Our Team

Directors

Sara Tennen, Esq., MSW, Executive Director

Sara Tennen oversees the entire programmatic, operations, and development functions of DCVLP, ensuring ongoing programmatic excellence, rigorous evaluation, and consistent quality of finance and administration, fundraising, and communications. She leads strategic outreach to law firms and community partners, and works with our Director of Development to oversee fundraising efforts. She started her legal career as a prosecutor with Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Arizona, where she prosecuted sex crimes against children. Sara later practiced family law in Arizona, Maryland, and the District. Sara has served as a court appointed guardian ad litem on behalf of numerous children in DC Superior Court. Ms. Tennen serves on the Superior Court Domestic Relations Branch Subcommittee and was a member of the Best Practices in Child Testimony Task Force, alongside other legal services providers and Superior Court Judges. She has extensive litigation experience questioning experts, dealing with foundational issues in trial, and interviewing children, both inside and outside the courtroom. Ms. Tennen, a trained mediator and forensic interviewer, earned a law degree and a Master’s degree in Social Work from Case Western Reserve University and a B.A. in Psychology and Women’s Studies from the University of Rochester.

Rebecca Simpson, Esq., Legal Director

Rebecca Simpson oversees DCVLP’s legal team, including the Child Advocacy and Domestic Violence practices. She leads volunteer recruiting and training in both programs and manages our client referral and case assignment processes. She also supervises volunteer attorneys serving as court-appointed guardians ad litem and representing domestic violence survivors in custody and divorce matters. Previously she served as a volunteer with DCVLP and received the Volunteer of the Year award in 2016. Prior to joining us Rebecca practiced as a court-appointed guardian ad litem for children in Fairfax County, Virginia, where she also served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused and neglected children. She spent eight years working in private practice, including at a small real estate firm in Virginia and at Arnold & Porter (now Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholler, LLP.) Rebecca began her career as a judicial clerk on the Supreme Court of Minnesota; she earned a J.D. from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. from the University of Delaware.

Brian Yourish, Director of Operations

Brian oversees DCVLP’s administration, finances, and human resources. He also plays a role in grants management and event planning. Previously, Brian was Constitutional Accountability Center’s Office Manager, where he was responsible for daily office operations, including office management, technology support, human resources, and vendor relations. Prior to joining CAC, Brian was the Office Manager at The Constitution Project. Brian also worked as the Legal Assistant with the American Immigration Council’s Legal Action Center in Washington, D.C. Prior to that, Brian was the Climate Change Program Administrator at the Vancouver, Canada-based David Suzuki Foundation. Brian received his B.A. in English from the University of Maryland.

Program Attorneys

Victoria Lynch-Draper, Esq., Managing Attorney

Victoria Lynch-Draper supervises volunteer attorneys in DCVLP’s Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Programs and oversees our Family Legal Clinics. She was a litigation associate for five years at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, where she dedicated significant time to the pro bono representation of indigent clients in custody and other family law matters in DC and Maryland courts. In 2015, Victoria was awarded Pillsbury’s Mid-Level Pro Bono Fellowship, through which she spent a year as a Staff Attorney with Children’s Law Center, serving as a guardian ad litem and representing third-party caregivers in contested custody proceedings with multi-jurisdictional issues in DC Superior Court. Prior to joining Pillsbury, Victoria served as a Special Assistant Attorney General in the Child Protection Section of the DC Office of the Attorney General, prosecuting child abuse and neglect proceedings. She received her J.D. from Howard University School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies and Philosophy from the University of Virginia.

Richard Kelley, Esq., Managing Attorney

Richard Kelley is the Managing Attorney of our Child Advocacy and Immigration Programs. Prior to joining DCVLP, he was a litigation associate DLA Piper LLP, where he dedicated significant time to the pro bono representation of indigent clients, including as a Guardian ad litem in D.C. Superior Court and as an advocate on behalf of asylum seekers. Prior to joining DLA Piper, Richard was a senior attorney at the DC Affordable Law Firm, where he represented survivors of domestic violence, at-risk children, and asylum seekers. He also has spent time working for juvenile justice reform in Maryland through the National Juvenile Defender Center. In his volunteer time, Richard works with Center Global on behalf of LGBTQ asylum seekers and Whitman Walker through their name-change clinic. He received his J.D. and LL.M in International Business and Economic Law and LL.M in Civil Justice from Georgetown University Law Center and his Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University.

