Janet Portman joined Nolo in 1994 and is the Executive Editor. She has a Bachelor's degree (Honors Humanities, Phi Beta Kappa) and Master's degree (Religious Studies) from Stanford University, and a law degree from Santa Clara University of Law. Her first job was with the California State Public Defender, where she handled criminal appeals for indigent clients and spent six months trying cases for the Alameda County Public Defender. She successfully argued a case before the California Supreme Court. (People v. Woodard, 23 Cal.3d 329 (1979).) Janet is an active member of the California State Bar.
Work at Nolo After taking some time away from the law to raise her family, Janet joined Nolo as part of the team writing the company's first national landlord-tenant book, Every Landlord's Legal Guide. She has authored or coauthored many books since then: Every Landlord's Guide to Finding Great Tenants, Every Tenant's Legal Guide, