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Help a fellow Philadelphian who faces a legal threat to their housing, family, and income - take a case
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Our Team

 

Erin Agnew

Staff Attorney (Homeownership)

VIPster since: 2022
My role entails: supporting clients and volunteers working through legal issues around homeownership rights, with the goal of keeping people in their homes with a clear legal title to homeownership
Alum of: George Washington University (2017) and Temple Law (2021)
The best part of my job is: working with clients to develop a shared understanding of their goals for their homes and families
I love pro bono because: it empowers clients by pairing expert legal support with their own deep understanding of their individual and community best interests
Outside of work, you can find me: leading tours at historic museum houses, spending time with my family and bunnies, and legal observing to protect public demonstrators’ first amendment rights

 

Leila Bagenstos

Homeownership Project Administrator

VIPster since: 2022
My role entails: administering the Tangled Title Fund – managing applications, leading advisory committee meetings, and disbursing funds
Alum of: Bryn Mawr College (2022)
The best part of my job is: helping low-income homeowners get the money they need to resolve title issues, gain access to services, and build generational wealth
I love pro bono because: it gets more people access to critical legal services
Outside of work, you can find me: watching Shonda Rhimes’ TV shows, spending time with my friends and family, and baking

 

Susan Blissett

Legal Support Coordinator

VIPster since: 2022
My role entails: assessing clients’ eligibility for our services and collecting information about their legal issues to place them with volunteer attorneys
Alum of: Bucknell University (2016) and Penn State Law (2020)
The best part of my job is: working with a team that is passionate about helping underserved Philadelphians
I love pro bono because: it provides an opportunity to effect change for the public good
Outside of work, you can find me: reading, trying new restaurants, or spending time with my cat

 

Tom Chaykun

Administrative Assistant

VIPster since: 2022
My role entails: handling case intake and coordinating relations with clients and visitors
Alum of: Vassar College (2007)
The best part of my job is: knowing that my work benefits Philadelphians most in need
I love pro bono because: it gets essential support to people who would otherwise fall through the cracks of the legal system
Outside of work, you can find me: riding my bike, playing soccer, or at a game night with friends

 

Ruth Ann Diamond

AmeriCorps VISTA Nonprofit & Small Business Outreach Coordinator

VIPster since: 2021
My role entails: connecting pro bono attorneys with small businesses and nonprofits, and following up on open matters to ensure clients and volunteers stay in touch
Alum of: Columbia University
The best part of my job is: helping clients create a new business or nonprofit by connecting them with someone who can help
I love pro bono because: it ensures that everyone has an equal opportunity to make their voice heard under the law
Outside of work, you can find me: maintaining my fish tanks or designing cross stitch patterns

 

Joe B. Durkin

Program Manager

VIPster since: 2018
My role entails: leading VIP’s volunteer recruitment efforts, administering VIP’s case management system, and coordinating VIP’s internship program
Alum of: Temple University (2018)
The best part of my job is: telling 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: gardening, testing out new dessert recipes, and exploring Philadelphia’s karaoke bars

 

Bri Eagan

JVC Pro Bono Case Manager

VIPster since: 2022
My role entails: interviewing potential clients to collect relevant and accurate information and connecting clients to volunteer attorneys
Alum of: Boston College (2022)
The best part of my job is: speaking with clients and continuously supporting them while they navigate high-stress situations
I love pro bono because: this work provides life-changing results for people, where access to legal services is systemically challenging
Outside of work, you can find me: reading novels, discovering thrift stores, puzzling with my housemates, and curating Spotify playlists

 

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

 

Cassidy Gruber Baruth

Pro Bono Case Manager

VIPster since: 2022
My role entails: gathering relevant case information from potential clients and connecting them with volunteer attorneys for legal assistance and representation
Alum of: Bryn Mawr College (2019)
The best part of my job is: supporting people who are in the midst of an often emotionally-fraught legal issue
I love pro bono because: it can help level the massive inequalities of the legal system
Outside of work, you can find me: speed walking around Philly with my camera, curled up with a crossword, or cooking up a storm

 

Rida F. Haq

Executive Director

VIPster since: 2015
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: 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

 

Jennifer Hwang

Development Manager

VIPster since: 2022
My role entails: managing fundraising strategy and campaigns, donor relations, and supporting the Board of Directors
Alum of: Case Western Reserve University and The University of Texas at Austin
The best part of my job is: collaborating with my excellent colleagues on how to best help Philadelphians in need
I love pro bono because: everyone deserves the same access to critical services
Outside of work, you can find me: being a butler to my cats, tending to veggies and fruits on the roof deck, and exploring Philly neighborhoods on foot