Aída Vindell, Esq.,Managing Attorney

Aída Vindell is the Managing Attorney of our Domestic Violence Program. She is a native Spanish speaker and a licensed attorney in the District and Maryland. Before joining DCVLP in 2019 where she represents victims in protection order cases, Ms. Vindell was a Senior Attorney at the Children’s Law Center where she represented children in abuse and neglect proceedings and represented plaintiffs in custody matters. Before that she was a Staff Attorney at Ayuda where she represented domestic violence and sexual assault survivors in protection order, custody and divorce proceedings. Ms. Vindell earned her Bachelor of Public Administration from Florida International University and her J.D. from the University of the District of Columbia.

Linda Kauskay, Esq., Supervising Attorney

Linda Kauskay supervises volunteers handling family law (custody and divorce) cases on behalf of domestic violence victims. She is a former mediator of family cases for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland. Ms. Kauskay received her J.D. from Georgetown University and spent her early career at Steptoe & Johnson LLC. She is admitted to practice in both the District of Columbia and Maryland, and is performance-certified as a mediator by the Maryland Council for Dispute Resolution.

Lauren Snow, Esq., MSW, Supervising Attorney

As a Supervising Attorney, Lauren represents domestic violence survivors in civil protection order and family law cases and serves as a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem for children in high-conflict custody cases. Before attending law school, Lauren worked in education, first as an early childhood teacher and later as a case manager for early childhood special education. Throughout law school, Lauren participated in the Child Advocacy Law Clinic, serving as a Guardian ad Litem for children in abuse and neglect cases. Lauren earned her J.D. and M.S.W. from the University of Michigan and her B.A. from Georgetown University.

Jennie Berman, Esq., Supervising Attorney

Ms. Berman is a Supervising Attorney handling protection order and immigration cases. She joined DCVLP in 2018 as the Roxana Cannon Arsht Law Fellow. Prior to joining the staff, Ms. Berman was a volunteer with DCVLP. Ms. Berman previously practiced as a litigation associate in the New York office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. While at Morgan Lewis, she also worked on pro bono cases assisting domestic violence survivors. Ms. Berman earned her J.D. from Rutgers School of Law and her B.A. from Wellesley College. She is proficient in Spanish.

Ashley Carter, Esq., Equal Justice Works Fellow

Ms. Carter joined DCVLP in 2019 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP and Steptoe & Johnson LLP. As part of her fellowship, Ms. Carter staffs DCVLP’s Domestic Violence Protection Order Clinic, a pilot project that opened in the fall of 2019 and is housed at the DC Superior Court. Prior to graduating from law school, Ms. Carter represented survivors of domestic violence as a student attorney in the Family Justice Litigation Clinic and as a legal intern with Legal Aid Chicago. She also represented clients as a student attorney in the Criminal Appeals and Post-Conviction Services Clinic. Following graduation, Ashley served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Maribeth Raffinan, Presiding Judge of the Domestic Violence Division at the DC Superior Court. Ashley received her J.D. from George Washington University Law School and her B.A. from Transylvania University.

Robyn Swanson, Esq., Arsht Law Fellow

Ms. Swanson joined DCVLP in 2020 as the Roxana Cannon Arsht Law Fellow. She represents at-risk children as a court-appointed Guardian ad litem in DC Superior Court. Prior to joining the staff, Ms. Swanson was a volunteer with DCVLP.

Support Staff

Laura Taylor, Victim & Community Outreach Manager

Ms. Taylor works closely with the Director of Development and the Executive Director to write grant applications and reports, manage the donor database, and design outreach and communication materials. She previously worked at a variety of nonprofit organizations, including shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness and her hometown’s historical society. Ms. Taylor received her B.A. from The George Washington University, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Philosophy.  

