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Our Team

 

Lauren Ascher

Supervising Attorney

VIPster since: 2016
My role entails: Supervising staff attorneys and pro bono case managers and recruiting, training, and supporting volunteer attorneys
Alum of: Columbia Law School (2011) and Boston University (2005)
The best part of my job is: working with highly dedicated and mission-driven staff and volunteer attorneys
I love pro bono because: it is an incredible way to leverage attorney skills to help others
Outside of work, you can find me: chasing around my two kids

 

Sophie Bryan

Executive Director

VIPster since: 2017
My role entails: having overall responsibility for VIP’s strategy and outcomes, including legal program, operations, and finances; fund-seeking; Board partnership; and external relations
Alum of: Harvard College (1996) and Harvard Law School (2000)
The best part of my job is: sharing with prospective supporters the positive impact that VIP makes for individuals (both clients and volunteers!) and communities
I love pro bono because: it is a concrete way of moving closer to the “Beloved Community”
Outside of work, you can find me: with my head in a book and a croissant (from Metropolitan Café or Hungry Pigeon, if possible) in hand; volunteering with Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project, Rebel Ventures, and Mighty Writers

 

Ivelisse (Evy) Cruz

Nonprofit & Small Business Coordinator

VIPster since: 2019
My role entails: matching small businesses and nonprofit organizations with volunteer attorneys, administering legal clinics, and informing the public of VIP’s services through community outreach events
Alum of: Temple University (2012) and University of Pennsylvania (2017)
The best part of my job is: traveling to different communities to offer pro bono help to businesses and nonprofits in need
I love pro bono because: it is a crucial part of building self-sustaining neighborhoods with thriving commercial corridors and a network of social services
Outside of work, you can find me: winning at Quizzo, paddle-boarding down the Schuylkill, or advocating for improvements to urban infrastructure and zoning regulations

 

Taylor De La Pena

Pro Bono Case Manager

VIPster since: 2019
My role entails: determining clients’ eligibility for VIP services, gathering all necessary information/materials for cases, and connecting clients to volunteer attorneys
Alum of: Villanova University (2015)
The best part of my job is: learning something new every day
I love pro bono because: it increases access to justice for people who might otherwise be unable to afford legal representation
Outside of work, you can find me: writing short stories, playing soccer, or baking healthy treats!

 

Joe B. Durkin

Program Coordinator

VIPster since: 2018
My role entails: administering VIP’s case management system, coordinating VIP’s Continuing Legal Education program, and engaging and supporting clients and volunteers
Alum of: Temple University (2018)
The best part of my job is: writing and sharing stories about our clients, our volunteer attorneys, and the impact of saying “yes!” to pro bono service
I love pro bono because: volunteerism strengthens our city and helps us achieve fair outcomes for all
Outside of work, you can find me: testing out new dessert recipes and exploring Philadelphia’s karaoke bars

 

Kelly J. Gastley

Managing Attorney

VIPster since: 2005
My role entails: developing and refining the strategy for VIP’s legal program and managing VIP’s legal team
Alum of: College of William and Mary (2002) and William and Mary School of Law (2005)
Favorite award/achievement related to role at VIP: significantly expanding VIP’s Tangled Title Project, which has gained substantial support from the Oak Foundation and the City of Philadelphia; and being a two-time winner of VIP’s Brownie Bake-Off
The best part of my job is: witnessing a volunteer attorney and client establish a lasting relationship that persists beyond the legal issue that initially brought them together
I love pro bono because: it enriches the lives of everyone it touches – volunteers, Philadelphians living in poverty, the VIP staff, and the larger community
Outside of work, you can find me: baking, walking (to work off those baked goods!), playing piano, relaxing with my husband, or – more likely than all of these – enjoying the joyous and hectic life of being a mother to two inquisitive, energetic children

 

