Leadership & Staff
Joanna Allison has been the Executive Director at Volunteer Lawyers Project since 2015. Prior to that she practiced as a supervising attorney in the areas of landlord and tenant, consumer debt defense, foreclosure prevention, bankruptcy, unemployment insurance, and more. She attended law school at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
Cindy TK Palmquist is the Legal Director at VLP and has been with the organization for five years. Cindy was previously a solo practitioner with a small private practice where she represented clients in family law matters including domestic violence issues. Cindy is a member of the Family Law Steering Committee at the Boston Bar Association, where she serves as co-chair of the Family Law Public Service subcommittee.
Allie Jose joined the Volunteer Lawyers Project in February 2017 as the Director of Finance and Operations. Allie holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Assumption College and is a licensed CPA (Certified Public Accountant). Prior to her role at VLP, she spent three years as an auditor with a Boston public accounting firm. She then transitioned into the non-profit sector and most recently held the position of Assistant Controller at Pine Street Inn, a large non-profit organization providing shelter and permanent housing to Boston’s homeless population.
Barbara Siegel is the Director of Compliance and Technology and the Project Manager of Senior Partners for Justice. Barbara’s legal career began in 1989 with a clerkship in the Massachusetts Appeals Court and an associate position in a law firm. In 1992, she entered legal aid and has not looked back. Prior to joining VLP, she served as a senior staff attorney at the Disability Law Center and Assistant Legal Director at the Community Legal Services and Counseling Center. Barbara is a graduate of Brown University (B.A. 1982) and Boston College Law School (J.D. 1989).
Emelia joined VLP in March of 2021. Prior to VLP, she served two years with AmeriCorps NCCC in Baltimore MD, and AmeriCorps State and National here in Boston serving at a youth mentoring organization. Most recently, Emelia worked as a Senior Partnerships Manager at Boston Partners in Education, an academic mentoring organization that supports students in the Boston Public Schools. Emelia is excited to continue supporting volunteers as they provide access to justice for clients. She is originally from Kansas City MO and graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Wingate University in NC.
Amy Anthony has been a legal services attorney for eight (8) years with a focus in housing and foreclosure law, and is the Supervising Attorney for housing and appeals at VLP. Amy is a graduate of Columbia University and American University Washington College of Law. Amy grew up in the D.C. area and her favorite part of being a lawyer is working with our amazing, tenacious clients.
Monique Aziza joined VLP as a long-term temporary Staff Attorney in March 2020. As part of the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP), she represents landlords that occupy and own two or three multifamily homes. Monique interned at VLP while in law school as an alternative spring break project. She is a graduate of the University of Delaware and American University Washington College of Law.
Eddie started his career at VLP in July of 2019. He graduated from Wheaton College in Massachusetts with a BA in Creative Writing and a minor in Graphic Design. He later honed his skills as a video editor and digital artist at the School of Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts. Eddie’s favorite part about his job is that he gets to employ both creative and critical-thinking skills in an organization which helps so many people.
Grace Brockmeyer is a Staff Attorney at VLP where she practices in the Consumer Law and Bankruptcy Units. Since 2020, Grace has volunteered with VLP as a Pro Bono Attorney. Grace has experience working in the public and private sector of law practice, including with Project Citizenship, Conn Kavanaugh, The Gillette Company, The United States Attorney’s Office, and the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Grace has mentored and advised law students and legal professionals at Suffolk University Law School, as well as law students at Boston University School Of Law. Grace graduated from Northeastern University School Of Law and has a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Political Science from Gordon College.
Paralegal Karina Buruca graduated from Lesley University in 2018. She previously worked for the Federal Defenders of New York on federal criminal cases. She is a Cambridge native and is passionate about public service and going for runs when the weather’s nice. This fall she will be a part-time student at Lesley University for her Masters in Social Work. Karina came to VLP this summer of 2021 as our newest Bilingual Paralegal in the Housing and Appeals units.
Ruby Carlon graduated from Brandeis University in 2020 and joined VLP after working as a housing law paralegal. Ruby is originally from San Diego, CA, and loves to be outdoors when she gets the chance. Ruby came to VLP in 2021 as our newest Family Law and Guardianship Paralegal.
