Jennifer Smith, the ILF’s executive director, is a leading international expert in the field of legal aid and an experienced criminal defense lawyer. She has worked on legal aid reform in a number of countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa and is regularly called upon as an expert by the United Nations, governments and organizations around the world. Previously, as the ILF’s advocacy director, Ms. Smith established the ILF’s global advocacy program. At the ILF, Ms. Smith has spearheaded efforts to strengthen international support for the right to quality legal representation for poor persons accused of crimes. She played a key role in drafting the United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, the first international instrument on legal aid, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2012. She was also the driving force behind the first-ever international conference focused on criminal legal aid, held in Johannesburg, South Africa in June 2014.
Before joining the ILF, Ms. Smith lived in China for five years, where she ran the China Defender Program of International Bridges to Justice. Prior to that, Ms. Smith served as a public defender in New York for the Legal Aid Society and in Massachusetts for the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS), where she represented hundreds of indigent clients in felony and misdemeanor cases at all stages of the criminal process. Additionally, Ms. Smith founded the immigration impact unit at CPCS, an office responsible for assisting defense lawyers to advise noncitizen clients of the immigration consequences of their criminal cases. Ms. Smith also worked in Cambodia, assisting the development of the first local nongovernmental public defender office. Ms. Smith is a graduate of Boston College Law School.
Outreach and Communications Associate
Liz Riegel, the ILF’s Outreach and Communications Associate, was previously the Development Assistant at the International Center for Transitional Justice. Before her work at ICTJ, she interned at the Chicago History Museum and Queer Comrades Beijing. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with a second major in anthropology.
Nicole Taylor is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has practiced in the Philadelphia area for the past eight years. Most recently, she was an associate attorney at the law firm of El-Shabazz + Harris, LLC. Prior to that, she worked as a staff attorney at the Public Defender Association of Philadelphia. She spent a summer interning with the Judicial Inspectorate of Prisons in Cape Town, South Africa where she researched prison reform post apartheid. Nicole is a graduate of Howard University School of Law and Spelman College.
Deputy Program Director
Shama Farooq is an experienced public defender and manager, having served as a Deputy Public Defender in the U.S. state of Virginia for the past eight years. Prior to that, she worked as the Civil Rights Director for the Maryland and Virginia chapter of a national civil rights organization that served the needs of the Muslim community of the area. Shama has knowledge of the ILF’s programs, as she was an International Fellow in the ILF-West Bank office in 2013. She went to law school at Tulane University.
Betsy Walters joins the ILF after working as a Legal Fellow for the documentary film NGO p.h. balanced films, and as a consultant to the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights First in Washington, D.C. She has extensive experience in domestic and international policy advocacy, media outreach, and creating multi-stakeholder coalitions. She received her B.A. in Government from the University of Texas at Austin, and her law degree, with a Certificate in Human Rights Law, from the University of Connecticut.
Clarissa brings to the ILF over 15 years of experience in nonprofit financial management. Originally from the Philippines, Clarissa graduated from the Philippine School of Business Administration in Manila with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and a major in Accounting. She then worked as an accountant in both private and public sectors before immigrating to the United States. In the United States, she completed a training in computer programming at the Chubb Institute before joining the New York City Bar Association as an accountant. Clarissa spent 15 years working at the New York City Bar Association, where she was primarily responsible for its 501(c)(3) affiliate, the City Bar Fund (CBF).
Natalie Stephenson, the ILF’s finance associate and the fellows coordinator, studied Philosophy and French at the University of NH. After graduating, she continued her studies in Philosophy at Sorbonne IV and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. From 2000-2002 she studied Chinese Language at the University of Peking. Before coming to the ILF, she wrote and coordinated grants for NYC public schools.