Meet the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association

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While it may have had a different name then, Philadelphia’s LGBTQ Bar Association has paved the way for LGBTQ+ rights in Philadelphia and the United States since 1986. At that time, about 25 attorneys established what was then called Philadelphia Attorneys for Human Rights (PAHR). The group gave themselves a vague name because it was essentially a career ender to be openly LGBTQ+ at the time, during the apex of the HIV/AIDS crisis. They also had to be careful about protecting members’ identities, lest they be outed to their colleagues.

Then, in 1992, the group’s membership decided it was safer to provide LGBTQ+ advocacy and changed its name to the Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia, or GALLOP. It did not formally incorporate until 1997, which was when its newsletter advertised its commitment to maintaining its membership’s confidentiality. From the 1990s until the early 2000s, GALLOP assisted with amicus curiae briefs advocating for equal rights for LGBTQ+ people. It also hosted the 2002 National LGBT Bar Association’s annual Lavender Law Conference, where its members — including now-Judge Tiffany Palmer — organized the Lavender Law Career Fair. This attracted 30 employers and around 200 students and it is now a staple of Lavender Law, attracting more than 175 employers each year. Furthermore, GALLOP has hosted state and local political candidates during its annual May Garden Party.

In 2019, the group voted to amend its name once again to the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association and it continues to grow from there. Recent initiatives include establishing the Judicial Portrait Project, which honors and recognizes openly LGBTQ+ judges who retired from the bench. On June 14 of this year, the organization hosted an unveiling ceremony for this project in the Law Library of the First Judicial District in Philadelphia City Hall and recognized Judges Mary Colins and Patricia McInerney of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

Many members have gone on to be high-profile movers and shakers in the community, including the Hon. Ann Butchart, Hon. Abbe Fletman, Hon. Daniel Anders, Hon. Tiffany Palmer, Hon. Christopher Mallios, Hon. Idee Fox, State Rep. Brian Sims, Cletus Lyman, Larry Felzer, the late David Rosenbaum, the late Cheryl Ingram, U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero, and — most recently —  judge-elect of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, Chesley Lightsey. This week, PGN compiled bios from 13 of the LGBTQ Bar Association’s board members, individuals who could continue to make moves in their communities.

Officers

Kevin M. Levy
Chair

Kevin M. Levy, the outgoing chair of the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association, focuses primarily on real estate matters, including property sales and acquisitions, leases and real estate tax appeals. He has also advised clients on COVID-19 regulatory compliance and has provided extensive comments to the media on COVID-19 governmental orders and guidance. Additionally, by partnering with a variety of pro bono organizations, Levy delivers legal services to longtime Philadelphia residents obtaining a clean title to their homes and to combat gun violence in the city. In his spare time, Levy volunteers with his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, and serves roles with the Philadelphia Sinfonia and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Anti-Defamation League’s Associate Board.

Andrew Slom
Vice Chair

Andrew Slom started his own practice, Slom Legal, in 2018, focusing primarily on transactional real estate and business matters. Having lived in Philadelphia for over a decade, Slom is proud to have found a home in Philadelphia, where he is actively engaged in the LGBTQ+ community, and represents many LGBTQ+ clients. Prior to serving as vice chair of the LGBTQ Bar Association, Slom served as co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s LGBT Rights Committee. Slom is also a member of the Independence Business Alliance and Philadelphia Bar Association. Prior to private practice, he clerked for the Honorable Nan S. Famular, P.J. Ch. in Camden, New Jersey.  He received his J.D. from Rutgers University School of Law in 2014. In his free time, Slom enjoys traveling, golfing, spending time with his friends and family, and cheering on his beloved Eagles.

Liz Weissert
Treasurer and next year’s Chair

Liz Weissert, a senior associate at Ballard Spahr, practices complex commercial litigation with a focus on federal antitrust litigation, representing some of the largest organizations in the country, including life science companies, institutions of higher education, agriculture companies, professional associations and real estate companies. Weissert served as the co-lead of Equality Ballard, the firm’s business resource group for LGBTQ colleagues, for five years. Weissert also has an active pro bono practice, primarily representing clients who are transgender in name change matters. When not practicing law, the proud alumna of Smith College and University of Pennsylvania Law School enjoys cooking new recipes and going on adventures with her partner T and dog Edie. 

Directors

Jason Angelo
Director

As counsel in Reed Smith’s Financial Industry Group, Jason Angelo practices in Restructuring & Insolvency and Commercial Litigation. His practice includes advising on a variety of matters, including debtors, creditors and others. For his work, Angelo has been recognized as a Rising Star in the restructuring and insolvency community by the IFLR1000 (2022 – 2023). Additionally, he was selected as part of the “NextGen” Program (2021) sponsored by the American College of Bankruptcy and the National Conference of Bankruptcy Judges, and participated in the 2022 Pathfinder Program with the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. Angelo has also been a co-chair of Reed Smith’s Global LGBTQ+ Business Inclusion Group, PRISM, since 2019, and was an inaugural member of the Diverse Alumni of Seton Hall (DASH) Committee. Additionally, he currently serves on the Delaware State Bar Association’s DE&I Steering Committee and has previously chaired the Delaware State Bar Association’s LGBTQ+ Committee.

