John N. Gallo
Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director
John Gallo is the CEO and Executive Director of Legal Aid Chicago. Prior to joining Legal Aid Chicago in 2017, John was a partner at Sidley Austin LLP for twenty-one years. He was Firmwide Co-Chair of Sidley’s White Collar Practice from 2010 to 2017, and Head of Litigation in Sidley’s Chicago Office from 2014 to 2017. While at Sidley, he represented institutional clients in criminal and civil matters before federal and state agencies and conducted internal investigations for those clients in response to allegations of wrongdoing. In 2005, John created Sidley’s Capital Litigation Project, designed to ensure that inmates incarcerated on Alabama’s death row had effective legal representation, perhaps for the first time since their arrest. In connection with this project, In 2007, the American Bar Association gave Sidley the Pro Bono Publico Award for the firm’s work on this project. From 2000 to 2017, John served as Trial Counsel to the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board, the body responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by Illinois judicial officers. In that capacity, John was responsible both for investigating complaints and prosecuting cases before the Illinois Courts Commission.
From 1989 to 1996, John served as a Criminal Assistant United States Attorney in the Northern District of Illinois, and from 1994 to 1996, he also served as a Deputy Chief. From 1994 until his departure from the office in 1996, John was the lead prosecutor in the public-corruption investigation commonly known as “Operation Silver Shovel.”John has been an Adjunct Professor at Notre Dame Law School since 2002, and he clerked for the Honorable Ann C. Williams in federal district court in Chicago from 1986 to 1988. John received his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and a law degree from Harvard Law School.
KATHERINE W. SHANK
Katherine W. Shank is the Deputy Director. Kate is responsible for identifying and managing organizational issues regarding recruitment, hiring, and retention of legal staff, development, and implementation of program policy, support of directors in personnel and other matters, and work with administrative staff on matters of grant funding, program operation, and governance.
Kate began her career at Legal Aid Chicago in 2001 as an AmeriCorps attorney representing clients in family law matters and spent several years as a general litigator also handling bankruptcies and subsidized housing eviction defense. As a Supervising Attorney, Kate concentrated her practice in the areas of family law, domestic violence, and custody matters. She has also served as the Interim Executive Director and the Director of Volunteer Services where she oversaw all of Legal Aid Chicago’s pro bono efforts including project development, volunteer recruitment, volunteer training, law firm, and corporate relations, law student recruitment and management, and volunteer recognition and management of the legal aid statewide AmeriCorps VISTA program.
Kate received her undergraduate degree in Social Work from Miami University, and her law degree from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. She also received a Certificate of Civic Leadership from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.
Vivian Hessel is the Chief Information Officer at Legal Aid Chicago, where she has worked since 1989. In this role, Vivian manages major technology projects in collaboration with other legal aid organizations, oversees the work of the Information Technology group, chairs the Program Evaluation Committee, and acts as the on-site administrator for Legal Aid Chicago’s case management system, LegalServer. Vivian regularly presents at technology and legal aid conferences across the country on topics involving legal and ethical issues, case management software, and best practices. From 1989 to 2009, she worked as a staff attorney and then a managing attorney at one of Legal Aid Chicago’s general intake offices where her practice involved a wide variety of poverty law issues including consumer, family, housing, public benefits, and employment matters. Vivian received her undergraduate degree in psychology and mathematical methods in the social sciences, an honors program, from Northwestern University, and her law degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
Mark Kennedy is the Chief Financial Officer at Legal Aid Chicago. In this capacity, Mark is responsible for leading the financial management of the organization and supporting all strategic and programmatic matters as they relate to budget management, fiscal/grant compliance and oversight, and financial analysis and forecasting. He also manages the relationships with Legal Aid Chicago’s key banking, accounting, and investment partners. Prior to joining Legal Aid Chicago in 2020, Mark spent 14 years at Northwestern University in a variety of finance and data analytics roles, most recently as Executive Director, Finance and Administration for Alumni Relations and Development. Before joining Northwestern, he was the Director of Finance and Administration at CommunityHealth, a non-profit organization committed to delivering comprehensive, high-quality health care at no cost to low-income, uninsured adults. He began his career at NERA economic consulting, focusing primarily on merger and acquisition antitrust risks and litigation. Mark received his undergraduate degree in economics, with honors, from Washington and Lee University, and his master’s degree in public policy and administration from Northwestern University.
Jennifer Miller is the Chief External Relations Officer at Legal Aid Chicago. Jen has nearly twenty years of fundraising experience. Previously, Jen was the Chief Development Officer at The Chicago Lighthouse. While leading the Financial Development team there, she oversaw all fundraising initiatives, which included individual and major gifts, foundations and grants, capital and endowment campaigns, and planned giving. Also at The Chicago Lighthouse, Jen worked with a donor to start a legal clinic, which provided pro bono legal assistance to people with disabilities and Veterans. Jen is a licensed attorney, having worked in two different law firms, where she focused on Estates and Trusts and Estate Administration. In addition, Jen has taught at numerous colleges and law schools for over a decade. She now teaches a writing class at Columbia College in her spare time. Jen has her undergraduate degree in English and Political Science from the University of Rochester, a Masters in English from the University of South Dakota, a law degree from Washburn University School of Law, and an LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.
