About

Founded in 1990, the LGBT Bar Association of the District of Columbia is an independent, non-partisan bar association serving gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender lawyers, law students, and legal professionals in the national capital area. The LGBT Bar Association of DC works to advance the interests of the LGBT community, to be their voice within the legal community, and to improve their professional lives. An affiliate of the National LGBT Bar Association, the LGBT Bar Association of DC acts in coalition with other local and national groups dedicated to LGBT concerns.

The LGBT Bar Association of DC’s advocacy and activities on behalf of the LGBT community include:

  • Raising issues of concern with officers and directors of the American Bar Association, the D.C. Bar and other state and voluntary bars.
  • Sponsoring a Mentorship Program.
  • Recruiting and training volunteers to provide pro bono legal services for people living with HIV/AIDS through Whitman-Walker Clinic.
  • Co-sponsoring the D.C. Bar Candidates Forum and endorsing candidates for local bar offices and the judiciary.
  • Hosting continuing legal education programs, social activities and other membership networking events.
  • Sponsoring public forums on legal issues of concern to the LGBT community.

Our Mission

The mission of the LGBT Bar Association of DC is to advance the rights of persons in the LGBT community, to be their voice within the legal community, and to improve their professional lives.

Funding

The LGBT Bar Association of DC, is a nonprofit 501(c)(6) tax-exempt corporation supported entirely by its members and other private contributors. Contributions are not deductible as charitable contributions for Federal income tax purposes, but membership dues may be deductible as a business expense to the extent permitted by law.

Board of Directors

President

JOSEPH VARDNER is an antitrust compliance officer at Wells Fargo and previously worked as an antitrust associate in the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.  His practice has focused primarily on antitrust, intellectual property, and consumer protection matters, including litigation, transactions, and client counseling. Prior to his private sector work, Mr. Varnder served as a trial attorney in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he began his legal career through the Attorney General’s Honors Program. He earned his law degree cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2011, where he was a Heyman Fellow and served as the Submissions Editor for the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology.  He also won the National Giles Rich Patent Moot Court before a panel of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.  In 2006, Mr. Vardner received his Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).  He presently serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches a course on U.S. Legal Discourse. Prior to law school, Mr. Vardner served as a judicial extern to the Honorable S. James Otero of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Mr. Vardner is heavily involved in several volunteer and pro bono efforts, including work in DC Landlord-Tenant Court, as well as his service as a Member of the Trevor Project’s DC Ambassador’s Board, whose focus is raising awareness of mental health and youth suicide issues. Mr. Vardner is admitted to practice in California, the District of Columbia and is a member of the Federal District Court of Colorado bar.

Vice Presidents

JORDAN NYE currently works for Ackerman Brown PLLC. He grew up in New Hampshire and attended Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts where he obtained his undergraduate degree in political science and philosophy. He moved to the DC area in 2010 and has lived in the area since. He went to law school at George Mason University School of Law and is currently admitted to practice in Washington, DC. He has a strong background in criminal and litigation practice. He previously worked as a prosecutor for Arlington County and in the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia. He has also worked for the National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty, and many private defense firms. Currently his practice is primarily litigation based and covers many different fields of law including civil litigation, landlord and tenant matters, family law, employment disputes, and estate planning.

JAMES SMITH is an associate at Latham & Watkins and a member of the Benefits, Compensation & Employment Practice. Mr. Smith’s practice focuses on counseling clients on all matters related to executive compensation, deferred compensation, and employee benefits. He is experienced in designing and implementing equity-based compensation plans, qualified and non-qualified retirement plans, deferred compensation plans and agreements, executive employment agreements, and health and welfare benefit plans for public and private companies, tax-exempt entities, and executives. Mr. Smith also works with the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor to resolve any compliance issues that may arise with such plans. Mr. Smith frequently advises clients with compliance and administration matters under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the Internal Revenue Code (including Sections 409A, 280G, 162(m), and 83), and securities laws relating to qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation plans, equity-based plans, health and welfare benefit plans, and fringe benefit plans. He also assists public company clients with their US Securities and Exchange Commission reporting and compliance obligations, including proxy and disclosure issues, corporate governance, and matters related to executive compensation. In addition, Mr. Smith helps clients with the Dodd-Frank Act pay ratio and clawback rules, including their implementation and compliance. In connection with Latham’s transactional practice, Mr. Smith represents private and public companies on employee benefits and executive compensation matters related to asset and stock sales, spin-offs, acquisitions, mergers, divestitures, and other complex corporate transactions, including those with respect to executive retention and post-transaction employee transition matters. Prior to joining Latham, Mr. Smith was an associate at a prominent global law firm.