 

P. Michael Jones

Senior Staff Attorney (Homeownership)

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

 

Nina Josephson

Small Business Coordinator

VIPster since: 2022
My role entails: serving as a liaison between volunteer attorneys and local nonprofits and small businesses
Alum of: Oberlin College
The best part of my job is: being a part of a collaborative effort to serve the City of Philadelphia
I love pro bono because: pro bono work is critical to ensuring the vast needs of Philadelphia’s residents are met
Outside of work, you can find me: making art and keeping my cat company

 

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

 

Janaya Lewinski

Pro Bono Case Manager

VIPster since: 2022
My role entails: gathering relevant information, speaking to clients, and referring cases to our amazing volunteers
Alum of: Monmouth University (2017) Go Hawks!
The best part of my job is: getting to work at a place where there is a prioritization of continuing education and learning
I love pro bono because: it can help level out the massive inequalities that exist in the legal system. It has a tangible effect on folks’ lives in a time where legal services are critical and hard to come by
Outside of work, you can find me: shooting pictures on my Minolta x-570, listening to the Menzingers, planning my next tattoo, and looking for tiny clothes to fit my cat, David

 

Denise Lynch

Supervising Attorney

VIPster since: 2020
My role entails: providing support to VIP staff attorneys, pro bono case managers, and volunteer attorneys with a variety of cases
Alum of: Temple University (2004) and Villanova University School of Law (2007)
The best part of my job is: working with a team dedicated to improving the lives of others through pro bono legal services
I love pro bono because: of its impact on the community and those most in need during difficult times in their lives
Outside of work, you can find me: practicing or preparing to compete in Muay Thai, reading a fiction series, or hanging with my adorable pup, Nubia

 

Eliane Nieder

Pro Bono Case Manager

VIPster since: 2022
My role entails: working with clients to get the information necessary to connect them to a volunteer attorney
Alum of: Bryn Mawr College (2022)
The best part of my job is: getting to support clients through the challenges they face
I love pro bono because: everyone deserves access to legal services
Outside of work, you can find me: riding my bike or cooking dinner for my friends (ideally with the veggies I grew!)

 

Elias Pardo

Legal Support Coordinator

VIPster since: 2019
My role entails: working with clients to determine eligibility and gather the information needed to begin assisting them with the legal issue they face, then placing those clients with volunteer attorneys
Alum of: Duquesne University (2015), Drexel University Kline School of Law (2019)
The best part of my job is: making connections with clients and volunteers, and seeing the impact our work makes for the clients
I love pro bono because: we have the chance to make a huge and lasting impact on the lives of the clients that leads lasting change within the entire Philadelphia community
Outside of work, you can find me: with my dog. Maybe also listening to a book, watching too much TV, or playing board games with friends

 

Katie Pratt

Content and Communications Manager

VIPster since: 2022
My role entails: furthering VIP’s mission by planning and executing a multimedia communications strategy to recruit and retain volunteer attorneys and donors
Alum of: University of North Florida (2018); American Graduate School in Paris (2021)
The best part of my job is: telling people’s stories and seeing the impact VIP makes
I love pro bono because: everyone talks about making a difference, but when you work pro bono for an at-risk population in Philadelphia, you can see your impact on a personal level
Outside of work, you can find me: at the gym, exploring thrift stores and being overly competitive during board games

 

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

 

Vijaya Singh

Staff Attorney (Landlord-Tenant)

VIPster since: 2021
My role entails: recruiting and supporting volunteer attorneys in landlord-tenant cases and advising clients on their landlord-tenant issues as needed
Alum of: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (2012); Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law (2016)
The best part of my job is: learning something new everyday from clients and the amazing team at VIP
I love pro bono because: it allows access to needed legal services that make a substantial difference in case outcomes and clients’ lives
Outside of work, you can find me: dancing in a Zumba class, stretching in a yoga class, or exploring Philadelphia’s restaurants (pre-COVID-19)

 

Benjamin Willis

Data and Analytics Manager

VIPster since: 2022
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: Bowling Green Technical College
The best part of my job is: using my love and knowledge of technology to assist those less fortunate
I love pro bono because: it makes my job even more rewarding
Outside of work, you can find me: exploring my new city, hanging out with my cat, or listening to podcasts