Yesenia is a life-long Bostonian and she received her Associates in Criminal Justice from Bay State College. Yesenia recently graduated from Drexel University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and started working at VLP in November 2020.
Tara comes to VLP from a law firm in New York where she worked as a paralegal in family law assisting their attorneys in the initial intake, performing legal research, and drafting various pleadings. She graduated from New York University with a BS in Finance and BA in Government and Politics.
Edo joined VLP as a Temporary Marketing & Communications Coordinator for the Covid Eviction Legal Help Project (CELHP) in March 2021. She graduated from The Fashion Institute of Technology and co-founded a jewelry brand that focuses on preserving her native Khmer arts and culture. She is looking to give back and help make a difference for underserved communities and to help those most affected by the pandemic.
Alana is a Staff Attorney at VLP where she practices in the areas of housing and employment law. Before joining VLP, Alana was a Fellow in the Employment Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services and a Law Clerk for the Rhode Island Superior Court. Alana is a graduate of Simmons University and Boston College Law School.
Stefanie joined VLP as an AmeriCorps Legal Advocate in September 2020. Prior to joining VLP, she was the Massachusetts Regional Manager at the Petey Greene Program, a nonprofit organization that supports the academic achievement of incarcerated people through tutoring. Stefanie is excited to learn about civil law during her time at VLP and to promote access to justice for clients. She is a graduate of Boston University.
Geraldine Gruvis-Pizarro has been a legal services attorney for seven (7) years with a focus on family law matters and is the Supervising Attorney for the Family Law and Guardianship Unit at VLP. Geraldine is also the Language Chairperson at VLP and represents the agency at the statewide Language Access Coalition and the Race and Equity Coalition. Prior to VLP, Geraldine worked in immigration law, housing, and disability law in addition to her work with family law and victims of domestic violence.
Colin has been a Staff Attorney at VLP in the Consumer and Housing Units since August of 2018. His practice focuses on debt collection, eviction defense, and affirmative consumer litigation. Colin graduated from Suffolk University Law School in 2016, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Suffolk Transnational Law Review. His first two years of law practice were with AmeriCorps Legal Advocates of Massachusetts, where he served at Rosie’s Place and Greater Boston Legal Services.
Wendy Kent has been VLP’s Receptionist and Administrative Assistant since late fall of 2019. She graduated from Longy School of Music in 2018 with her MM in Vocal Performance and also holds a BA in Music from Westmont College. In her spare time; Wendy can be found singing, reading, and sharing pictures of her puppy Charlie.
Ilene earned a JD from Cleveland State University Marshall School of Law and a Bachelor’s degree from Queens College in New York. She was a Clinical Law Professor at New England Law Boston for 31 years, teaching and mentoring law students in their in-house civil litigation clinic. Ilene has extensive experience in public interest law, family law, social security disability law, and health law. She has done a lot of volunteer work with her students at the Lawyer for the Day Program, the Court Services Center, VLP, Saheli Boston and mentored new attorneys through the Women’s Bar Foundation. Additionally, Ilene developed a course in Elder Law and taught an Elder Law Seminar at New England Law/Boston for over 20 years.
Attorney Katie Lambing graduated from Boston University School of Law in 2015. She previously worked as an attorney through the AmeriCorps Legal Advocates of Massachusetts program, and at the Rian Immigrant Center. She came to VLP in 2021 to join the COVID Eviction Legal Help Project.
Sarah H. Lee is a Staff Attorney at VLP, practicing family and housing law. She also oversees the 209A Project. Prior to VLP, she worked in family law (representing domestic violence survivors), restraining order cases, post-foreclosure summary process defense, child welfare law, immigration, and consumer law. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and Wellesley College.
Nancy is excited to be part of the VLP and ERLI Family as a Bilingual Intake Specialist. She is passionate about serving and empowering individuals, which is her favorite part of her role. A few more of Nancy’s favorite things are puppies, bunnies, and ballet.
Elizabeth joins VLP as a Temporary Staff Attorney in Unemployment and Wage & Hour. She earned her JD from Northeastern University School of Law and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Oberlin College in Ohio. Elizabeth has many years of experience representing clients and working on employment and wage and hour cases as an attorney in the Law Offices of Paul Merry, Insurance Recovery Group, and her own law practice, Mason Law.
