Neva D. Strom is a Solo Trusts & Estates attorney in Manhattan, where she was born. Neva’s legal career is the result of many life experiences and has not been a linear path. After graduation from Hollins College majoring in piano performance, Neva lived in Vienna, Austria, then in NYC working as a Trusts and Gifts Administrator for a major national religious charity for several years. This exposed her to the legal field and uncovered her love for Trusts and Estates. When the charity left NY, Neva pursued her love for the law by entering New York Law School’s accelerated Mid-Year program, graduating in 2.5 years on the Dean’s List.
At NYLS her volunteerism included serving as President of a student Legal Society with a diverse identification, building a coalition with other similar clubs to successfully ensure their continued ability to mandate leadership to members of that protected identity, an early expression of her efforts to support Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She combined service and experience when she served as a judicial intern to then-Surrogate Lee L. Holzman in the Bronx Surrogate’s Court twice, and in the Estate Tax division of the IRS. While awaiting admission to the NY Bar in the 1st Department, she wrote and edited two years of the annual updates of “The Federal Tax Valuation Digest” giving her insight into issues such as the valuation process of assets including businesses (up to 30 factors), and elder fraud.
Neva opened her solo practice “Version 1.0” upon licensure with clients waiting in the wings, serving both international and domestic individual clients as fiduciaries in New York estates, as well as doing estate planning. She took a career gap to meet the demands of childrearing (2) and elder care (4) (she calls them her “Bedsides & Bedrails” years), and began her re-entry into practice several years ago by reopening her solo practice all over again (“Version 2.0”) from scratch. Her exposure to multiple Elder Fraud/Financial Abuse/Inheritance Theft situations over the last 10 years has created her desire to pivot and focus her practice on representing these victims as they seek to restore the rightful ownership of assets through Surrogate’s Court representation. The Corona pandemic and its necessary seclusions over the last two years have only underscored for her how much she appreciates and prefers to work with others on a team, as she continues to serve clients individually.
Neva is a member of the T&E, Elder & Special Needs, and Women in Law Sections of NYSBA. She finds active participation in the Listservs an essential part of her ongoing education as well as a valued opportunity to create relationships with colleagues across the state as well as beyond its borders
Peter De Vries is a Brooklyn based attorney with over fifteen years of experience as a general practitioner. Practicing throughout New York City, he provides accessible services for a wide range of legal matters.
Prior to opening his own firm, he worked as a public defender in Phoenix, Arizona, a provider of legal and business solutions to street vendors in Manhattan, and as an associate for other Brooklyn-based law firms. He maintains a working relationship with the Brooklyn Volunteer Lawyers Project, providing divorce, bankruptcy, and guardianship services to those in need, with an emphasis on Spanish-speaking clients.
Jessica Hugabone Vinson, Esq. is a Managing Partner at Vella, Carbone & Associates, LLP. Jessica graduated from Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts, with a Bachelors Degree in political science, and received her J.D. from Albany Law School. Jessica has extensive legal experience having worked in private practice in the fields of matrimonial and family law, assisting spouses, parents, grandparents and others in navigating their proceedings in the various courts. Jessica is a certified divorce mediator and works with the spouses to reach a fair and sound agreement that meets both spouses’ needs. Jessica is also appointed as an Attorney for the Child in Saratoga and Warren Counties, advocating for children’s rights.
Jessica is actively involved in the community, currently serving on the Tri-County Literacy Center Board of Trustees as Vice Chair, the Wiawaka Center for Women Board of Trustees as Secretary, and the SUNY Adirondack Foundation Board. Jessica is also a member of the New York State Bar, Warren County Bar Association, and the Adirondack Women’s Bar Association, as well as a member of the Soroptimist of the Adirondacks. Jessica provides pro-bono services through the Private Attorney Involvement Program of the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York and was the director and founder of the Legal Clinic to Aid Survivors of Domestic Violence in Glens Falls, New York. Jessica has received numerous awards in connection with her pro bono service and assistance to survivors of the domestic violence, including the Distinguished Service Award from the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York in 2021, the Angelo T. Cometa Award from the New York State Bar Association in 2016, the Crime Victim Rights Award from the Domestic Violence Project in 2016, the President’s Pro Bono Service Awards from the New York State Bar Association in 2014, and the Post Star’s 20 Under 40 Award in 2014. Jessica has also been named a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyer Magazine for years 2017 through 2021.
