VECINA’s nationally recognized expert mentors work with pro bono attorneys to provide them with the guidance they need to zealously represent their clients. Learn more about our attorney mentorship program.
Akin Gump, Pro Bono Counsel
Lauren Connell works with Akin Gump’s Pro Bono Partner to manage the firm’s pro bono practice and develop pro bono opportunities for our lawyers. Lauren maintains an active immigration practice, with a particular focus on defensive asylum and representation of detained migrants. She also advises nonprofit organizations on corporate governance matters. Before becoming pro bono counsel, she practiced corporate law at Akin Gump, with a focus on mergers and acquisitions and securities transactions.
Lauren began her Akin Gump career working as the coordinator of the Karnes City Immigrant Family Pro Bono Project in San Antonio, Texas. In this role, she represented detained Central American women and children refugees seeking asylum in the United States and also coordinated the pro bono effort to match lawyers to clients. Her work was profiled in the National Law Journal and also recognized in The New York Times Magazine. While in law school, Lauren served as an executive editor of The University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law.
Law Office of Sabrina Damast
Sabrina Damast is a Los Angeles-based attorney and currently chairs the Executive Committee for the Immigration & Nationality Law Section of the Los Angeles Bar Association. For the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), she serves on the Amicus and Removal Defense Committees, and is the present Chair of the Due Process Track for the 2020 AILA National Conference. She teaches and speaks throughout the country as an expert on many topics related to immigration law and has written articles for the American Bar Association. In 2018, she was awarded the Pro Bono Award by Public Counsel for her work with the Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Jackie is a native New Yorker whose friends will tell you that they knew she was destined to be an immigration attorney before she even knew it. In high school, their diverse circle of friends – referred to fondly by their parents as the United Nations – was suddenly confronted with a stark, arbitrary divide; those who could get driver’s licenses and fill out the FAFSA, and those who would not. Then, everyone began buzzing about what President Obama might do for Dreamers, and her path was revealed. She studied Sociology and Spanish at Quinnipiac University, focusing on issues facing immigrants and women, and began working at a refugee resettlement agency. Upon graduating in 2013, Jackie relocated to Austin as an AmeriCorps member at Casa Marianella, a shelter for immigrants and asylum seekers, and from there fell in love with the Austin immigrant community and its allies. In 2016, she joined Lincoln-Goldfinch Law to obtain experience as a legal assistant and volunteered at the Karnes detention center and citizenship and TPS clinics. She returned to New York to attend the City University of New York School of Law in 2017 and organized credible fear interview training and volunteer trips to the Berks, PA and Dilley, TX family detention centers with students, professors, and alums. Jackie graduated from law school in 2020 and relocated permanently to Austin with her husband and their dog. She is now an associate attorney at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law, predominantly working on deportation defense and humanitarian visa cases.
Jezic & Moyse, LLC
Tamara is an immigration and personal injury attorney in Jezic & Moyse’s offices in Stafford and Fairfax, Virginia. She focuses on asylum law and appellate practice. Tamara represented the noncitizens in Hernandez Avalos v. Lynch, 784 F.3d 944 (4th Cir. 2015) and Zavaleta-Policiano v. Sessions, 873 F.3d 241 (4th Cir. 2017), two published cases in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit which greatly improved asylum law in states throughout the Fourth Circuit. She also represented the noncitizen in Jaghoori v. Holder, 772 F.3d 764 (4th Cir. 2014), a published case of first impression in the Fourth Circuit on the stop-time rule for cancellation of removal for lawful permanent residents.
President, Board of Directors
Kate serves as the pro bono liaison for the American Immigration Lawyers Association Texas Chapter and serve on the boards of Casa Marianella, a homeless shelter for immigrants, and is the President of the VECINA board. She regularly mentors and train attorneys in an effort to encourage pro bono work by all lawyers, including hosting a monthly pro bono trip to the Karnes Family Detention Center. She was active in working to reunite separated families during the Zero Tolerance policy implemented by the Executive Administration during the summer of 2018.
Virginia Marie Raymond earned her A.B. in Psychology from Bryn Mawr College, and her J.D., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. Virginia began volunteering with Proyecto Libertad in Harlingen, Texas, as a law student and then in 1987 spent several months there as a volunteer lawyer. Returning to Austin, she gathered friends who together founded the Political Asylum Project of Austin/Proyecto de Asilo Político de Austin (PAPA), where Virginia remained a volunteer and board member until 2000. PAPA later morphed into American Gateways. Meanwhile, Virginia was raising three kids with Tom Kolker while immersing herself in Mexican American literature, history, and anthropology.
Between 2007 and 2011, she directed the Texas After Violence Project, an independent oral history project on the death penalty. Returning to immigration law in 2012, she has directed most of her energy towards removal defense of people incarcerated in, or alumnx of, Karnes, T. Don Hutto, Joe Corley, Pearsall, Robstown, and the three adult immigration prisons in Laredo.
Steven H. Schulman
Akin Gump, Partner
Steven Schulman has handled dozens of asylum and other immigration cases, with a particular emphasis on complex matters, such as those involving the application of terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility. He joined Akin Gump in 2006 as its first full-time pro bono partner, and he has seen participation in the pro bono practice increase substantially in every office and across every practice group. The firm’s lawyers now devote an average of more than 100 hours annually to pro bono client matters.
Under Steven’s leadership, the firm has built strong relationships with local and national legal services organizations and has developed experience in several areas of pro bono practice, such as representing charter schools, working with refugees and victims of human rights abuses, and providing legal counsel to military personnel and their families.
Steven leads and supervises the firm’s Pro Bono Scholars Program. Started in Washington in 2008, this two-summer program, now in Dallas, Los Angeles, Washington, New York and Houston, identifies and develops top law students to become the next generation of Akin Gump lawyers committed to building the firm’s pro bono practice.
Before joining the firm, Steven led the pro bono practice at another large international firm as its first pro bono counsel. He developed and implemented that firm’s signature Child Refugee Project, assisting unaccompanied alien children in the United States through individual representation, legislative advocacy and systemic reform. As a result of this project, thousands of children were moved from detention to foster care.
Steven is an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, where he teaches seminars on law firm economics and pro bono practice. He has also taught at Stanford Law School and The George Washington University Law School.