Lauren Ascher, Supervising Attorney, joined the VIP staff in May 2016. Lauren provides support for volunteer attorneys as they work on referred cases, and assists with volunteer recruitment and trainings. Prior to joining VIP, Lauren was a litigation associate at Conrad O’Brien, PC. There, Lauren represented companies and individuals in a variety of commercial litigation matters. Before that, Lauren served as a law clerk to the Honorable Joel H. Slomsky in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and practiced law as a litigation associate at a New York based law firm. She received her BA from Boston University and is a 2011 graduate of Columbia Law School. Prior to law school, Lauren taught third grade special education as a Teach for America corps member.
Isabelle Aubrun, Pro Bono Case Manager, joined Philadelphia VIP in September 2016. Prior to joining the VIP team, she worked for the Hispanic Federation’s Movimiento Hispano initiative in New York, supervising a team of street canvassers working to register low-income Latinos to vote. In May 2016, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brown University with a B.A. in Public Policy. Isabelle is very excited to work in service of Philadelphia’s low-income populations and in partnership with the city’s legal community.
Sophie Bryan, Executive Director, joined Philadelphia VIP in June 2017. Previously, she was the Program Director for Invest Health at Reinvestment Fund. In this role, Sophie was responsible for the overall management of the Invest Health initiative and provided day-to-day oversight focused on team management, program delivery, and quality control. Prior to joining Reinvestment Fund in 2016, Sophie held a series of positions at the School District of Philadelphia, most recently the Chief External Relations Officer, where she was responsible for developing and implementing strategic advocacy, government relations, external engagement, and communications plans to support the School District’s strategic priorities. Sophie’s prior experience includes serving as Chief of Staff to a Philadelphia City Councilman, in which role she focused on budgetary issues, tax policy, ethics and campaign finance reform, and reforming the City’s real estate assessment and taxation system. Before joining local government, Sophie practiced law for eight years, primarily in the legal services field where she represented low-income clients, first in Boston and then in Philadelphia. Sophie served for five years as an adjunct professor at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law, teaching an upper-level writing course, and is now on the school’s Advisory Board. She is the Board Co-Chair for the Youth Sentencing & Reentry Project, and a volunteer with Mighty Writers. A native Philadelphian, Sophie graduated with honors from both Harvard College, with a BA in History and Science, and Harvard Law School.
Alexis De La Rosa, Development Associate, joined Philadelphia VIP in July 2017. Previously, she was the Program Coordinator for the University of Pennsylvania’s Educational Opportunity Center (EOC), a free college access program for Philadelphia residents. Prior to working with the EOC, Alexis worked in college admissions at Bryn Mawr College while completing her M.S.Ed. at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education. She holds a B.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Latin American and Latino Studies from Bryn Mawr, where she co-founded and currently runs a program with a fellow alumna to support students of the African and Latinx Diaspora. Outside of work, Alexis serves as a diversity and inclusion facilitator, and is the Social Justice Chair for the Philadelphia Millennial Advisory Committee
Joe Durkin, Program Coordinator, joined VIP in August 2018. Previously, he worked at Gardens for Heroes, a non-profit that promotes the use of evidence-backed therapeutic gardens. Additionally, he served his university’s English- and Spanish-language learners as a tutor and mentor. Joe graduated summa cum laude from Temple University in 2018 with a B.A. in Spanish. He is excited to work in service of the city’s many underserved communities.
Kelly J. Gastley, Managing Attorney, joined the VIP staff in September 2005 as an Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow, working on our homeownership (tangled title) project. She then served as a staff attorney from 2007 to 2009 and a supervising attorney from 2009 to 2015. Now in her role as managing attorney, Kelly oversees VIP’s legal team, manages the flow of cases, and actively works to recruit and retain volunteer attorneys. She has expertise in probate, real estate litigation (quiet title actions), and real estate transactions. She has also worked on VIP’s mortgage foreclosure project and landlord-tenant project. During her years at VIP, Kelly has led CLE trainings for volunteers, developed extensive training materials, and mentored volunteer attorneys. She has also done policy work on homeownership and real estate tax issues and led community education and outreach sessions. Kelly received her B.A. in Sociology and Government from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 2002, and her J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe William and Mary School of Law in 2005, where she was Executive Editor of the William and Mary Law Review and a member of the Public Service Fund.
Rida Haq, Director of Volunteer Engagement, joined Philadelphia VIP in March, 2015. She grew up in Philadelphia and is motivated by a desire to ensure equal access to social services for the local community. Rida has a longstanding passion for service in public health and believes that boosting social welfare is critical to improving the well-being of a society. She received her B.A. in Government and Law from Lafayette College in Easton, PA and is dedicated to a career in public service.