Cynthia Sadkin is the Chief Strategy Officer. She began her legal career at Legal Aid Chicago in 1992 as a staff attorney and then as a supervisory attorney, practicing a wide range of poverty law including housing, employment, consumer, disability, and family law. As Director of Client and Community Services, she led the design and launch of the centralized Client Screening Unit and was actively involved in the agency’s reorganization in 2010. Through creative and strategic project development, Cynthia has acquired more than $1 million in new funding for Legal Aid Chicago to increase access to legal services for underserved communities, provide comprehensive legal services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and expand legal services for older adults by engaging with volunteer attorneys. Her collaborative approach creates opportunities for partnership with service providers and other legal aid programs to provide holistic and client-centered services to clients and community members. In 2009, she received the Jerold S. Solovy Equal Justice Award for exemplary leadership and commitment to legal services. Cynthia has a law degree from Harvard Law School and an undergraduate degree in Finance from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Ruby is the Chief Operating Officer and has more than 15 years of nonprofit experience in strategic Human Resources Management, Corporate Compliance, and Operations Management. Ruby is responsible for implementing strategies and workflow processes to foster an atmosphere of efficiency, inclusion, and accountability for HR and office support services. Before joining Legal Aid Chicago, Ruby was Vice President of HR and Compliance for Loretto Hospital, a community-based hospital in Chicago. Ruby was appointed to serve on the board of directors of Girls in the Game to assist in its effort to encourage physical and emotional health through fun and active sports, health and leadership programs. Ruby holds a master’s of jurisprudence degree from Loyola University Chicago and an undergraduate degree in business administration from Roosevelt University and has been recognized for her vast knowledge and accomplishments throughout her career.
Daniel P. Lindsey is the Chief Litigation Officer. Daniel joined Legal Aid Chicago as a neighborhood staff attorney in 1992. He left in 1995 to focus on consumer fraud litigation and returned in 2001 to lead the agency’s homeownership preservation work. In 2011, Daniel became a Supervisory Attorney in the newly formed Consumer Practice Group. In 2015, he became its Director, where he supervised 12 attorneys litigating in the areas of bankruptcy, foreclosure, quiet title, debt collection, consumer fraud, and utilities. In 2020, Daniel took on the additional role of Managing Director of Litigation in order to coordinate the advocacy work of the agency’s practice groups. In 2022, Daniel became Chief Litigation Officer so that he could concentrate full-time on leading the advocacy work of the agency. Daniel has drafted judicial rules, testified in support of local, state, and federal laws protecting homeowners, and taught and lectured at numerous law schools. Daniel is the recipient of the 2015 Jerold S. Solovy Equal Justice Award for exemplary leadership and commitment to legal services. He is a 1985 graduate of Davidson College and a 1990 graduate of Harvard Law School.
Teresa Sullivan is the General Counsel at Legal Aid Chicago. She joined Legal Aid Chicago as a Staff Attorney in the Children and Families Practice Group in 2017 after five years in private practice as a commercial litigator in Chicago. She became a Supervisory Attorney in 2019 and General Counsel in 2022. As General Counsel, Teresa manages the legal affairs of Legal Aid Chicago and Legal Action Chicago. She provides legal counsel to the Board of Directors, the Chief Executive Officer/Executive Director, and senior management. She advises on LSC compliance; risk exposure; major contracts and transactions; labor and employment issues; litigation; and external counsel management. She also continues to maintain a caseload of cases in the Children & Families Practice Group, managing the OP Appeals Project in partnership with Dentons, and directly representing survivors of domestic and sexual violence in protective order and family law cases. Outside of her work at Legal Aid Chicago, Teresa currently serves on the Board of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, having served as Board Chair from November 2017 to June 2022. Before law school, Teresa spent three years as a healthcare consultant and one year as a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs. Teresa received her undergraduate degree in international studies and Spanish from Washington University in St. Louis and her law degree from the University of Chicago Law School.
Dennericka Brooks is the Director of the Housing Practice Group. Dennericka has spent her career at Legal Aid Chicago, first as a generalist working in diverse areas of poverty law, including family, housing, consumer, and employment. As a supervisor, Dennericka has specialized in subsidized housing law ensuring that tenants live in decent, safe, and affordable housing that is free from discrimination. Dennericka helped to create and manage the Woodlawn Legal Clinic on Chicago’s south side and served as a mock trial coach. Currently, Dennericka serves as an Adjunct Faculty Member teaching trial practice at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Dennericka mentors students at Loyola and has served as a tutor and board member of Minority Legal Education Resources, a not-for-profit bar preparation program. Dennericka has been the recipient of several awards, including The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Kimball and Karen Public Interest Law Fellowship (2007) and its Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Scholarship (2004); Loyola’s Norman C. Amaker Award of Excellence (2014); St. Bellarmine Award (2013) and Mock Trial Coach of the Year (2010). Dennericka earned her law degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law (2007) and her undergraduate degree from Grinnell College (2004).