Scott was raised in Cambridge, New York, and is a lifelong resident of the Capital Region. He received his B.A. from Hamilton College and his J.D. from the University at Buffalo where he graduated magna cum laude and was Managing Editor of the Buffalo Law Review. Following law school, Scott served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a Judge Advocate. He returned home after his military service and joined O’Connell & Aronowitz where he became a partner. Scott was with O&A until July 2021 when he left to start his own practice in Saratoga Springs where he represents individuals and companies in government investigations and against criminal charges in state in federal court.
Scott is a member of the Board of Directors for the Saratoga County Bar Association where he coordinates the Bar Association’s Veterans Affairs Committee and its pro bono veteran clinic. Scott is also on the Board of Directors for the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Scott previously served for several years as a member of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce’s Veterans Business Council.
Erika Hooker, an attorney with Bousquet Holstein PLLC, volunteers with the Volunteer Lawyers Project of Onondaga County’s free legal clinics at Landlord Tenant Court and Surrogate’s Court. In Landlord Tenant Court, Erika represents and defends low-income tenants facing eviction in order to find the best possible solution for each situation. Erika also maintains and organizes weekly volunteer attorneys from her firm to assist VLP in its pro bono representation in Landlord Tenant Court. In Surrogate’s Court, Erika advises and guides pro bono clients in matters of estate administration and legal guardianships and assists individuals who cannot otherwise afford an attorney in filing the correct documents for these matters.
Robert H. Wedlake is a partner of Hinman, Howard & Kattell, LLP and is a member of the firm’s Real Estate Department.
Rob represents clients in all real estate related matters including both commercial real estate and residential real estate, representing both sellers and buyers. Rob also represents landowners relating to energy matters including solar energy matters, wind energy matters and natural gas energy matters. In the past, Rob has had extensive experience with respect to representing landowners in natural gas matters.
In addition, Rob represents business clients in the Southern Tier with respect to sales and acquisitions of business, formation of businesses, commercial leasing, and related matters. Rob also practices in Estate Planning and Estate Administration. Rob is a skilled litigator who represents clients in corporate, real estate, and commercial litigation before New York courts and administrative agencies. Rob has handled many real estate litigation matters including adverse possession, boundary disputes, quiet title actions and other real estate litigation matters. Rob also practices Landlord Tenant Law throughout the Southern Tier area.
Rob is former chair of the Broome County YMCA board of directors and former chair of the Broome County American Red Cross. He is also former president of the Broome County Bar Association, and a former member of the Chenango Forks School District’s Dollars for Scholars Organization.
Educated at Colgate University (BA, summa cum laude, 1989), Columbia University (MA 1992) and the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law (JD, summa cum laude, 1995), Charles (“Chip”) Grieco has been practicing law in Buffalo New York for over 25 years, developing a broad-based practice including environmental litigation and compliance, land use planning, development and litigation, environmental review compliance, all aspects of municipal law and alcoholic beverage licensing. He has long been recognized as a leading practitioner in these areas, including listing in Chambers USA (Upstate New York) for Environmental Law (2021) and repeat listing among New York Super Lawyers and Legal Elite of WNY. Community service has also been a hallmark of Mr. Grieco’s career, and he has served on numerous community boards and commissions., including the City of Buffalo Environmental Management Commission, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the Western New York Book Arts Center and City Honors Crew, Inc. In addition to these volunteer activities, he also enjoys his role as a volunteer coach for the Buffalo Ski Center Alpine Racing Team and City Honors Crew.
I am a graduate of Emory University and Harvard Law School. After a brief stint as a corporate lawyer at Proskauer Rose, I spent thirteen years practicing entertainment law at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, five of those years as a partner of the firm. I stepped away from the practice of law upon the birth of my twins, now twenty years old, and turned my attention to raising my children and volunteering in the community. When the Pace Women’s Justice Center opened a Walk-In Clinic in 2017 to serve victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and elder abuse, I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer my services as a pro bono attorney there. Volunteering at the Walk-In Clinic has been the most gratifying experience of my professional life. I am privileged to work alongside wonderful colleagues while simultaneously assisting an underserved population, and I am truly honored to receive this award.
Mr. Buchanan grew up in Portugal; his father was a stationed in the Azores. Following service in the U.S. Army, Mr. Buchanan attended SUNY Downstate University and became a registered nurse. His involvement in labor relations and risk management in that career sparked an interest in law. In 1995 he graduated from St. John’s University School of Law and was admitted to the New York State Bar and the US District Courts for the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York. Mr. Buchanan enjoyed a twenty-five-year career in corporate compliance and human resources at NY Presbyterian Hospital before his retirement. He has continued to maintain a small practice specializing in advising clients in Employment and Labor Relations matters.
