Staff

 

Sara Effron

Sara Effron, Associate Director, has a B.A. in Political Science from SUNY College at Purchase and an M.S. in Urban Affairs from Hunter College. As Associate Director of VOLS, she designs and creates innovative projects using an interdisciplinary approach, develops relationships with law firms and community-based organizations, and is involved in VOLS’ fundraising activities and grants management. She has over 25 years experience working in legal/social work collaborations. She serves on the Pro Bono and Legal Services Committee of the New York City Bar Association and the Pro Bono Coordinators Network of New York State Bar Association. She has represented VOLS on the Law Help Consortium since its inception. She is also a member of the New York State Coalition of Medical-Legal Partnerships. She previously worked as the Director of Training and Technical Assistance for the Community Council of Greater New York and at Municipal Employees Legal Services (MELS) of District Council 37.

 

Fahima Ahmed

Fahima Ahmed, Grant Data Manager, has worked in operations management and organizational development for the past decade in small businesses and non-profits. Before joining VOLS, Fahima was an Operations Manager at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – NYC Chapter, where her responsibilities included managing the administrative staff for a sixty-person office and liaising with Chapter and National Office Directors on organizational transition projects. As a beneficiary of Prep for Prep and a Quaker education at Friends Seminary School in Manhattan, Fahima developed an appreciation for and a commitment to service to others. Apart from her professional duties, Fahima volunteers with community organizations.

 


Shanila Ali, Staff Attorney, Microenterprise Project, has a B.A. from Vanderbilt University with majors in Economics and Communication Studies. She received her M.B.A. from the University of Texas at Arlington and her J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief for The Arbitration Brief. Before joining VOLS, Shanila was a Staff Attorney at Mobilization for Justice (formerly MFY Legal Services) in their Housing Preservation Project and prior to that, in their Foreclosure Prevention Project. During this time, Shanila litigated in city, state and federal courts to help preserve housing for low-income New Yorkers. After law school, Shanila received the JD Distinguished Fellowship through which she served as a Fellow for DC Bar Pro Bono Program’s Community Economic Development Project. During law school, she was a student attorney for the Washington College of Law’s Community and Economic Development Law Clinic. Shanila is fluent in Urdu/ Hindi.

 

Molly Coe

Molly Coe, Staff Attorney, Immigration Project, has a B.A. in Political Science from Boston University and graduated from CUNY School of Law in May 2014. From September 2014 to September 2016 Molly worked with VOLS’ Dream Not Deferred Initiative as an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by MetLife and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. Molly’s fellowship focused on providing free legal assistance to undocumented students who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) due to parental abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Molly has previously worked with VOLS as a Project Assistant and as Outreach Coordinator with Law Help/NY. Molly has extensive experience working with immigrant youth and conducting community outreach through internships with Brooklyn Defender Services, The Door, and CUNY's Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic.

 

Cecilia Cortés Vila

Cecilia Cortés Vila, Project Coordinator, Immigration Project, has a B.A. in Political Science from Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires (UBA) and has completed her graduate studies at a joint program between Universita di Bologna and Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero (UNTREF) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Cecilia has extensive experience in social research focused on political participation, comparative politics, political campaigning, and policy analysis. She has also worked as a consultant for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government institutions, and brands, in the areas of qualitative research and discourse analysis. As the Project Coordinator for the Immigration Project, Cecilia assists the Immigration Project Director, manages case files, develops new strategies to expand project services, and expands existing outreach efforts that serve New York’s undocumented children through the Dream Not Deferred Project, helping them pursue their dreams. Since moving to New York City, Cecilia has also worked with the Latino community by engaging in market research and volunteering for arts and education related projects such as TeatroStageFest at the Latino International Theater Festival of New York.

 

Arthur Kats

Arthur Kats, Senior Staff Attorney, Microenterprise Project, has a B.A. from Rutgers University with majors in Spanish and Linguistics, and a certificate in legal translation and interpreting. He received his J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, where he served as a notes editor for the Cardozo Journal of International and Comparative Law, which published his note examining Holocaust Era class action settlements. Before joining VOLS, Arthur was an Associate Attorney at a boutique Brooklyn law firm specializing in commercial landlord-tenant litigation and leasing transactions. In this position, Arthur litigated extensively in city, state and federal courts in commercial and residential contexts. He represented both landlords and tenants on myriad business, real estate, and corporate claims including lease disputes and breaches of contract, cooperative and condominium law, and lien law. He also represented court-appointed receivers in mortgage foreclosure actions. Arthur's pro bono work includes conducting legal research for the New York Civil Liberties Union and assisting in the representation of LGBTQ+ people with housing and political asylum claims at the New York City Anti-Violence Project. He is fluent in Russian and Spanish.

