Our Team


Michelle Siegel

It has been a dream since I was thirteen years old to fight in the field of civil rights. Assisting families in their struggle to obtain equal access to education for their children is both an honor and an incredible privilege. Having worked exclusively in this area of law in New York City since 2009, I have the unique expertise to provide you with unparalleled representation.

I have carefully selected a team of attorneys, advocates, and legal support professionals that not only excel in their areas of expertise, but also CARE about your family. We will compassionately and aggressively represent your family in your struggle to secure the appropriate educational programs and services you are legally entitled to in New York City. I am committed to upholding the rights of individuals with disabilities and have the track record to prove it.

Our office consistently prevails in due process hearings and is incredibly successful in obtaining favorable settlements for our clients. We are fully equipped to assist your family throughout every step of the process, including advocating for an appropriate IEP through securing your award.

I began practicing law in New York in 2003 at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, where I successfully prosecuted complex felony cases in the Major Narcotics Investigations Bureau and Special Victims Unit. A graduate of the University of San Francisco, I am admitted to practice law in New York and California and am a member of the bar of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.



Analise Altobelli

Analise Altobelli graduated with a B.A. in English Literature degree from Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. After working for a legal services organization serving families and their children with disabilities and then working for a special education attorney in Maryland, Analise moved to New York in order to continue her passion for helping students with disabilities get an equal right to education.


Lesley Berson

Lesley has over a decade of litigation experience,the bulk of those years spent at the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York representing the City of New York, its agencies, and employees. During that time she appeared in Surrogate’s Court, Federal District Court, and nearly every forum in between, litigating a wide range of issues. The issue she litigated more than any other, however, was the right of children with disabilities to an appropriate education under the IDEA. In addition to her own load of federal IDEA cases, she supervised a team of attorneys that litigated over 80 such cases in two years. She is now using her expertise to advocate on parents’ behalf.

Lesley received her bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Duke University, and graduated from the City University of New York School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in New York State, and is admitted to practice in the Southern and Eastern District Courts of New York.


Katie Cortes

Katie has fifteen years of experience as a legal assistant and paralegal. She began her career in intellectual property specializing in both patent and trademark prosecution, working at various oil and gas companies and law firms in the Houston area. She is excited and honored to join our team serving families of students with disabilities. Katie is currently completing her degree at the University of Houston.



Mary Fernandes

Mary Fernandes received her M.A. in English from Boston University and has an advertising background prior to becoming a special education teacher in 2003. She received her M. Ed. In Special Education from CUNY College of Staten Island and worked for 13 years as a D75 special education teacher for students with autism and other developmental disabilities. In addition, she has worked as an ABA therapist in early intervention agency programs in the city. Her joy in working with students with autism and other severe disabilities led her to complete the TARA autism specialist program at Pace University. To strengthen her legal knowledge, Mary completed a paralegal certificate program at Pace University in 2019 and recently obtained her credential as a Registered Paralegal. Both as a former educator and and as a parent of a son with autism, Mary is passionate about protecting the rights of children and parents and helping them navigate the complex educational system in NYC. 



Makeba James

Makeba James graduated with a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Rochester. While at college, she developed a passion for advocacy, social justice, and fighting for underrepresented groups. Makeba is excited to be a part of our team, where she can help special need families fight for access to the education they deserve.


Glynnis Olin

Glynnis Olin graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Anthropology from Vassar College. While working at an early childhood development center, she discovered a passion for advocating for children from underserved communities. She is excited to have joined our team to help families of children with special needs obtain a free and appropriate education.


Jonathan Stead

Jonathan has more than a decade of experience in civil rights, much of it spent fighting to ensure that people with disabilities are afforded equal access to education, employment, housing, transportation, and public places.  He began his career as a human rights specialist at the New York State Division of Human Rights, where he handled a wide variety of discrimination claims relating to housing, employment, and public places.  He was later appointed to the agency’s Division-Initiated Action Unit, where he brought cases targeting large scale and systemic discrimination in New York State. Among the cases he handled were complaints leading to industry-wide improvements in disability access in the banking industry and the accessibility of retail store entrances in New York State.  He was also part of the State’s response to high-profile incidents of bias and discrimination in New York schools.

Jonathan later moved to New York City government, starting at the Department of Education, where he spent two years providing guidance to school administrators on special education matters and handling all aspects of special education claims, including investigation, litigation, and settlement.  He then transitioned to the Department of Transportation, where he advised the agency on employment and accessibility issues, in particular measures necessary to ensure the City’s pedestrian transportation network complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). During his time at the agency, he helped negotiate and implement the settlement of Eastern Paralyzed Veteran’s Association v. City of New York, in which the City made a historic commitment to upgrade the corner ramps at every street crossing in the City to be fully compliant with the ADA.

Jonathan first practiced in the area of special education as a law student at Rutgers School of Law, where he spent four semesters in the school’s special education legal clinic where he gained experience in all aspects of special education cases from inception through due process hearings and litigation in state and federal court.  He is thrilled to return to the field to advocate for the needs of children in the New York City school system.  

Jonathan graduated from Rutgers Law in 2009, where he was the recipient of Dean’s Merit and Meyerson Scholarships, a pro bono service certificate, and the ABA/BNA Award for Excellence in Health Law for his special education clinic work.  He was a Managing Editor of the Rutgers Computer and Technology Law Journal, which published an article he wrote on the importance of assistive technology.  He also holds a B.A. in philosophy from Hunter College of the City University of New York. 

Jonathan is a founding Co-Chair of the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Civil Rights Committee, serves as a volunteer small claims arbitrator for the New York court system, and has taught courses in ethics at St. Joseph’s College’s graduate program in criminal justice.


Jared Stein

For over 15 years, Jared Stein has worked on behalf of students at greatest risk for educational exclusion, failure, or discrimination. Jared was a Project Director at Advocates for Children of New York, Inc., where he managed a program funded by the Robin Hood Foundation. He represented families in special education hearings, delivered professional development sessions on a variety of education-related topics, and engaged in capacity building with a cohort of fellow Robin Hood grantees. Before that, Jared held the position of Assistant Project Director at the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students, where he advised school districts, families, and government entities on the application and interpretation of laws protecting students in temporary housing. Jared is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University School of Social Work, where he teaches both organizational change as well as advocacy.

Jared completed undergraduate studies at Cornell University (B.S.). He earned graduate degrees in both law (J.D.) and social work (M.S.W.) at the University of Michigan. He is admitted to practice law in Massachusetts and New York


Zacmari Zamostina

Zacmarí received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Baja California State University in Mexico. After working in environmental and gender equality non-profit organizations, Zacmarí moved to New York. She is excited to join our team and follow up with her advocacy calling by helping special need students strive for their right to an appropriate education. As a native Spanish speaker, Zacmarí also aids our attorneys as a translator for our Hispanic clients.