Meagan McKinstry joined VLP as a long-term temporary Staff Attorney in November 2020. As part of the COVID Eviction Legal Help initiative, she represents tenants who are facing eviction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meagan previously interned in the Housing and Family units at VLP while studying at Northeastern University School of Law. She grew up in St. Louis, MO and earned a Sociology degree from Grinnell College in Grinnell, IA.
Cristian comes to VLP from Texas, where he received his bachelor’s in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Psychology at the University of Houston. Cristian started with VLP in 2021 as CELHP’s newest Bilingual Paralegal.
Karla joined VLP as a Legal Advocate in the fall of 2019 after working with the Mental Health Advisory Committee over the summer. Karla comes to us all the way from Oaxaca, Mexico and she earned her BA in Criminal Justice & Criminology (as well as her double-minor in Psychology and Anthropology) from UMass Boston. Her favorite thing about working at VLP is that she gets to help people in need.
Chris initially joined VLP as a Legal Advocate in late 2017. He is a Boston native and he holds a BA in Sociology from the Catholic University of America and a certificate in Paralegal Studies from Boston University. His favorite part about managing the ERLI intake program is that he gets to work closely with an amazing team at the call center ERLI; where they provide the highest quality of information, referrals, and advice to our clients.
Attorney Denise Presley graduated from Vermont Law School in 2001 and has worked in virtually all areas of real estate and land use law for over 20 years. She first worked for VLP from 2002 – 2005 as a staff attorney in its Housing Division. In 2021, Denise returned to VLP as part of the CELPH unit where she will help tenants navigate the federal and state Covid assistance programs designed to avoid homelessness.
Danelia Ramirez Aguilar graduated from the University of Massachusetts Lowell with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Sociology. She is a proud first-generation student who values community service and education. Danelia also founded the 14 Stars Foundation, which seeks to help kindergarteners in Honduras who are the first in their families to attend school. In joining VLP, Danelia is excited to learn, grow and work alongside the dedicated members of the VLP Family!
Claudia Rivera-Gruvis joined VLP as a Legal Advocate in the summer of 2019. She works at our call center where she provides legal advice and information to clients seeking help with Housing, Family Law, domestic violence and protective orders, and much more. Claudia graduated from Clark University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Claudia also loves to travel and aspires to visit all seven continents at least once in her lifetime.
Steve Russo is a VLP Staff Attorney. He has over 19 years of experience in the delivery of intake, advice, and referral services to legal services programs and over 21 years of experience as a legal services and private practice attorney. Steve has been a panelist on several continuing legal education and community trainings and has also served as a moderator for the CORI section of Massleglaservices.org. His prior experience includes immigration, family, and criminal records sealing. Steve is also fluent in Spanish. Steve is currently assigned to the DotHouse and Wills Units, and he also is a member of the SJC Standing Committee on Pro Bono Services.
Aidelena worked as a case manager/housing specialist for eight years at Pine Street Inn and Vinfen corps, where she helped clients navigate housing issues. She is excited to work with VLP, mainly because the pandemic has disenfranchised so many people, and Aidelena wants to provide as much support as possible to those in need.
Yewellyn comes to VLP from MIRA Coalition, where she served as an AmeriCorps member. As an AmeriCorps member, Yewellyn assisted clients with naturalization forms, green card renewals, and other immigration forms, as well as conducting outreach, preparing materials, and registering clients for clinics. She has also worked as a Spanish interpreter and has a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages. Yewellyn graduated from Suffolk University with a BS in Communications and Journalism is eager to continue learning about the intersectionality of journalism and the legal field.
Sydney Thomas joined VLP as the Economic Fairness Project Coordinator in the Spring of 2021. Sydney graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 2020 where she studied Political Science and Social Policy and then worked at Boston Centers for Youth and Family before coming to VLP.
Marisa Vidal joined the Volunteer Lawyers Project in the Spring of 2019. Marisa has a wide variety of interests including Leadership Development; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging; Wellness; and Diplomacy. Her favorite part of being an Administrative Coordinator at VLP is that her work enables her colleagues to better help their clients.
Ilana Zeltser joined Volunteer Lawyers Project in April 2019. Ilana earned a BS in Business Management and an MBA from the University of Hartford. Before joining VLP, Ilana spent six (6) years working in higher education.