantial financial backing for the organization. Yvette’s efforts have ensured that NELC continues to thrive and effectively serve its members year after year.

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