Benna Crawford is the Director of the Children & Families Practice Group. Benna joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2010 as an AmeriCorps VISTA attorney where she ran a clinic teaching unrepresented litigants how to file for divorce. In 2012, she transitioned to a staff attorney where she focused on divorce cases involving real estate. In 2017, Benna became a supervisory attorney. Her practice currently focuses on representing survivors of domestic violence in divorces, allocation of parental responsibility cases, and orders of protection. Benna received her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Hugh F. “Trey” Daly III is the Director of the Public Benefits Practice Group. Trey came to Legal Aid Chicago in 2017 after 27 years in legal services in Cincinnati, Ohio and most recently as the Ohio State Director for Enroll America, a non-profit seeking to expand participation in the Affordable Care Act. In 2009, Trey was named a Community Health Leader by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation an honor that brought a $125,000 grant to the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati. Trey supervises six Supervisory Attorneys and manages a staff of 42 attorneys and paralegals. Trey has represented clients on issues related to benefits such as SNAP, Medicaid and disability benefits from the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs in hundreds of administrative hearings, state courts including the Ohio Supreme Court and Federal Courts including the U.S. Court for Veterans Appeals and D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Trey received his undergraduate degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio and a law degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
Mischa Fleishman is Director of Foundation and Government Grants in the External Relations department. He joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2015 as an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving as the Volunteer Coordinator, where he helped support efforts to develop and maintain pro bono projects and recruit and train volunteers. At the end of his VISTA year, Mischa became the Grants Administrator where he researched, developed, and wrote grant applications, and completed grant reports. In 2018, Mischa was hired into his current role, where coordinates Legal Aid Chicago’s grants program and he supervises the current Grants and Data Administrator. Mischa received his undergraduate degree in creative writing from Luther College in 2011.
Shannon Jones is Director of Development and Communications in the External Relations department. She comes to Legal Aid Chicago with over 10 years of experience in nonprofit management. In 2008, she received her Bachelor of Journalism from Walter Williams School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, where her passion for communications, messaging and social justice was nurtured. Innately curious and intellectually driven, she is on a journey to grab as much knowledge and experience out of life as possible. The goal is to make the world a little better than it was before she came to it.
Ainat Margalit is Director of the Consumer Practice Group. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2012 and focused on home ownership preservation, bankruptcy, and debtor’s rights. In 2020, she became a Supervisory Attorney. She has dedicated her career to serving the public interest and championing consumer rights is her passion. Before coming to Legal Aid Chicago, Ainat worked in the private sector in plaintiff-side consumer rights litigation and before that state government. Ainat is the 2018 recipient of Chicago-Kent Law School’s Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Public Interest Award and the 2018 recipient of the Jerold S. Solovy Equal Justice Award. Ainat received her undergraduate degree from Tel-Aviv University and law degrees from Tel-Aviv University and Chicago-Kent College of Law.
McKenzie Marks oversees Human Resources at Legal Aid Chicago. McKenzie brings a host of HR experiences in the essential areas of HR including, without limitations: benefits administration, recruitment, compliance, and training/development. McKenzie most recently worked as the HR Manager at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. McKenzie holds an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management and a Bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University.
Lisa Palumbo has worked at Legal Aid Chicago for over 25 years. Lisa previously worked on the U.S./Mexico border representing Central American asylum seekers; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Hong Kong with Vietnamese asylum seekers; and on the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo where the U.S. Government detained Haitian and Cuban asylum seekers. Lisa is an expert in complex immigration cases, including the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, human trafficking cases, and removal proceedings. She has argued cases in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, is fluent in Spanish and work-proficient in French. Lisa was the 2010 recipient of the Jerold Solovy Award and has received awards from the Lawyers Trust Fund and the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association. Lisa is a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law and received her undergraduate degree from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
Steve Phillips is the Director of Information Technology at Legal Aid Chicago, where he manages information systems and technology to support the achievement of the organization’s mission and goals. In his role, Steve oversees daily operation and projects related to internal systems, including networks, software applications, and telecommunications; manages network administration and security protocols; and maintains a disaster recovery strategy for all software applications and data. Steve brings more than 20 years of IT experience to Legal Aid Chicago.
Melissa O. Picciola is the Director of Pro Bono & Community Partnerships. Melissa oversees all of Legal Aid Chicago’s volunteer and pro bono projects, including internships, in-house volunteers, community legal clinics, and all law firm and corporate partnerships and has created volunteer focused projects at Legal Aid Chicago serving clients in advance directives, eviction defense, and record expungement. She also oversees Legal Aid Chicago’s 45-member statewide AmeriCorps VISTA program. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2018 after a career in legal aid. She has practice experience in family law and domestic violence, eviction defense, and representing people with disabilities on individual and systemic matters. Melissa received both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Bill Sviatko is the Director of Operations at Legal Aid Chicago. He comes with in-depth experience in Process Management, Organization Support, Strategy Planning, Business Administration, Human Resources, Facility Management and Regulatory/Compliance adherence. Prior to coming to Legal Aid Chicago, Bill’s industry experience spans healthcare, manufacturing/distribution, and advertising. Bill possesses a Bachelor’s degree from Columbia College in Chicago. His expertise and passion for process, systems, workflow management and clear and direct communication supports the achievement of the organizations mission, values and goals.
Piper Taggart is the Director of the Client Screening Unit. Piper joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2000 as a Staff Attorney. In 2010, she was promoted to Senior Attorney. As a Staff Attorney and Senior Attorney, Piper represented clients in Consumer, Employment, Family and Housing cases. Piper came to the Client Screening Unit as a Director in 2011. Piper currently leads the staff of Intake Specialists and Attorneys that handle intake and screening for the majority of Legal Aid Chicago’s clients. Piper received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and her law degree from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.