Monica Guest

Pro Bono Case Manager

VIPster since: 2019
My role entails: talking to clients, gathering important information, and referring cases to volunteer attorneys
Alum of: Boston University (2018)
The best part of my job is: constantly learning and figuring out ways to best support clients
I love pro bono because: it is an opportunity to affect tangible change in a system that was not designed to benefit everyone
Outside of work, you can find me: reading, listening to music, and binge-watching TV shows with my mom

 

Rida Haq

Director of Volunteer Engagement

VIPster since: 2015
My role entails: developing and implementing VIP’s volunteer recruitment and stewardship strategy; on-boarding new volunteers; coaching staff on matching clients with volunteers; and leading VIP’s volunteer recognition efforts
Alum of: Lafayette College (2013)
The best part of my job is: leveraging technology to empower staff and volunteers with the resources they need to serve their clients and improve access to justice
I love pro bono because: it can exponentially increase the capacity to provide critical legal services to our city’s most vulnerable residents
Outside of work, you can find me: volunteering with the Therapy Center of Philadelphia, loudly watching Sixers games, barbequing, or in over my head on a home improvement project

 

P. Michael Jones

Homeownership Staff Attorney

VIPster since: 2018
My role entails: helping clients get title to their homes, and supporting volunteers in the legal work to do so
Alum of: Temple University (2011) and Duquesne University School of Law (2017)
The best part of my job is: speaking with clients on a daily basis and helping build intergenerational wealth in Philadelphia
I love pro bono because: serving the community serves for the betterment of society, all in the furtherance of justice
Outside of work, you can find me: reading fiction, exploring the world, and drinking contemplative beverages

 

Joshua Jordan

Tangled Title Initiative Outreach Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA

VIPster since: 2019
My role entails: supporting clients in obtaining title to their homes for themselves and for future generations of their families
Alum of: University of Pennsylvania (2018)
The best part of my job is: learning new things every day from my colleagues and clients
I love pro bono because: it allows members of the community to use their knowledge and skills to make an impact on the world around them
Outside of work, you can find me: making music, learning languages, reading/writing, cooking food from around the world, and knitting for my friends and family

 

Karna Laubenstein

Director of Operations

VIPster since: 2018
My role entails: managing the day-to-day operations of VIP – including being responsible for human resources, accounts payable, facilities, and technology – to support our mission
Alum of: Tulane University (2007) and American University Washington College of Law (2015)
The best part of my job is: working with a team that is so passionate about our mission and driven to make a difference in the Philadelphia community
I love pro bono because: we get to make an impact every day in the lives of our clients
Outside of work, you can find me: hiking with my dog, listening to podcasts, or attending a Pilates class

 

Hannah Long

Landlord/Tenant AmeriCorps VISTA

VIPster since: 2019
My role entails: recruiting volunteer attorneys, working up cases, pitching to attorneys, and assisting with events
Alum of: University of Notre Dame (2017)
The best part of my job is: getting to work closely with our inspiring clients and volunteer attorneys
I love pro bono because: it allows for substantial improvements to be made in people’s lives that they otherwise would not have been able to obtain
Outside of work, you can find me: running along the Schuylkill, looking for the best vegan cheesesteak in Philadelphia, at a Gritty (Flyers) game, or gardening

 

Annie Mrazik

Homeownership Projects Coordinator

VIPster since: 2016
My role entails: leading the charge on VIP’s new Estate Planning Initiative, which works to equip Philadelphia homeowners with wills, and administering the Tangled Title Fund, which provides grants to assist with the costs associated with obtaining title to one’s home
Alum of: Saint Joseph’s University (2015)
The best part of my job is: creating connections with volunteers, clients, colleagues, and legal services partners and collaborating with them on the goal of equity in legal representation
I love pro bono because: it brings Philadelphia together!
Outside of work, you can find me: with my nephews, shooting hoops, and exploring Philadelphia’s food scene

 

