NC Equal Access to Justice Commission: 919.890.1090
Jennifer M. Lechner
Executive Director, NC Equal Access to Justice Commission
Jennifer Lechner is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission, a position she has held since 2008. Under her direction, the Commission assesses unmet legal needs, engages in statewide strategic planning, coordinates efforts between the legal aid organizations and other legal and non-legal organizations, manages resource development efforts, and works generally to expand civil access to justice.
Before moving to North Carolina, she founded and operated a Maine-based company focused on legal association management. She served as the first Executive Coordinator of the Justice Action Group, Maine’s access to justice entity, and as the first coordinator of a unified statewide fundraising campaign for all Maine legal aid providers.
Jennifer began her career as the legislative counsel to the Maine State Bar Association where she lobbied state and federal governments on behalf of Maine’s largest professional trade association. She has also served as a consultant to other access to justice entities, legal aid organizations, bar associations and political candidates. She is a frequent speaker at state and national conferences.
Jennifer is a graduate of Truman State University and Drake University School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in Maine and is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association where she serves on the Pro Bono Activities Committee. She is a volunteer with the Safe Child Immigrant Project, Triangle Rowing Club and Colonial Sports Ministry.
She and her husband Steve live in Raleigh with their two children, Grace and Abera.
Mary L. Irvine
Director of External Affairs, NC Equal Access to Justice Commission
Mary began her career at the North Carolina Network of Grantmakers, a statewide association of philanthropic foundations and giving programs. Following law school, Mary practiced family law at a small firm in Chapel Hill and also worked with the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, conducting research, programming, and outreach to raise awareness of poverty and related issues.
Mary received both her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Spanish and her law degree from UNC Chapel Hill. Mary is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association and serves on the Pro Bono Activities Committee. She is also the chair of the Pro Bono Alumni Board at UNC School of Law and a member of the UNC Law Alumni Association Board of Directors. Mary, husband Nick, and son Cormac live in Raleigh.
Sylvia K. Novinsky
Director, NC Pro Bono Resource Center
Sylvia K. Novinsky is the Pro Bono Resource Center’s inaugural director. Chief Justice Mark D. Martin launched the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center, the newest program of the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission, in 2016.
The Pro Bono Resource Center is tasked with increasing pro bono participation statewide, initially focusing on connecting recent law graduates with projects that address legal needs in Wake and Mecklenburg counties. It will also provide a way for North Carolina lawyers to report on their pro bono service to clients in need, and will encourage and support this work through recruitment, training and communication. The Center will be one of only a handful of statewide pro bono resource centers in the country.
Sylvia comes to this role after nearly twenty years of service to the University of North Carolina School of Law, where she most recently held the role of Assistant Dean for Public Service Programs. During her tenure at Carolina Law, Sylvia founded and advised the UNC Law Pro Bono Program, a national model for inspiring students and alumni to participate in pro bono service. She has also served as the institution’s Associate Director for Public Interest Law, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, and Associate Dean for Student Affairs. Sylvia also spends time inside the classroom as an adjunct professor, teaching “Spanish for American Lawyers” and “Leadership for Lawyers.”
In addition to her career in higher education, Sylvia has experience working for legal aid providers. After law school, Sylvia litigated federal employment-related issues and administrative unemployment, wage and hour claims, and consumer cases, for Peninsula Legal Aid in Virginia. She then served as Legal Director for the Center for Immigrants’ Rights in New York, New York where she supervised a statewide hotline for immigrants and advocates and represented domestic workers on employment matters.
Sylvia grew up in Queens, NY, and is from Argentina. She is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Industrial & Labor Relations and The American University’s Washington College of Law. She is licensed to practice law in Maryland, the District of Columbia and New Jersey. She is a member of the NC Bar Association serving on the Pro Bono Activities Committee. She volunteers as the Statistician of the Fairfield Summer Swim Team and is a member of Judea Reform Congregation in Durham. She lives in Durham, with her husband, who teaches at Durham Public Schools, and her daughter.
Programming and Engagement Associate, NC Equal Access to Justice Commission
Jared Smith is the Programming and Engagement Associate of the North Carolina Equal Access to Justice Commission. He joined the Commission while a final-year student at the UNC School of Law, where he has since graduated with a Juris Doctor with Honors and a Certificate in Non Profit Leadership. At UNC, Jared was a three-year member of the Pro Bono Board, co-founder of the Leadership Development Program, and Research Assistant for the Office of Public Service Programs and for the Office of Advancement.
Before attending Carolina Law, Jared worked as the Fellow for Civic Engagement at Davidson College, advising students doing community service work in Mecklenburg and Iredell counties and managing campus and community civic engagement focused marketing, fundraising, and events.
Jared is a member of the NCBA Pro Bono Activities Committee, the NCBA YLD Pro Bono and Poverty Issues Committee, the NCBA Free Legal Answers Task Force, and the UNC School of Law Pro Bono Alumni Board.