Mr. Buchanan decided that when he retired in 2017 from full-time work, it was the perfect time to garner experience in the courtroom while helping those less fortunate. He pursued volunteer opportunities through the NCBA, which led him to the VLP Attorney of the Day Project. There he was given training materials, and the opportunity to work under the direct oversight of Roberta Scoll and her team of experienced volunteer Landlord Tenant attorneys.
“The structured environment of the Attorney of the Day Project was an excellent place for me to develop my litigation skills, and I am grateful for the chance to shadow and gain steady feedback from the other volunteers,” states Mr. Buchanan. “Working on a pro bono basis allows me to focus purely on the goal of helping a client get the best deal possible and avoid being put out on the street. It is truly rewarding to roll up my sleeves and deal with the essence of peoples’ basic needs. VLP provides the guidance and support I need to do this.” During his time working with VLP he has represented over five hundred clients facing eviction
Mr. Buchanan also volunteers with the Pro Bono Partnership assisting small Non-Profit Companies with their Employment issues He is an active board member for several Non-Profit companies. During the earlier days of the pandemic, he volunteered to administered Covid Vaccinations for South Nassau Community Hospital. He administered almost 10,000 shots. He enjoys sailing, bicycle riding, travel and spending time with his wife, grown children, and young grandchildren. In 2022 he is looking forward to getting back to traveling.
Ms. Alberty began her pro bono service for the Queens Volunteer Lawyers Project (QVLP) in 2002. She already had an admirable record of pro bono service and was recognized in 2003 when she received a Small Firm Practitioner Award from InMotion, a legal assistance program for women, for representing victims of domestic violence in divorce, custody and order of protection cases. Although we were happy to have another volunteer lawyer for our program, we had no way of knowing just how lucky we were.
Ms. Alberty’s path to the law was a long and arduous one. She was born in Havana, Cuba in 1945 and came to the U.S. in 1961 and began working full time as soon as she arrived. She got her high school diploma, a bachelors degree from Queens College and an A.A.S. from NYU all by attending at night while working full time. At the age of 42 she began law school in the evening and received her J.D. from New York Law School. After working for firms in intellectual property law and personal injury law she struck out on her own. Her solo practice now includes work in family law, bankruptcy, real estate and probate/small estate cases.
Initially Ms. Alberty volunteered to help with pro bono cases in Family Court, divorces and bankruptcy for QVLP. What has characterized her service to our program has not only been her consistently stepping forward and volunteering for potentially difficult pro bono cases but her level of interest in improving our program which immediately became evident. In addition, she has helped us to fine tune our practices over the years and which has improved the efficiency of our service to the community. She doesn’t just want to help a little. If she’s going to be involved she wants to do it right and she expects the same from everyone else working in the program. Ms. Alberty has distinguished herself through this concern but also has been someone we could go to over the years when we were in a pinch on a difficult case. It must also be added, that she is also a person of great humility. It took an inordinate amount of arm twisting to get her to agree to be nominated for this award.
She has remarked; “Doing pro-bono work is my favorite kind of work. There is nothing as satisfying as helping someone who needs legal assistance that they can’t afford.”
I am a graduate of Fordham University School of Law. I received the Arthur Murray Award for 1000 pro bono hours during law school. As a legal intern with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, I worked closely with attorneys and tenant organizers to advocate for groups of tenants against abusive landlords in Bedford-Stuyvesant. In the Legislative & Policy Advocacy Clinic, I helped draft legislation to extend New York State sexual harassment protections to nontraditional workers. I also helped design an extralegal program based on the Fair Food Program aimed at holding nontraditional employers accountable for sexual harassment and other poor work conditions in the modeling industry. As a student and subsequently a legal fellow in the Immigrant Rights Clinic, I completed two ultimately successful petitions for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SJIS) for two minors from El Salvador, as well as assisted on a petition for asylum, a U-visa and an application to remove the condition on a conditional residency. I interviewed young children and victims of abuse and persecution from all over the world. Since relocating to Rochester, New York, I have been working pro bono with JustCause in the Tenant Defense Project connecting clients with resources and delaying or preventing evictions throughout Monroe County. I have also taken pro bono immigration cases assisting with Adjustment of Status applications and Temporary Protective Status applications for clients from Mexico, Venezuela, Afghanistan and Haiti.