Todd W. Nothstein

Family Law Staff Attorney

VIPster since: 2017
My role entails: recruiting, training, and supporting volunteer attorneys in VIP’s family law cases
Alum of: Syracuse University 1994 and Drexel University Kline School of Law (2013)
Favorite award/achievement related to role at VIP: Executive Committee Member, Family Law Section of the Philadelphia Bar Association
The best part of my job is: getting to know inspiring clients who face challenging circumstances and the equally inspiring attorneys who elevate their noble profession through pro bono
I love pro bono because: it harnesses the goodwill and energy of the legal community to help even the scales for those who can’t afford legal services
Outside of work, you can find me: reading at my favorite café, brunching at my favorite restaurant, and generally enjoying life in the East Passyunk neighborhood of South Philadelphia

 

Zipporah Ridley

Pro Bono Case Manager

VIPster since: 2018
My role entails: recruiting and retaining volunteer attorneys, guiding and supporting volunteers and clients throughout the life of a case, and managing the mortgage foreclosure strategic project
Alum of: Santa Clara University (2017)
Favorite award/achievement related to role at VIP: City Council Citation Honoring and Recognizing my work with Philadelphia Community Youth Court (2019)
The best part of my job is: working to better the lives of Philadelphians by connecting them to a vital service
I love pro bono because: it empowers an underserved and marginalized community
Outside of work, you can find me: in my kitchen trying new recipes, spending time with my family, and perusing the city for a new brunch spot

 

Lindsay Schoonmaker

Supervising Attorney

VIPster since: 2015
My role entails: supporting VIP’s staff attorneys and pro bono case managers, as well as volunteer attorneys, through the life of a VIP case
Alum of: Cornell University (2005) and Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law (2013)
The best part of my job is: working with an incredible group of people who are dedicated to a unified mission
I love pro bono because: as lawyers, it is our duty to help provide access to justice to everyone, and it’s especially meaningful that in the case of VIP, this focuses on helping my neighbors
Outside of work, you can find me: outdoors, either in the city walking with family (which includes my dog), or out in the country helping out on my dad’s farm and riding horses

 

Dhara Shah

Pro Bono Case Manager

VIPster since: 2019
My role entails: connecting low-income clients in Philadelphia with volunteer attorneys
Alum of: Pennsylvania State University (2014) and Villanova Law School (2019)
The best part of my job is: waking up every day and knowing that I am part of an organization that is truly changing the lives of people in Philadelphia
I love pro bono because: it bridges the gaps in the justice system while also providing a unique and rewarding experience for attorneys and clients that seek legal help
Outside of work, you can find me: in a library or cafe, with a bullet journal and iced coffee in hand

 

Michael Schwemmer

Data & Analytics Manager

VIPster since: 2019
My role entails: implementing data and information practices for VIP, creating reports and analytics, and supporting VIP staff in technology and network services
Alum of: Syracuse University (2013)
The best part of my job is: providing peace of mind to my colleagues as they leverage technology to help underserved Philadelphians every day
I love pro bono because: it addresses a tangible social justice gap
Outside of work, you can find me: in the park with my dog, making music, and sampling cheese at select Philly grocery stores

 

Elizabeth Tarloski

Landlord/Tenant Staff Attorney

VIPster since: 2018
My role entails: working with VIP team members on landlord/tenant cases
Alum of: University of San Diego (2005), London School of Economics (2007), and Drexel University Kline School of Law (2012)
The best part of my job is: working with passionate people towards the goal of legal representation for those who have nowhere else to turn
I love pro bono because: it is one of the many ways to fill in the justice gap
Outside of work, you can find me: teaching law students as an adjunct professor, biking the Schuylkill Trail, or eating at one of Philly’s amazing restaurants

 

Amy Young

Communications & Development Associate

VIPster since: 2018
My role entails: developing and executing communication strategies focused on key audiences, and managing VIP’s primary fundraising campaigns and donor stewardship
Alum of: Bryn Mawr College (2019)
The best part of my job is: employing my creative skills to help underrepresented individuals and families
I love pro bono because: it addresses widespread disparity in this country with structural change, and I believe it is a collective duty to help communities in need
Outside of work, you can find me: singing jazz tunes, enjoying the many delicious restaurants in Philly, and traveling with my friends and family