The Dallas LGBT Bar Association’s Board of Directors for the 2020–2021 term is comprised of attorneys from a range of backgrounds and practice areas:
President: Derek Mergele-Rust
Derek is a founding partner of DebnamRust, P.C., where he practices corporate law, estate planning & probate, and LGBT law. He spends a majority of his time protecting and representing small- and medium-sized Texas businesses. For small and new businesses, Derek drafts formation documents, advises set-up and structuring of companies, sets up 501(c)(3)s, protects companies and board members from liability, advises companies with future business planning, and helps new companies use best practices to avoid potential litigation. For existing small- and medium-sized Texas businesses, Derek helps companies prepare for litigation, navigate city council meetings, plan for future business, and face the legal complexities involved in everyday business.
Before law, Derek worked in property management, high-tech, non-profit, and accounting. Derek graduated summa cum laude from Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Geography and a Bachelor of Public Administration. He earned his law degree from Texas Tech University.
VP of Programming: Michael Debnam
Michael G. Debnam is a Founding Partner at DebnamRust, PC. He focuses his entire practice on divorce and family law, where he navigates the sensitive and nuanced issues facing families in litigation. The majority of Michael’s practice is dedicated to assisting the LGBT community navigate the Texas Family Code. Michael’s firm is dedicated to furthering the LGBT civil rights movement.
Michael is current Council Chairman of the LGBT Section of the State Bar of Texas. He spends his free time actively participating in groups such as the Dallas LGBT Bar Association, GALA North Texas, Texas Trans Kids and Family, The Resource Center, and various other LGBT organizations.
VP of Community Partnerships: Adwoa Asante
Adwoa Asante is the Principal Attorney of Asante Legal PLLC, a Dallas-Fort Worth law firm that practices exclusively in Criminal Defense. Adwoa Asante is committed to protecting the rights and liberty of those accused by the State of Texas. Prior to founding her own firm she was a Public Defender in Dallas County.
Adwoa is a member of Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, J.L. Turner Legal Association, and Dallas Black Criminal Bar Association. She hopes that in service to the Dallas LGBT Bar Association she can aid in addressing the hyper-criminalization and the systemic murder of LGBTQ persons who are also Black.
VP of Professional Development: Kim Austin
Kim spent 14 years working as a prosecutor to defend children against abuse and neglect, which, led her to a different path—working as an advocate for children and families involved in CPS cases and other similar crises. She is a Child Welfare Law Specialist, certified by the National Association of Counsel for Children, with a wealth of knowledge and experience dealing with families in crisis. Kim is also a family and CPS mediator who helps families find creative solutions that allow them to control their own future.
Kim’s passion is using her 19 years of experience as an advocate, in and out of court, to serve the LGBTQIA community by providing legal counsel in an accepting and affirming environment. Kim founded her own law firm that handles many legal challenges that affect the LGBTQIA community—family issues, child welfare, probate and mediation—always with the goal of providing a welcoming and supportive place where clients can expect to be heard, treated equally, and represented zealously.
In 2020, Kim was elected to membership in the Fellows of the Texas Bar Foundation. The Texas Bar Foundation selects its Fellows based on their outstanding professional achievements and their demonstrated commitment to the improvement of the justice system throughout the state of Texas.
VP of Membership: Callie Butcher
Callie is an associate in both the IP Litigation group and the Technology and IP Transactions group in the Dallas office of Sidley Austin LLP. Her practice focuses on complex patent litigation involving a variety of technologies, such as wireless communications, semiconductor manufacturing, and consumer electronics. Callie also has expertise assisting clients in connection with IP acquisitions, patent cross-licensing investigation and negotiation, and IP due diligence, as well as trademark, trade secret, and unfair completion claims.
When not practicing law, Callie enjoys spending time with her partner and children. Callie is also passionate about cycling, and you are likely to see her putting in a few laps or leading a group ride on the weekends.
Treasurer: Nadia Haghighatian
Nadia practices intellectual-property litigation at Thompson & Knight. Her expertise ranges from patent disputes covering various technologies (software, telecommunications, electrical, mechanical, semiconductor, and more) to disputes involving trademarks, trade secrets, and unfair competition. She earned her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from University of Texas at Austin and graduated summa cum laude from Texas Tech University School of Law.
Nadia is a member of the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, Iranian American Bar Association, and Young Professionals Advisory Council for Dallas’s LGBTQ Resource Center. She is also a former Associate member of The Honorable Barbara M. G. Lynn American Inn of Court, was named to Texas Rising Stars® by Thomson Reuters in 2018–2020, included in the inaugural edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch for Litigation—Intellectual Property, and selected for the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Pathfinder Program in 2019.
Whether she is drawing portraits, dabbling in the kitchen, or crafting legal arguments, Nadia seeks out opportunities to be creative. She enjoys spending time with her partner and their two dogs (Edison and Tesla) and cats (Galileo and Archimedes), competing in bar trivia, and watching true-crime documentaries.
Secretary & VP of Communication: Brian N. Larson
Brian N. Larson teaches and researches legal theory, argumentation, and rhetoric at Texas A&M’s law school in Fort Worth and is a Texas A&M University Arts and Humanities Fellow. Before receiving his PhD, Larson practiced law for fifteen years, serving the real estate technology industry with legal counsel relating to intellectual property, information technology, antitrust, and corporate governance. He previously taught at the University of Minnesota School of Law and Georgia Institute of Technology School of Literature, Media, and Communication. He lives in Dallas with his spouse.