Legal Aid Society Announces New Executive Director
Former Leader Retires After 40-Year Legal Career
The Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services, the second oldest legal aid organization in the nation, has announced that Karina Ayala-Bermejo, Executive Vice President of Human Resources & General Counsel at Metropolitan Family Services, will become Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society (LAS), effective April 1, 2015. Ayala-Bermejo also will continue to serve as Metropolitan’s General Counsel and Executive Vice President.
Ayala-Bermejo has long been an advocacy leader for families in the Chicago and national legal communities. Her past roles include serving as Executive Director of the Sun-Times Judge Marovitz Lend-a-Hand to Youth Program (“Lawyers Lend-a-Hand to Youth,” which originated with the Chicago Bar Foundation), as well as National Vice President and General Counsel of the Hispanic National Bar Association. She serves as a Board of Managers Member of The Chicago Bar Association, Vice Chair of the Cook County Commission on Human Rights, Advisory Board Member with the DePaul University College of Law, and Commissioner of the Hispanic National Bar Association Commission. She is the Chicago Latino Network’s 2014 Latina Professional of the Year.
Ayala-Bermejo assumes LAS’ leadership from Kendra Reinshagen, who has led the Legal Aid Society for 20 years as part of a career dedicated to public service law. Reinshagen has spent more than three decades in family law and four decades advocating for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. As LAS’ Executive Director she has focused on advocacy and integrating LAS’ and Metropolitan’s services to meet clients’ legal, financial and emotional needs. Reinshagen also has expanded LAS’ services by establishing:
- The Poverty Law Project, which provides legal assistance to clients with consumer, foreclosure and landlord/tenant issues;
- The Victim Legal Assistance Network Demonstration Project (VLAN), which works to ensure that crime victims receive the services they need;
- The Human Trafficking Initiative, a collaboration of LAS, volunteer law firms and community groups to provide free legal services to human trafficking survivors facing legal problems stemming from their exploitation; and
- The Elder Law Project, which provides legal representation to seniors who are being physically abused or financially exploited, in partnership with Metropolitan’s Adult Protective Services.
Reinshagen’s accomplishments also include helping to create LAS’ full-time pro bono program and cultivating a vigorous and engaged Advisory Board. She also has contributed expertise benefiting the greater legal community. Reinshagen has testified at or participated on committees formed by the Illinois Supreme Court, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and the Illinois Governor’s Commission of the Status of Women. She also contributes insightful columns to the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
About the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services
The Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services (LAS) pioneered the concept of equal access to justice more than 125 years ago. LAS provides critical legal services to low-income families in the Chicago area, protecting them in cases of domestic violence, elder abuse, housing and consumer issues. Today LAS serves more than 8,100 families and individuals each year. LAS is part of Metropolitan Family Services, which has been empowering Chicago-area families to reach their greatest potential and positively impact their communities since 1857.