Board of Directors

Tali Albukerk, President

Tali Albukerk is a Staff Attorney/Pro Bono Projects Manager at the American Bar Association where she is the national administrator of ABA Free Legal Answers for the Center for Pro Bono and also supports the Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel. During her career, she has worked for several Chicago law firms focusing on federal civil rights litigation, specifically addressing police misconduct claims. Tali became involved with PBN shortly after it began, participating in all PBN projects, managing its senior projects and joining the board in 2013.  Tali has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. She lives in Oak Park with her husband and two daughters.

Jennifer Valentine, Vice President

Jennifer started her own freelance consulting business, Write Words, helping nonprofits with grant funding research and proposals. Previously, she worked as an assistant general counsel for the City Colleges of Chicago, handling all its employment defense, tort liability, and premises liability litigation, as well as its workers comp, insurance and risk management related matters. Jennifer started volunteering with Pro Bono Network in the fall of 2015 by writing grant funding proposals and working at the telephone counseling project. She joined the Board in July 2016, bringing her fundraising advancement skills to our table. Jennifer has four young children: triplets plus their big brother. She earned both her B.A. in government and her J.D. from the University of Notre Dame.  

Shari Schinder, Treasurer

Shari has been involved with PBN since its inception.  She was the bookkeeper for several years, before stepping up to the Treasurer role. Shari is the supervisor of an elite group of forensic accountants within the Internal Revenue Service, who work criminal income tax investigations with the US Attorney’s Office and other federal law enforcement agencies.  Prior, she was a revenue agent for 24 years, working in the Special Enforcement Program of the Small Business Self-Employed division. She is a Certified Professional Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner.  Shari has been a guest speaker at financial continuing education seminars including the IL CPA Society, DePaul Law School, FBI, and HHS. She has travelled the globe to assist the US Department of Justice and USAID, participating in Money Laundering and Political Corruption Seminars in Indonesia, Bosnia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Christy Chapman, Secretary

Christy Chapman joined PBN in the fall of 2011, jumping headfirst into several of the Network’s original projects.  She started her law career clerking for a federal bankruptcy judge in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  After completing her clerkship, she joined the Workout, Bankruptcy & Business Reorganization group at Mayer Brown, and then spent several years in the Law Department at JPMorgan Chase, serving as Vice President and Assistant General Counsel.  In addition to her work on the Board, Christy has served as PBN’s project manager for the Lawyers in the Classroom program and is currently PBN’s project manager for the Visas for Crime Victims program.  She is also a Staff Attorney at CARPLS, a legal aid service provider.  She has a B.A. in Political Science and Criminal Justice from Western Michigan University, and a J.D. from Valparaiso University School of Law.      

Deb Abrahamson

Deb Abrahamson recently retired from the Oak Park Education Foundation (OPEF) after nearly 20 years, including 10 years as its first Executive Director.  She grew the nonprofit's revenue tenfold, tripling its programming and creating a thriving summer camp. In addition to serving on the Pro Bono Network board, Deb is president of the Maywood Fine Arts board of directors and Chair of Women in Philanthropy, a giving group of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation. She is also a Career Coach with the Posse Foundation. Deb attended Cornell University and earned a B.A. in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as a Certificate of Nonprofit Management from the University of Chicago. She and her husband live in Oak Park where they raised their two children.

Shama Ahmed

As a former Assistant Public Guardian, Shama represented abused and neglected children in juvenile court; she advocated for her child clients through all phases of their case, as well as outside of the courtroom through mediations and interdisciplinary staffings. Previously, she served as staff attorney/court coordinator for the Honorable Maxwell Griffin, Jr., in Juvenile Court before working at Lehrer and Redleaf where she represented parents indicated of abuse or neglect in their administrative hearings with the Department of Children and Family Services. She authored a chapter entitled "Children in a Family Court Mediation Program" in the book, A Guide for Courts, Mediating Conflicts Involving Children and Families. In addition to legal endeavors, she served on the board of the Downtown Islamic Center. Shama graduated from the University of Toledo with a B.A. in Psychology and Ohio State University Moritz College of Law with the recognition of "Public Service Fellow" and a certificate in dispute resolution. She has 4 young children.

Andrea Belard

Andrea Belard is a Staff Attorney for the Safety and Families Program at the Legal Aid Society (LAS), the legal advocacy arm of Metropolitan Family Services in Chicago. Andrea provides legal advice and representation in family law matters to survivors of domestic violence seeking an order of protection and/or a dissolution of marriage.  Prior to joining LAS, Andrea worked at a small private practice where she focused on complex divorce and custody matters.  Andrea received her B.A. in Business Administration from Northeastern Illinois University and her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law, where she also received a certificate in family law. Andrea is the current Treasurer for the Hispanic Lawyers Association of Illinois (HLAI) and President of HLAI Charities. She serves as a member of the advisory board to the DePaul’s Schiller DuCanto & Fleck Family Law Center.

Marisa Green

Marisa Green joined PBN in the fall of 2015. She started by volunteering on various projects including Senior Legal Clinics, Orders of Protection, and Lawyers in the Classroom. In the fall of 2016, she became Project Manager for Senior Legal Clinics and Senior Center Initiatives, where she manages several monthly clinics which provide legal service intakes for low-income seniors and disabled individuals. She started her law career practicing litigation at two Chicago law firms, Bollinger, Ruberry & Garvey and DLA Piper. She spent seven years in an active litigation practice working on commercial litigation matters and performing medical malpractice and product liability defense work. She has a B.A. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. She lives in River Forest with her husband and two teenage children.