 

Peter Kempner, Director, Elderly Project, received his J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in 2001 and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 2002. He received his B.A. in Political Science from the State University of New York College at Purchase in 1996 and he received an M.A. in Political Management from the Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University in 1998. He is admitted to practice in the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York and is accredited to practice by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Pete's work focuses on a population based approach to legal services. He worked in Brooklyn Legal Services' HIV Unit from 2001 until 2011 as a Senior Staff Attorney and Government Benefits Specialist. In May 2011, he help found the Veterans Justice Project, an innovative general legal services practice focusing on veterans, active duty military personal and their families. In April 2015, Pete became the Director of the Veterans Justice Project and Deputy Director of the Housing Unit at Brooklyn Legal Services. In addition, he has served as a member of the Social Welfare Law Committee of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York from 2007 until 2013 and served as the Chairperson of the Committee from 2013 until 2016.  He served on the Advisory Committee to the Brooklyn Veteran Treatment Court from 2012 until 2018, was a member of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Veterans from 2013 until 2017. He is also an Adjunct Clinical Professor at New York Law School where he created and has taught their Veterans Justice Clinic since 2015.

 Bill LienhardBill Lienhard, Senior Advisor, was VOLS' Executive Director from 2011 to 2018.  Before coming to VOLS, Bill was the Project Director of the Urban Justice Center's Mental Health Project (MHP).  Under Bill's leadership, MHP doubled in size and litigated several class actions, several of which secured hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits for low-income people with mental illness and others. In 2007, Bill was selected to serve as a Wasserstein Fellow at Harvard Law School.  Before that, following a clerkship for Federal District Court Judge Paul J. Barbardoro, Bill was awarded a fellowship at the NLG/Sugar Law Center in Detroit to represent the NAACP in NAACP v. Engler, an environmental justice impact case. The Flint NAACP gave Bill its Social Justice Award for his work on this case.  Bill then spent two years as a staff attorney in Queens Legal Services' housing unit before moving to the Urban Justice Center.  Bill graduated magna cum laude from both Amherst College and Boston College Law School.

 

Elizabeta (Liz) Markuci, Director, Immigration Project is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, and received her Juris Doctor from the City University of New York School of Law. Liz currently serves on the Pro Bono and Legal Services Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City Of New York’s (ABCNY) Pro Bono Committee, is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Public Interest Pro Bono Association (PIPBA). Previously, Liz served as a member of ABCNY’s Committee on Professional Ethics and Co-Chair of the New York Chapter of AILA’s Pro Bono Committee, training and mentoring pro bono representing unaccompanied minors facing removal proceedings in immigration court through the Juvenile Docket. During her three-year tenure, the AILA New York Chapter was awarded the New York State Conference of Bar Leaders 2011 Bar Leaders Innovation Award for this project. In 2014, Liz was a recipient of the City Bar Association's Legal Services Award for her leadership of the VOLS Immigration Project. This vanguard program was designed to bring legal services directly to schools in underserved communities and support immigrant high-school students on the path to college and employment. Liz has recruited, trained and mentored hundreds of volunteer attorneys to represent immigrants through various pro bono initiatives throughout New York City. 

  

Kelsey Ripper

Kelsey Ripper, Director, Microenterprise Project, has a B.A. from Fordham University and a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. Prior to joining VOLS, Kelsey was a Staff Attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at Lawyers Alliance for New York where she designed and implemented a program to provide business and transactional legal services to nonprofit clients addressing food security in New York City. Her project placed a particular emphasis on urban agriculture as a tool for addressing food access, health, education and economic development. During law school Kelsey was a Stein Scholar for the Public Interest  and gained community development experience at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A's Community and Economic Development Unit and in Fordham’s Community Economic Development Clinic. Kelsey is currently the Chair of the Community Economic Development Committee of the American Bar Association’s Business Law Section and has served as the Secretary of the Nonprofit Organizations Committee of the New York City Bar Association .

 

Michelle Rodriguez, AmeriCorps VISTA, Microenterprise Project, has been placed at VOLS through AmeriCorps, an nonpartisan organization that dedicated to countering domestic inequality. Michelle recently graduated magna cum laude with a BA in Philosophy and Psychology from the Honors College at Florida International University. She was a Student Fellow at Startup FIU, which is dedicated to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in FIU’s students. Michelle has a longstanding interest in the legal field and public service: she has spent multiple summers interning for judges, and worked at the national headquarters of a presidential campaign. She plans to pursue law school and a legal career. 

 

Ellen Rosenberg

Ellen Rosenberg, Family Law Advisor, Incarcerated Mothers Law Project, is a recipient of the City Bar Association's Legal Services Award. Ellen graduated from Boston University and CUNY School of Law. She also holds an MSW from New York University School of Social Work. Ellen has 20 years' experience in family law, and has worked for some of the leading organizations in New York in this field, including the Women's Prison Association, Sanctuary for Families, and Covenant House. She has also been a clinical instructor at both Brooklyn Law School and Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service.

 

Laura Waszak, Office Manager, is a native New Yorker, born and raised in Brooklyn.  She holds a B.A. from Brooklyn College. Before joining VOLS, Laura worked at Habitat for Humanity NYC as a Volunteer Engagement Coordinator, where  she managed on-site volunteer logistics and implemented recognition events for volunteers. Laura also previously worked as an Operations Specialist at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for over 4 years.  In that role, she managed a $1  million matching gifts program and assisted with the daily operations for a 60­+ person office.