Honorable Vera R. Johnson is a former Supervising Administrative Law Judge for the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. Since retiring from state service she has handled a variety of legal matters on a pro bono basis throughout the upstate of New York for the Rural Law Center, LawNY and the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York.
Notably during the COVID-19 pandemic, she frequently appeared, (in person and virtually) in the cities of Troy and Albany as a volunteer in the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York’s Attorney for the Day Program representing low income individuals and families.
Alex Hyken is a second-year law student at Brooklyn Law School who is pursuing a law degree to advocate against systems that foster gender-based violence and to promote access to fundamental rights. She has worked with the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project in consumer debt protection and family law and with Brooklyn Law School’s Safe Harbor Clinic in immigration. She volunteers with If/When/How, and this summer, Alex will be interning with Advocates for Justice, focusing on issues related to public school education, employment discrimination, and more.
Steeped in a pro bono tradition, the law firm of O’Connell and Aronowitz has a history of generosity to the local community that dates back to its founding partner, Sam Aronowitz. Mr. Aronowitz forged partnerships with local banks to offer low interest, no-cost home mortgage loans to low-income Capital Region families with O’Connell and Aronowitz providing free closing services. Countless families benefited from the program over its 30-year course. More than 90 years later, our firm proudly continues its commitment to providing Pro Bono legal services. We are proud of our long-term relationships with local organizations including The Legal Project of the Capital District Women’s Bar Association and The Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, whose missions coincide with our Firm’s commitment to strengthen our community. In the last ten years, our attorneys have performed over 5,000 hours of pro bono work that has benefitted individuals and businesses while protecting civil rights and liberties.
The Immigration Law Society (“ILS”), a student organization at Albany Law School, was founded in the past year by students looking to get more engaged with immigration issues locally, nationally, and transnationally.
The United States withdrew from Afghanistan and the refugee and immigrant crisis arising therefrom became an increasing concern. The ILS and the Justice Center at Albany Law School’s Immigration Law Clinic reached out to the Albany United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (“USCRI”) office to see if the ILS could be of help. USCRI indicated that they had an enormous backlog of calls to return and intakes to complete, as people from the community were frantically calling to see if USCRI could help get their families out of Afghanistan. From that moment forward the ILS set out to clear the backlog of intakes. Their project became known as the Afghan Intake Project (“AIP”).
The ILS recruited and trained over forty law students, consisting of an incredibly diverse group of people. Of those forty, twenty-seven volunteered. Calls were conducted four hours each week, over the course of two semesters. From the start it was clear that self-care would be needed. Therefore, volunteers met both before and after each shift to decompress and check in on mental health. Total hours volunteered at the AIP, excluding work required outside volunteer shifts, amounted to over 220. The total intakes they completed number 168, with over 240 people reached. ILS members have also volunteered dozens of hours at local humanitarian parole clinics, in downtown Albany, New York, to assist USCRI with intakes for those who made it out of Afghanistan; screening humanitarian parolees and their families for potential immigration relief.
The ILS at Albany Law School has done a tremendous job at working for the betterment of immigrants, their community, and the legal profession by way of pro bono projects, community engagement, and trauma-informed lawyering. They are proud of their work, but recognize it is a drop in the immense bucket which must be filled to effectuate more positive and long-lasting systemic change.
Barry McFadden is a 1990 graduate of the University of Buffalo, School of Law. He has been an Assistant County Attorney for the Ontario County Attorney’s Office in Canandaigua, N.Y. for 31 years. His primary focus has been providing legal advice and representation in human services related law. Over the course of his career, he assisted the Ontario County Department of Social Services with child protective proceedings, actions to free children for adoption, adult protective cases, and petitions for support for children on public assistance. Barry presents juvenile delinquency petitions in Family Court, trains and provides legal guidance to police investigators and probation officers, helped create the Ontario County Youth Court and Juvenile Drug Treatment Court, and serves on various committees and advisory boards seeking to improve services to youth. He prefers practical resolution of problems and collaborates with service providers, the court, and fellow attorneys to address challenges frequently presented by legislative changes. Barry is an Eagle Scout, Troop Committee Member, and Merit Badge Counselor for Troop 32 in Canandaigua, N.Y. He is the President of the Gorham Cemetery Association. Barry has been married to his patient wife Amy Szewc-McFadden for nearly 30 years and is the proud father of Patrick and Rachel. Barry enjoys self-deprecating humor and is a regularly devastated fan of the Buffalo Bills and Sabres.