Jay Harris

Jay Harris is President and Managing Member of InfinityBox, LLC, an electronics manufacturing company based in Elk Grove Village.  Before becoming an entrepreneur, he worked at Littlefuse, where he served in a variety of roles in production, operations, product development, and senior management.  He holds a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue, and a Master's degree in Engineering Management from Northwestern.  He is active in the St. Giles Catholic Church, where he serves in leadership roles of the Men's Society.  He also serves on the leadership team for St. Ignatius Business Society.  He and his family live in the near-western suburbs. 

Laura Kaufman

Laura Kaufman has run foundations and non-profit organizations for 30+ years. She is the President and Principal Consultant of Partners in Effective Philanthropy. Using an assets based approach, the firm helps nonprofits craft effective strategies for raising the funds they need, developing key leaders and creating the change they desire. Since opening in 2008, Partners in Effective Philanthropy has worked with over 80 local, national, and international non-profit organizations. Previously, Laura was the Executive Director of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Chicago. Laura has also served as Executive Director of the Boston Women’s Fund and Northwest Action Against Rape, Development Director at Women, Inc., and as Program Director with the Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women.
 

Simrit Patel

Bio coming soon.

Donna Peel

Donna Peel developed PBN's working model after spending too much time commuting as a volunteer attorney while raising her two children. She has been directing the organization ever since.  Previous to PBN's inception and time at home with her children, Donna was an antitrust attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. While at DOJ, she served as U.S. Advisor to South Africa's Competition Commission, an Advisor to the President at the White House, and a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney at the Eastern District of Virginia.  She holds a law degree from Washington University School of Law and an economics degree from Michigan State University.  

Robin Spencer

Robin Spencer is an experienced litigator who recently retired from her 20-year commercial practice to pursue pro bono work in under-served communities. Previously, she was a partner in an AmLaw 200 law firm, concentrating in complex commercial litigation, including franchise and distribution matters. For many years Robin was an associate editor and author for the American Bar Association Franchise Law Journal, and also served on the Steering Committee of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Division of the American Bar Association Forum on Franchising and on the Franchising Forum’s Publications and Technology Committees. She is a frequent speaker and writer on franchise, distribution and litigation issues, and has served for several years as a faculty member for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. She has been selected as an Illinois Super Lawyer, a “Leading Lawyer” in Franchise and Dealership Law, and for Who’s Who in Franchise Law. She earned her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1994.

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Alumni

Sarah Arnett

Sarah Arnett is a freelance business valuation consultant. Sarah has held positions at Price Waterhouse and Deloitte and Touche. Most recently, Sarah was employed as a business valuation senior associate at Evergreen Advisors.  Sarah received her degree from the University of Oregon, and completed the Chartered Financial Analyst program in 2002.  She is a resident of Oak Park, an active community volunteer, and mother of two children.

Mara Block

Mara Block joined Orenstein and Associates in 2015.  Before joining the firm, she was an attorney at LAF, the largest provider of free civil legal services to low income individuals in Cook County. Mara started as a general litigator, representing clients in matters of domestic violence, consumer fraud, unemployment insurance benefits and subsidized housing eviction defense.  As Director of Volunteer Services, she oversaw all of LAF's pro bono efforts including project development, volunteer recruitment and training, and corporate relations. Mara received her undergraduate degree from Emory University, and her law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Ruth Masters

Ruth Masters has her own solo practice focusing on appellate work.  A graduate from the University of Chicago Law School, where she served as associate editor of the University of Chicago Legal Forum, she clerked for the Honorable Charles Levin on the Michigan Supreme Court before working for several years at Latham & Watkins, before joining the City of Chicago Corporation Counsel’s appeals division as well as working for their Torts Division.  Her interest in pro bono work started years before the Pro Bono Network, volunteering for the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services.  Ruth became involved with PBN shortly after we began, participating in a number of our projects and joining the board in 2014.  

Julie Renehan

Julie Renehan became involved with PBN in the fall of 2015 working with the Incarcerated Womens’ Clinic and the Legal Aid Society Simple Divorce project, which she managed in 2016.  Previously, she worked in private practice, providing representation in family law, corporate contract negotiation and employment law.  She holds a SHRM certificate in Human Resources Management and is a member of the DuPage County Bar Association.  Julie has volunteered with Junior League, Hinsdale Jr. Womens’ Club, Hinsdale Village Caucus, ABA Veterans Claims Assistance Network, and she serves as a DuPage County Precinct Committeeman.  Julie received her B.A. in English Literature and French Language/Literature from Vanderbilt University and a J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis.

Suzanne Ritzler

Suzanne Ritzler is Of Counsel at Thompsom Coburn LLC and practices corporate law, advising clients on a range of contractual issues.  During her career, she has worked for several Chicago law firms, as well as serving as General Counsel for a North American mining firm.  Suzanne has a B.S. in Accountancy with Highest Honors from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, and an M.L.I.S. from Dominican University.  Suzanne is also a Certified Public Accountant.  She lives in Oak Park with her husband and son.

Gloria Schwartz

A former computer software executive, Gloria has held technical, sales, consulting and management positions with United Airlines, Cullinet Software, Price Waterhouse, Informix and Active Software. She was also one of the founders of Software Architects and Soma Consulting.  After leaving the software industry, Gloria enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Chicago.  She also sits on the Board of Advisors at Catholic Charities. Gloria is currently chairing the PBN Board Development Committee.  

Stoja Zjalic

Stoja helped develop and manage judicial technical assistance and legal reform programs for the American Bar Association’s pro bono Rule of Law Initiative.  She has assisted various Canadian nonprofits to successfully navigate organizational and legal challenges, and advocated for the reform of Canadian nonprofit law. She also served as a Board Member with The Women’s Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor, a registered Canadian charity, helping with employment training of disadvantaged visible minority women.  Stoja holds a Law Degree from University of Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and an MA in Political Science and International Relations from University of Windsor, Ontario. 

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