Senior & Supervisory Attorneys
Kulsum Ameji is a Senior Attorney in the Community Engagement Unit. Kulsum’s role includes community legal education and community engagement. In her previous role as a staff attorney, she provided legal advice and representation. Kulsum is the current Chair of the Domestic Violence Task Force. Kulsum is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including the Chicago Foundation for Women Impact Award, the KANWIN Community Changemaker Award, the Community Renewal Society’s 35 Under 35 Nonprofit Leaders Award, and the University of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Academy. After graduating with honors from Smith College, Kulsum received her law degree from the DePaul University College of Law.
Dolores Ayala is the Supervisory Attorney for Employment Law in the Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group. She and her team focus on workers’ rights in the workplace: the right to a workplace that enforces anti-discrimination laws, that ensures freedom from a hostile work environment, including sexual harassment; the right to a reasonable accommodation of a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act; the right to be paid at the lawful rate for work performed, including overtime pay; the right to complain of violations without fear of retaliation. Dolores’ team also advocates for workers who have lost their jobs in their claims for unemployment benefits.
Dolores joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2019 after 11 years as in-house Employment Counsel in the legal departments of two large corporations, where her job, as she saw it, was to promote positive employee relations by ensuring all employees were treated fairly and the companies lived up to their missions of being equal opportunity employers who valued diversity and treated employees with dignity and respect. She also initiated and led those companies’ corporate pro bono programs, in collaboration with the National Immigrant Justice Center, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Equip for Equality, among others. Her work as a corporate pro bono leader was recognized when she was awarded the 2018 Exelon Outstanding Corporate Counsel Award by the Chicago Bar Foundation. Prior to moving in-house, Dolores spent 11 years as a litigator in two Chicago law firms. Dolores was on the Dean’s List, graduated cum laude, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa at Washington University in St. Louis where she received her B.A. She attended foreign universities as well, including Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and Università per Stranieri di Perugia. She received her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law, where she was a Dean’s Scholar, a member of the DePaul Law Review, and received the John Powers Crowley Award for Excellence in Trial Advocacy. Dolores is fluent in Spanish, is work-proficient in Italian, and speaks (but does not read!) Hebrew.
Melissa Bartolomei is a supervisory attorney in the Pro Bono & Community Partnerships Group at Legal Aid Chicago. She joined Legal Aid Chicago as a staff attorney in 2019 managing the community legal clinics, partnering with volunteer attorneys and community organizations to provide free legal advice at multiple locations throughout Chicago. Melissa’s work focuses on supporting volunteers while developing and managing the pro bono focused projects of Legal Aid Chicago, including the community clinics, the William J. Hibbler Memorial Pro Se Assistance Program, and the Cook County Early Resolution Program for Evictions. Prior to joining Legal Aid Chicago, Melissa worked as an attorney supervisor at the Milwaukee Justice Center and as a staff attorney at Legal Action of Wisconsin representing victims of domestic violence in family law matters. Melissa received her law degree from the University of Iowa College of Law and her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Irvine.
James Brady is a Supervisory Attorney in the Consumer Practice Group. Mr. Brady began his legal career as a staff attorney with Legal Aid Chicago in 1991 at the Englewood Office on Chicago’s southside. In 1995, he moved to the Southside office and in 2004, to the Homeownership Preservation Project. Mr. Brady’s practice focuses on bankruptcy, homeownership, and consumer fraud. He is a 1988 graduate of the University of Michigan and a 1991 graduate of the DePaul University College of Law.
Colleen Connelly is a Senior Attorney in the Children & Families Practice Group.
Suzanne Courtheoux is a Supervisory Attorney in Legal Aid Chicago’s Public Benefits Practice Group. Since she joined the organization in 2013, Suzanne has been in the Ombudsman Project, advocating for residents of long term care facilities in suburban Cook County and Lake County. She advocates on a broad range of issues affecting residents, and often represents residents in involuntary discharge hearings and Medicaid appeals. Prior to joining Legal Aid Chicago, Suzanne represented a wide range of clients in commercial litigation, labor & employment and insurance issues at large law firms – Jenner & Block and Seyfarth Shaw.
Suzanne earned her bachelor’s degree at Yale University and her law degree at University of Chicago Law School in 2004.
Lauren Dana is the Supervisory Attorney of the Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project (IMLAP) in the Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group, where she represents migrant and seasonal farmworkers. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2017 as an Equal Justice America Fellow with the Immigration Project, focused on representing survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking to address immigration needs. After her fellowship, Lauren became a staff attorney with IMLAP, advocating for farmworkers in matters related to working and living conditions, occupational health and safety, human trafficking, and immigration. In her current role, Lauren supervises the IMLAP team’s work providing comprehensive legal services to migrant farmworkers, including federal litigation, administrative advocacy, and statewide community outreach and education. Lauren received her law degree from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and her undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa.