Karna Laubenstein, Operations Manager, joined Philadelphia VIP in December 2018. Before joining VIP, Karna was corporate counsel for a consulting company serving the financial services industry. During law school, Karna was a student attorney for the Janet R. Spragens Federal Tax Clinic where she represented low-income taxpayers before the IRS. Prior to law school, Karna worked as a fair lending analyst for a law firm’s fair and responsible banking practice group. She also worked as a program manager for a nonprofit supporting military families and as a staff assistant for the U.S. House of Representatives. Karna received her B.A. from Tulane University and her J.D. from American University Washington College of Law.
Alison Merrick, Community Economic Development Coordinator, started with VIP in June 2015. Prior to joining VIP, Alison served two year-long terms of AmeriCorps service with City Year Philadelphia, serving to end the drop-out crises by empowering the youth of Philadelphia to stay in school and on-track to graduate. As a graduate of Temple University, Alison majored in Geography and Urban Studies, with a minor in Political Science. It was during her time at Temple that Alison joined Temple Community Gardens, eventually serving as President of the organization. Alison partnered with community organizations, including a PHA community center and homeless organization, to build garden plots and improve household access to fresh produce. It is Alison’s mission to ensure equal access to resources and she is excited to bring that passion to Philly VIP.
Annie Mrazik, Pro Bono Case Manager, joined the VIP team in October 2016. She comes to VIP after spending a year in El Paso, TX, with a service program called Border Servant Corps, which has volunteers located in two Southwest border towns. In El Paso, she served as the Adult Education & Children’s Advocate of the YWCA Paso del Norte Transitional Living Center for women and children experiencing homelessness. Annie is a 2015 alumna of Saint Joseph’s University where she studied Spanish and International Relations with a minor in Latin American Studies. At SJU, she served as an intern of the Weekly Service Program, which every semester provides hundreds of students the opportunity to work with a Philadelphia or Camden service site on a weekly basis. Annie is thrilled to return to Philadelphia and to have the opportunity to work to make legal services more accessible for low-income residents of our city.
Mentru Nagbe, Manager of Data & Analytics is a monitoring and evaluation/data analyst professional with over five years of experience in nonprofit program management and analysis. Born in Liberia and raised in Northeast Philly, he graduated from Villanova University with a B.S in Civil Engineering and Middlebury College with an M.P.A degree. He has worked with secular and religious non-profit organizations striving to address education inequality in underserved communities. As a student advancement coordinator, he collaborated with school officials, community partners, and other internal and external stakeholders to organize, plan, and lead school assemblies and city-wide extracurricular activities. As an advancement coordinator, he built up internal capacities with students and stressed the importance of civic engagement. He believes that justice should exist for all, regardless of their socioeconomic status, ethnicity, or background. He is excited to be a part of VIP’s work and to ensure that underserved individuals and communities throughout the city have access to adequate legal support.
Todd W. Nothstein, Staff Attorney, joined VIP in December 2017. Focusing on family law, Todd is committed to connecting low-income Philadelphians to the legal services they need and supporting the volunteers who make that possible. Before joining VIP as a staff attorney, Todd clerked for the Hon. Frederica Massiah-Jackson, and he was a frequent volunteer attorney in VIP’s landlord-tenant program. Todd is an active member of the Philadelphia Bar Association Family Law Section, and currently serves on the section’s Executive Committee. Prior to law school, Todd earned a Ph.D. in English and taught Early American literature. He attended Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law.
Zipporah Ridley, Pro Bono Case Manager, joined Philadelphia VIP in August 2018. This Philly native returns to the city after receiving her Bachelor’s degree from Santa Clara University and completing a service year in Syracuse, NY. As a graduate of Santa Clara University, Zipporah was a double major in History and Ethnic Studies with a minor in Political Science. Shortly after, she joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and was placed at the Center for Community Alternatives, where she worked with individuals who were returning home from incarceration. Zipporah has a strong commitment to justice and equity work and she joined Philadelphia VIP to continue her passion of advocacy, empowerment, and connecting underserved communities to much-needed services.
Lindsay H. Schoonmaker, Supervising Attorney, joined the VIP staff as a Staff Attorney in December 2015. Her practice focuses on general civil litigation. Prior to joining VIP, Lindsay was an Associate at Pepper Hamilton LLP in the Commercial Litigation Practice Group. There, Lindsay represented clients in federal and state courts, as well as in arbitrations and government investigations. She received her B.A. from Cornell University in 2005 and her J.D. from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law in 2013. Prior to law school, Lindsay worked as a legal researcher/writer for a law firm that specialized in immigration law.
Elizabeth Tarloski, Staff Attorney, joined VIP in May 2018. She focuses primarily on landlord tenant cases at VIP. Previously she served as a Visiting Professor of the Practice in The Lewis B. Puller., Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic at William and Mary Law School for three years where she taught courses in Veterans Benefits Law and supervised clinic students. She focused specifically on cases involving Military Sexual Trauma and has done extensive trainings and lecturing on the topic. Prior to teaching, she was an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow in Widener’s Veterans Law Clinic. She received her BA from the University of San Diego and an MS in Gender, Development and Globalization from the London School of Economics. She graduated from the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law in 2012.