Jennifer Watkins, Domestic Violence Program & Volunteer Engagement Manager

Jennifer manages DCVLP’s Domestic Violence practice and network of volunteer attorneys. She serves as the primary point of contact for volunteers through recruitment, onboarding, case support, and retention. In addition to coordinating incoming referrals, case assignment, and case-related support for volunteer attorneys, she coordinates trainings, informational sessions, and 1:1 volunteer intake sessions for 200+ volunteers per year. She also assists with development of new law firm and corporate counsel relationships, legal programs, and volunteer opportunities.

Previously, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at a volunteer-run free medical clinic, and in a major gifts development role at an international health and human rights nonprofit. Ms. Watkins received her B.A. from the University of Georgia, where she double majored in International Affairs and Sociology, and minored in Russian. She speaks Russian and is certified in Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge.

Gargie Nagarkar, Compliance Coordinator

Ms. Nagarkar is fluent in English, French, and Marathi, and speaks basic Spanish. She manages our client and case data to create grant reports and to ensure grant compliance. She oversees our intern program, provides legal assistance to our attorneys, and assists with grant writing, grant tracking, event planning and outreach. She is also DCVLP’s point of contact for the Victim Legal Network of DC (VLNDC). Prior to DCVLP, Ms. Nagarkar was a Legal Assistant with Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center in Charlottesville, Va. She received a B.S. in Sociology with Honors, Summa Cum Laude, from Virginia Tech in 2018.

Social Services

Junae Allen, Client Advocate

Ms. Allen assists clients with non-legal needs including crisis intervention, on-going emotional support, safety planning, referrals to partner organizations and advocacy. Ms. Allen started her career as an intern and student at Lincoln University’s Women’s Center while also earning a B.S. in Clinical/Counseling Psychology. Ms. Allen then worked on a women’s crisis/reproductive hotline for seven years where she provided crisis counseling to women seeking non-biased, factual reproductive health information, and access to reproductive care. She has immense experience with providing assistance to survivors of power-based violence and brings a trauma-informed, strength-based approach to her work. Supporting women to get their life on track is her ultimate passion because she believes there is no greater power than an empowered woman.

Grace Perret, Client Advocate

Grace assists domestic violence clients with non-legal needs, including safety planning, navigating supportive services in the District, crisis response, and emotional support. Prior to joining the DCVLP team, Grace worked as a domestic violence advocate with D.C. SAFE, guiding clients through court processes, assessing lethality risks, and supporting survivors in active crisis. Grace graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Gender Studies and Government as well as a Spanish minor. She participated in interpersonal violence advocacy throughout college and has interned at several nonprofits dedicated to empowering women and survivors. Grace is proficient in Spanish.

Kate Margolis, Client Advocate

Kate Margolis has worked as an advocate for domestic violence survivors for 15 years. After spending 11 years in Morris Count NJ at Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter as a court advocate, she moved to DC and started the new position of client advocate for DCVLP where she worked for 4 years. She is thrilled to be back in a part-time position to help with establishing the new Family Legal Clinic at The Commons at Stanton Square in Anacostia.

Helina Meressa, Immigration and Child Advocacy Program Manager

Helina manages DCVLP’s Immigration and Guardian ad litem program. She processes court referrals, assigns cases, provides case support to volunteer attorneys, and serves as the main point person for our Immigration and Child Advocacy Programs. As our Immigration and Child Advocacy Program Manager, she assists in connecting the individuals and families we serve to resources that will support them during and beyond the closing of their case. Prior to her work with DCVLP, she served as an AmeriCorps member providing case management services at a transitional housing program for immigrant and refugee families. She has also served as an Intake Coordinator for a law firm. She received her B.A. from the University of Virginia where she studied Global Development and Foreign Affairs. She speaks Spanish and is working on learning Amharic.

Since I came into the clinic and went to court with my lawyer, everything is CALM. I can now focus on being a student and a mother to my children. Thank you for bringing this FEELING OF RELIEF into my life.

– DCVLP client and survivor of domestic violence