Mona Elgindy is a Supervisory Attorney in the Public Benefits Group at Legal Aid Chicago. She will be supervising the MLP Projects. Mona comes from Prairies State Legal Services where she was the co-chair for several years of their Senior Taskforce and staff attorney in their Joliet office since 2013. Mona’s previous practice consisted of all areas affecting seniors with a large focus on public benefits, housing, nursing home involuntary discharges and financial exploitation. Mona has handled numerous cases at the administrative hearing level with the IL Dept. of Human Services; IL Dept. of Public Health; IL Dept. of Health and Family Services; IL Dept. of Rehabilitative Services and the Social Security Administration. She has successfully argued administrative review appeals in circuit court and has spoken extensively about the legal remedies available to protect seniors from financial exploitation within the Public Benefits arena. Mona received her undergraduate degree in Secondary Education from DePaul University and taught for many years before going back to school. Mona completed her law degree magna cum laude from Loyola University Chicago.
Ashley Fretthold is the Supervisory Attorney for education law in the Children & Families Practice Group. She represents students in education matters, including special education, school discipline, Title IX, residency, and bullying. She was a member of the Legal Aid Chicago teams that filed civil rights suits in 2013 and 2018 against Chicago Public Schools on behalf of communities whose schools were selected for closure. Prior to working in education law, she represented low-income clients in a variety of matters at the Westside neighborhood office at Legal Aid Chicago. Primarily, she advocated for survivors of domestic violence in Order of Protection cases and family law matters such as divorce and custody disputes. Prior to law school, Ashley worked in the education field, first as an education research associate at the American Institutes for Research, and later she taught fifth grade in Escazú, Costa Rica. Ashley completed her undergraduate degree at Duke University and received her law degree from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law.
Miriam Hallbauer is a Supervisory Attorney in Complex Litigation. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2000 as a staff attorney at the Westside neighborhood office, then located in North Lawndale, after having served as a judicial clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. As a neighborhood attorney, Miriam gained experience in every area of law in which Legal Aid Chicago practices. She currently works with each of Legal Aid Chicago’s five practice groups, supervising appeals and co-counseling complex and novel affirmative litigation. In 2014, the agency awarded Miriam the Jerold S. Solovy Equal Justice Award. Miriam received her undergraduate degree with high honors from Wesleyan University and her law degree with honors from the University of Chicago.
Regina Hernandez is the Supervisory Attorney for the Pro Bono & Community Partnerships Group at Legal Aid Chicago. She first joined Legal Aid Chicago as an AmeriCorps VISTA attorney in 2016, coordinating the Juvenile Expungement Help Desk and the agency’s free community legal clinics. Becoming a staff attorney in 2017 within the Pro Bono & Community Partnerships Group, she focused on pro bono project development, working to expand Legal Aid Chicago’s capacity to take on a higher volume of clients in a wider variety of legal areas. Regina provided substantive legal trainings to pro bono attorneys and other professionals, co-counseled and supervised pro bono cases, and continued to manage the agency’s community legal clinics while creating additional pro bono initiatives. As Supervisory Attorney, Regina utilizes her expertise in criminal records to oversee one of the Pro Bono & Community Partnerships Group’s fastest-growing pro bono projects for criminal records relief. The project works with pro bono attorneys to represent clients in their efforts to break down the barriers created by a criminal record in order to gain access to fundamental needs such as employment, housing, and education. Regina received her law degree from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law and her undergraduate degree in news-editorial journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Jessica Kalmewicki is a Supervisory Attorney in the Housing Practice Group. She began her career at Legal Aid Chicago as a staff attorney in 2000 and litigated domestic relations, consumer, employment, bankruptcy, and housing law matters before administrative agencies, and state and federal courts. In 2009, she joined the Housing Practice Group, where she concentrated her practice on defending housing rights pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, and state and local statutes. In addition to litigating her own matters, Jessica currently oversees staff and senior attorneys handling housing law matters. Jessica is also a member of Legal Aid Chicago’s Veterans Task Force and HIV Task Force. In addition to working for Legal Aid Chicago, Jessica has worked as a corporate litigator in Detroit, Michigan, and as an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Bureau for the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. She is licensed to practice law in Michigan and in Illinois. Jessica earned an undergraduate degree in political science and English from Aquinas College and her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.
Allison Kotarba is a Supervisory Attorney in the Client Screening Unit. She began her legal career at Life Span where she represented survivors of domestic violence. Later, Allison worked in private practice where she handled bankruptcy, landlord-tenant and family law matters. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2015 as an Intake Attorney in the Client Screening Unit. In 2017, Allison became a Staff Attorney and she transitioned to the Housing Practice Group where she helped clients maintain their subsidized housing. After six months, she returned to the Client Screening Unit. In early 2022, she was promoted to a Supervisory Attorney, and in this role, she manages and provides support to CSU’s Intake Specialists and Staff Attorney, coordinates intake with Legal Aid Chicago’s Practice Groups, manages internal and external referrals and provides assistance to the CSU Director. Allison received her undergraduate degree with honors from the University of Illinois at Chicago and law degree with honors from Chicago-Kent College of Law. She is also fluent in Polish.
Anna Maitland is a Supervising Attorney for the Trafficking Survivors Assistance Project (TSAP) in the Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group. She joined Legal Aid Chicago as a staff attorney in September 2017 as a part of the Immigration Project, where she helped survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to address immigration needs. In 2018, she transitioned to TSAP to work with survivors of trafficking to address a holistic set of needs, from immigration concerns to civil litigation, name changes to victim advocacy, connecting to additional social, health and legal services to coordinating those services and so on. Anna became the TSAP supervisor at the start of November, 2020, where she works with a small but mighty team to provide trauma informed, client-centered services to underserved and marginalized groups across Illinois, while building out partnerships with other providers across the state. Anna received her undergraduate degree from University of Colorado at Boulder and a JD/MA from American University Washington College of Law and the School of International Service. She speaks Spanish and English.