Secretary

MEGHAN DROSTE is a Senior Associate at Wilkenfeld, Herendeen & Atkinson, a civil rights firm, where she advocates for employees who have experienced discrimination in the workplace. Ms. Droste was previously an Associate Attorney and the Team Lead for the LGBTQ and Gender Issues Practice Group at The Law Offices of Gary M. Gilbert & Associates, P.C. (now Gilbert Employment Law). Originally from Boston, Ms. Droste holds a B.A. from Boston University, an M.S. from American University, and a J.D. from The George Washington University Law School.

Treasurer

JOE SCAVETTA is Counsel and Real Estate Agent for Keller Williams Capital Properties, as well as Compliance and Transaction Director for the MG Residential Real Estate Team.  Joe’s management of legal issues and operations for the brokerage give him a unique perspective on the challenges people face when buying and selling a home.  Joe’s experience as a contract drafter and negotiator allow him to solve the the compliance and transaction issue that arise for the other members of the MG Residential Team.  Joe has lived in the Washington area on and off for over 25 years and has a deep understanding of the rapidly changing neighborhoods in the area.

Prior to working for the brokerage and the MG Residential Real Estate Team, Joe practiced law in Los Angeles and Washington, drafting general business contracts and contracts related to the production of television programs, as well as in compliance with FCC rules for television programs.

Joe holds a B.A. in Chemistry from the University of Virginia and a J.D. from Notre Dame Law School, where he was a member of the Notre Dame Law Review.  In addition, Joe has taught courses in legal research and writing at George Washington University Law School.  He currently resides in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington with his husband, John, and his French Bulldog, Alice.

Members

MEGAN SCHAEFFER is the Chair of the Trusts & Estates practice group at Ackerman Brown PLLC, an LGBT-owned law firm in Washington, DC.  Prior to joining Ackerman Brown, Megan was an associate in the Private Wealth Services group at Holland & Knight LLP.   Megan grew up in the Washington, DC area. She attended DePaul University College of Law in Chicago for her law degree and received her undergraduate degree from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana.  While at Saint Mary’s College, Megan founded the first gay-straight student alliance in the nation to receive funding from a Catholic college.   In law school, Megan was the president of DePaul’s student LGBT organization and was a board member of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago. As an estate planning attorney, Megan’s practice focuses on assisting LGBT families and individuals protect their assets and loved ones.   Megan currently serves as the Chair of the Estate & Trust Study Group for the Maryland State Bar Association. In 2017, Megan was recognized as a “Rising Star” in the areas of estate planning and probate by D.C. Super Lawyers.

BEN SCHENKER was born in Massachusetts, moved to Virginia as a teenager, and then returned to Massachusetts to attend Brandeis University. After earning his B.A., Ben moved across the country to attend the law school at the University of San Diego School of Law, where he earned both his J.D. (Juris Doctor) and LL.M. (Master of Laws) in tax law. He returned to the East Coast and became licensed to practice law in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Pennsylvania. While his initial focus was on tax law and trusts and estates, relatively early in his career, Ben began working in family law as well. Families’ legal needs, of course, tend to require many different aspects of all different types of law. Ben recognizes that families come in all shapes and sizes and he offers his services to all families in need.

DENNIS JANSEN is a state and local tax associate at Eversheds Sutherland (US) LLP. Dennis holds a B.A. from the University of Miami, a J.D. from the University of Minnesota, and an LL.M. in taxation from Georgetown University with a certificate in state and local taxation. Prior to practicing tax law, Dennis worked at Thomson Reuters for 7 years and served as an editor at the Dallas Morning News, where he also reported on LGBTQ+ issues. Dennis lives in Chinatown with his partner and two dogs – a chiweenie named Gunter and a labradoodle named Ingrid.

Law Student Representative

AMY ERNST is in her second year at American University Washington College of Law. Her focus is on human rights and public interest law. Before law school, Amy worked in crisis intervention with survivors and perpetrators of sexual assault in the United States and abroad.