Adam Murphy
Director

Adam Murphy, Esq. is a Relationship Manager at JURISolutions Legal (JSL) where he specializes in networking and building relationships within the legal industry. He has also supported JSL’s corporate clients as a member of the attorney recruiting team for five years. Murphy is an AIRS Certified Diversity and Inclusion Recruiter and actively participates in diversity related organizations such as NGLCC, WBENC, National LGBTQ+ Bar Association and NAMWOLF on behalf of JSL. In addition to his role with the Philadelphia LGBTQ+ Bar Association, Murphy is a member of the NGLCC Certification Committee where he certifies LGBTQ+ -owned small businesses. Prior to joining JSL, Murphy lived in Australia where he worked for a nonprofit and practiced law at a mid-sized insurance defense firm in Philadelphia. He lives in South Philadelphia with his husband Evan and their dog and cat, Wally and Persephone. 

James Vandermark
Director

James Vandermark is a Partner at White and Williams LLP and advises clients on the full spectrum of complex business transactions, including financial restructuring, tax planning and tax controversy solutions. He is a member of the firm’s Diversity Committee and represents the firm as a corporate member of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). Prior to joining White and Williams, Vandermark was a Deputy City Solicitor in the Corporate and Tax Group of the City of Philadelphia’s Law Department.

Committee Chairs

Brian Balduzzi
Mentorship

Brian Balduzzi is a senior associate in the Private Client Group at Faegre Drinker in its Philadelphia and Princeton offices. In this role, he advises individuals and families on their wealth, estate and business succession planning and strategies. Additionally, he works as a tax, estate planning, finance, business law and accounting adjunct professor for various universities. Balduzzi also serves in various volunteer positions, including boards for the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association, the Independence Business Alliance, and other regional and national nonprofits. His work has been honored numerous times, including recent acknowledgements in the 2023 City and State Forty Under 40, 2023 American Bar Association On the Rise – Top 40 Young Lawyers, 2023 Philadelphia Business Journal Business of Pride Honoree.

Susie Cirilli
Membership

Susie Cirilli, a shareholder in the Labor & Employment Practice Group, regularly works with employers and employees to resolve employment and labor-related matters. This includes issues related to gender identity, sexual orientation discrimination, race discrimination, disability and pregnancy. Cirilli also assists clients with matters involving the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family Medical Leave Act, Title VII and Title IX. As part of her work, Cirilli assists employers on day-to-day matters, such as drafting and revising employee handbooks, employee agreements, non-compete and non-solicitation agreements and separation agreements. She also helps employers with workplace privacy issues as well as hiring and termination decisions. Cirilli also assists companies in business matters as their external general counsel.

Sean Craig
Mentorship

Sean Craig has conducted legal work in multiple areas, such as higher education and insurance industries. The former judicial Intern and member of the Defender Association of Philadelphia has researched and analyzed conflict of law issues between states, insurance and employment statutes, and various trial matters, including damages and evidentiary issues. Throughout his career, he has successfully litigated criminal cases on behalf of indigent criminal defendants in the Philadelphia Municipal Court, including winning a motion to suppress. Craig also has experience as a mediator for landlord-tenant and small claims matters in the Philadelphia Municipal Court. 

Krystal Kane
Social Justice

As the pro bono attorney at Blank Rome, Krystal Kane coordinates the firm’s pro bono clinics, partnerships and trainings, identifying opportunities to increase the firm’s pro bono involvement. Kane is also involved in several legal, nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. This includes co-founding and organizing for the Philly Name Change Project, which provides free legal name-change services to low-income trans, gender-nonconforming and nonbinary people through partnerships with law firms, universities and corporate law departments in Philadelphia. Additionally, Kane is a trustee and co-chair of the LGBT Rights Committee for the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, a board member and volunteer with the Kisses for Kyle Foundation, member of the Voting Rights Task Force of the Association of Pro Bono Counsel. Kane also volunteers with Philadelphia VIP, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Alex Sobieski
Social Events & Networking

Alexandra Sobieski is an immigrant youth advocacy staff attorney at HIAS Pennsylvania. In this role, Sobieski provides direct representation to unaccompanied children in removal proceedings by pursuing Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, asylum and other humanitarian forms of relief. Prior to working at HIAS PA, she worked as a law clerk for Judge Abbe Fletman in the Civil Division of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and Judge Nora J Grimbergen in the Family Division at the Superior Court of New Jersey, Essex Vicinage. Sobieski graduated from Drexel University’s Kline School of Law in May of 2020. 

Shaun Staller
Social Events & Networking

Shaun Staller is a multilingual business immigration attorney with broad international experience who counsels individuals and businesses across all industries in navigating the complex U.S. immigration system. He focuses his practice on employment-based visas and related compliance and assists employers in developing comprehensive immigration strategies for their global workforce. He also works with foreign entrepreneurs who seek to start or invest into a business in the U.S. In addition to his role for the LGBTQ+ Bar Association, Staller also serves on the board of Equality Forum, an LGBTQ+ national civic organization.

AJ Vogt
Education

Along with his fellow co-chair Nikki Hatza and community partners, AJ Vogt coordinated various continuing legal education courses for the Philadelphia LGBTQ Bar Association’s Education Committee. When he’s not working with this group, he serves as co-editor of the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s LGBT Rights Committee’s quarterly newsletter, Open Court, and mentors local LGBTQ+ law students. After law school, Vogt clerked on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for Justice Christine Donahue. He then relocated to Philadelphia, by way of Washington D.C., and quickly wanted to become involved in the local LGBTQ+ community. In private practice, Vogt provided services to those navigating the legal name-change process and assisted minors in obtaining name changes in counties surrounding Philadelphia. Currently, he is deputy attorney general with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General.