Gwynne Kizer Mashon is a Supervisory Attorney in the Public Benefits Practice Group. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2020 after nine years in legal services in New Orleans, LA. She most recently served as the Director of Development and Advocacy at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS). In that role, she advocated for systemic solutions to end homelessness and hunger and to ensure low-income people can access vital medical care. Prior to this role, she was the Managing Attorney for the SLLS Veterans and Innovative Projects Unit, where she supervised programs serving veterans and people who are homeless. Gwynne has represented clients on issues related to benefits such as SNAP, Medicaid, and disability benefits from the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs in administrative hearings and federal court. In her current role, she coordinates the Public Benefits Outreach and Enrollment project and represents clients in administrative proceedings before the Department of Human Services. She earned her undergraduate degree from Grinnell College and her law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Joseph P. Miller is a Supervisory Attorney in the Housing Practice Group at Legal Aid Chicago. He joined Legal Aid Chicago in October 2021. Joseph comes from Prairie State Legal Services where he served in numerous roles and offices. He spearhead Prairie State Legal Services efforts to bring foreclosure helpdesk and mediation to Kane, Lake and Winnebago counties. In addition to foreclosure, Joseph worked on housing, domestic violence, and public benefits issues. Joseph received his undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his law degree from The John Marshall Law School.
Amina Najib is a Supervisory Attorney for the Immigration Project in the Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in April 2021 and supervises a robust team of attorneys and paralegals dedicated to providing comprehensive representation to marginalized communities and survivors seeking benefits before U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services and the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Prior to joining Legal Aid, Amina spent a decade in the private sector as an associate attorney with a local immigration firm. Amina received her undergraduate degree from Loyola University Chicago and a JD from DePaul University College of Law. She speaks Spanish, English and Arabic.
Naeem Nulwala is a Supervisory Attorney in the Children and Families Practice Group at Legal Aid Chicago. Naeem began practicing law in 2009 and began his career in legal aid in 2010 at Land of Lincoln Legal Aid. While there, Naeem represented disadvantaged and disenfranchised individuals in a wide variety of legal areas including protective orders, family law, consumer law, education law, and housing law. Naeem moved to Legal Aid Chicago in 2017 where he focuses on protective orders and family law cases that involve domestic violence. Throughout Naeem’s career in legal aid, he has provided additional services to his clients by collaborating with community groups and domestic violence shelters. Additionally, Naeem regularly provides “know your legal rights” talks to the client community and provides trainings to community partners. Naeem also actively volunteers in the community by, amongst other things, serving on the Board of Directors of the Center for Advancing Domestic Peace – an organization that provides partner abuse prevention and intervention programs. Naeem graduated with a degree in engineering from the University of Washington in Seattle and a degree in law from Lewis and Clark Law School.
Bharathi Pillai is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group at Legal Aid Chicago. Upon joining Legal Aid Chicago in 2018, Bharathi gained experience working on legal issues across many of the agency’s practice areas. Since 2019, Bharathi has represented low-wage workers in a range of employment disputes, including employment discrimination and retaliation claims, safety and leave protection violations, and unemployment insurance benefit appeals. Bharathi’s practice also focuses on empowering workers through education and advocacy.
Prior to joining Legal Aid Chicago, Bharathi worked as a Staff Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, an Associate at Ropes & Gray, LLP, and an Arthur Helton Global Human Rights Fellow at People’s Watch in Madurai, India. Bharathi also previously clerked for the Honorable James B. Zagel on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. She received her undergraduate degree summa cum laude in Psychology and Finance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and her law degree from the New York University School of Law.
Ellen Rheaume is a Supervisory Attorney in the Veterans’ Rights Project. Ellen joined the staff of Legal Aid Chicago in September 2015 as an Equal Justice Works-AmeriCorps Fellow and then transitioned to the position of Staff Attorney before being promoted to her current position. Ellen represents low-income veterans and their family members in the areas of public benefits, housing, family law, and consumer protection. She has focused a large portion of her practice on representing veterans with claims for VA benefits and applications for discharge upgrades. Ellen also serves as the Leader of the Veterans Task Force, through which she coordinates volunteers from the various Legal Aid Chicago practice groups to assist with community outreach efforts, including the Veterans Legal Clinic. Prior to working at Legal Aid Chicago, Ellen represented individuals in criminal appeals cases in California. She also represented people on death row in habeas corpus proceedings as a Staff Attorney at the Habeas Corpus Resource Center in San Francisco. Ellen received her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
Steven Scheuer is a Supervisory Attorney in the Public Benefits Practice Group. Steven joined Legal Aid Chicago as a Staff Attorney in 2018. He assists clients with accessing public benefits, including Medicaid, SNAP, and Social Security. This often involves representing clients in administrative hearings before the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Social Security Administration. Before working at Legal Aid Chicago, Steven was a fellow at Uptown People’s Law Center, representing clients in eviction and Social Security matters. Steven received his law degree from University of Chicago Law School and his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College.
Jamie (Josephine) Schulte is a Supervisory Attorney with the Children and Families Practice Group, where she represents clients in a variety of education law and child welfare matters. Jamie first joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2015 as a Skadden Fellow, focused on representing students in alternative high schools and students facing expulsion and informal “push out” from traditional schools. After her fellowship, Jamie became a staff attorney in education law, advocating for youth in special education, school discipline, Title IX, enrollment disputes, and other education law matters. In November 2019, Jamie moved to the Cook County Public Defenders’ Office, where she represented parents in abuse and neglect proceedings and was selected to be on a small complex litigation team within the child protection division. Jamie returned to Legal Aid Chicago in her current role in March 2021. Jamie also previously clerked for the Honorable Judge Gregg Costa on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Prior to law school, Jamie taught middle school through Teach for America. Jamie received her undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and law degree from the University of Chicago.
Melissa Staas is a Supervisory Attorney with the Children & Families Practice Group. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2018 after practicing public interest law for 10 years with the Family Defense Center, where she represented parents involved in the child welfare system through direct services during an investigation, representation in DCFS administrative proceedings and juvenile court proceedings, appellate advocacy, and affirmative class action and federal civil rights litigation. During law school, she focused on legal issues involving families and children, serving as Editor-in-Chief of her school’s Children’s Legal Rights Journal. She represents Legal Aid Chicago clients in a variety of matters impacting families, including child welfare, orders of protection, divorces, and parenting allocation cases. In 2010, Melissa was a recipient of the Chicago Bar Foundation’s Sun-Times Fellowship in recognition of her academic achievements and commitment to public interest law. Melissa received her undergraduate degree in psychology and women’s studies from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and her law degree, magna cum laude, from Loyola University Chicago’s School of Law.
Susan Theiss is a Supervisory Attorney in the Housing Practice Group. Susan joined Legal Aid Chicago in February 2017 as an attorney in Complex Litigation where she worked on matters in all of the agency’s practice groups. She transitioned to the Housing Practice Group in 2019 to practice exclusively in the areas of housing rights and housing stability in the community we serve. Susan’s practice consists of representing vulnerable clients in eviction court and administrative hearings, protecting housing subsidies from wrongful termination, enforcing federal, state, and local fair housing laws that prohibit discrimination in housing, protecting the housing rights of victims of sexual violence, and more. Susan became a Supervisory Attorney in April 2022 and continues her legal practice in this role as well as managing the agency’s Fair Housing Project, funded by HUD, and coordinating the work of attorneys and paralegals. Susan received her undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College, and her law degree from the University of Chicago.
JoAnn Villasenor is a Supervising Attorney in the Children & Family Practice Group. She came to Legal Aid Chicago in 1985 as an intern and was hired in 1987 as a Staff Attorney. She initially worked at several of the agency’s neighborhood offices (Westside office in Lawndale, 18th Street office in Pilsen, and Northwest office in Wicker Park) before going to the main downtown office in 1998. In 2003, JoAnn became a supervisor, assigned to the Family Law Project, which became a part of the practice group. At the neighborhood offices, she represented clients in legal matters including child abuse and neglect proceedings, eviction defense, unemployment compensation appeals, and Social Security Disability appeals. Throughout her career, JoAnn has represented clients in family law matters including orders of protection, custody litigation, paternity and support cases, and divorces. She has developed expertise in pension issues as they relate to divorce litigation. She currently supervises three attorneys and a paralegal, has an individual caseload and provides guidance to the practice group. JoAnn is fluent in Spanish, received her undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois-Champaign and a law degree from John Marshall School of Law.
Lawrence is a Supervisory Attorney in the Public Benefits Practice Group where he supervises a team of Community Ombudsmen to protect the rights of individuals living in nursing homes. Lawrence first joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2004 as a Staff Attorney at the South Side neighborhood office where he represented clients in a variety of legal matters. Lawrence then joined the Homeownership Preservation Project (“HOPP”) where he represented clients in legal matters related to home ownership. Lawrence left HOPP for the Veterans’ Rights Project where he helped and recruited pro bono attorneys to help, veterans fight for their earned service connected benefits. Because he believes that housing is a fundamental human right, Lawrence joined the Housing Practice Group where he represented subsidized housing residents and became a Senior Attorney. In 2017 Lawrence left Legal Aid Chicago for a position in the Law Project of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and rejoined Legal Aid Chicago in 2019 in his current role. Lawrence is a 2004 graduate of DePaul University College of Law.
Michelle Weinberg is a Supervisory Attorney in the Consumer Practice Group, concentrating on the representation of seniors in consumer protection and financial exploitation cases. Ms. Weinberg began her career as a consumer lawyer in 1993 with the class action firm of Edelman & Combs. Ms. Weinberg has litigated a wide range of cases, including published decisions under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Truth in Lending Act, the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act, and other consumer protection statutes. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2001. In 2005, Ms. Weinberg received the Excellence in Public Interest Service Award from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. She was also named Advocate of the Month in 2007, by Illinois Legal Aid Online. Ms. Weinberg has been a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates (“NACA”) since 1997, and in 2011, she received the NACA Consumer Advocate of the Year award for public interest work. Ms. Weinberg is a former Chair of the Chicago Bar Association Consumer Law Committee and served on NACA’s board of directors and ethics committee. She currently serves as a public/consumer representative on the State of Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation’s Collection Agency Board. She is frequently called upon to speak at legal conferences and to comment in the news media on emerging consumer issues. She is a 1992 graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Mary Ellen Diaz began her career at Legal Aid Chicago as a receptionist. After working several years in that capacity, she became office manager at one of the neighborhood offices. In 2011, when Legal Aid Chicago consolidated all of its offices and relocated to the current Loop location, she undertook the coordination of translation and interpreting services. She now oversees these services and also assumes office manager duties when necessary. Ms. Diaz is a state registered Spanish interpreter and provides interpreting and translation services in Spanish and in this role is able to be a voice for many LEP clients. With her strong belief in our mission, she works tirelessly to assure LEP clients have meaningful access to all of Legal Aid Chicago’s services. Ms. Diaz is a dedicated, hardworking and loyal employee who is passionate about her work.
Jamie Donohue is the Grants Project Manager in the External Relations department at Legal Aid Chicago. Her work ensures that large, complex grants are properly monitored and managed and that grant deliverables are completed successfully, on time, and within budget. Jamie joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2021 as a Grants & Data Administrator after two years in nonprofit management at SmithBucklin in Chicago. Jamie completed her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Gender & Women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earned a certificate in Grant Writing from DePaul University.
Carter Farnsworth is the Grants Project Manager of the HIV Legal Project. He joined Legal Aid Chicago as a SOAR paralegal on the HIV Legal Project in June 2021, where he represented people living with HIV in their application for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. After four months, he transitioned to the role of HIV Project paralegal, where he supported advocates across the organization in their representation of HIV Project clients in civil legal matters. In his current role as the Grants Project Manager of the HIV Legal Project, he works with advocates across all practice groups to direct the services provided by the HIV Legal Project, expand the capacity of the project, and connect with community partners to improve health outcomes and quality of life for people living with HIV. Carter received his undergraduate degree from Boston University.
Sarah Kirk is the Comptroller for Legal Aid Chicago. In this role, Sarah has the responsibility for managing the financial related activities of the organization. This includes accounts payable, accounts receivable, general ledger and the implementation of internal controls. Prior to joining Legal Aid Chicago, Sarah had extensive experience in both private and non-profit companies, including having served as Controller for the American Osteopathic Foundation, where she was responsible for the Foundation’s accounting, budgeting, and reporting functions, as well as managing the annual audit process. She also has prior professional experience with Diversified Financial Management Corporation, Polished Nickel Capital Management, and Ernst & Young LLP. Sarah received her undergraduate degree in Accounting from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her Master of Taxation from DePaul University.
Marc McIntosh is the IT Operations Manager at Legal Aid Chicago. In this role, Marc is responsible for managing the system administration staff, the IT servers and systems, providing input and completing tasks on major technology projects, and providing technical support to staff. Prior to joining Legal Aid Chicago, Marc worked for Ventas Inc. in Chicago, where he held the position as Technical Support Lead and Co-Manager of the service desk. Marc has worked in several IT capacities with companies such as Eddie Bauer, Ultra Diamonds, and the Harza Engineering Company.
Jenelle Pedroza, LCSW, is the Supervisory Social Worker on the Client Support Services team. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in April 2017. As a social worker, Jenelle has always worked on interdisciplinary teams and has focused on crisis prevention and intervention and trauma, especially related to domestic violence, human trafficking, and immigration. Jenelle and her team of a staff social worker and social work students collaborate with attorneys across the agency to ensure our clients have access to resources and support needed to improve their overall stability and better engage and succeed in their legal cases. She is fluent in Spanish and holds a master’s degree in social work from Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago and undergraduate degrees in social work and Spanish from Asbury University.
Teresa Rodriguez is the Grants Financial Manager in the Finance department at Legal Aid Chicago. Teresa joined Legal Aid Chicago on November 1, 2021. Prior to coming to Legal Aid Chicago, Teresa worked with the University of Chicago where she provide grants oversight for a portfolio of grants which included federal, state, city, endowment and foundation funding. Before joining the University of Chicago, Teresa served as Acting/Assistant Budget Director with the CHA’s Office of Budget and Management. Prior to that, Teresa worked for the City of Chicago where she developed and monitored multi-million dollar budgets for several large City agencies. During her tenure with the City, she instituted internal controls and streamlined procedures to ensure the efficient operation of various agencies. Teresa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from DePaul University. In addition, she is certified in Project Management by Loyola University’s School of Business Administration.
Jonathan Russell is Grants Project Manager in the External Relations department at Legal Aid Chicago. His work ensures that large, complex grants are properly monitored and managed and that grant deliverables are completed successfully, on time, and within budget. Jonathan joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2020 after two years in fundraising and grant management at the Adler Planetarium. Prior to entering his current field, Jonathan worked in education, helping young people reach their full academic potential. Jonathan completed his undergraduate degree in literature and writing at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and received a master’s degree in literature from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Virginia Sandoval has been the Office Manager of Legal Aid Chicago since 2011 where she oversees all office support functions and is responsible for the supervision of the office support administrative staff. Virginia coordinates the agency’s events throughout the year such as the summer outing, holiday party, and employee appreciation activities. Virginia’s experience has given her the opportunity to work as a paralegal in the Public Benefits Project and in her current role as an Office Manager. She is a dedicated employee who strives to assist people living in poverty and her goal is to assure that clients are treated with compassion and respect.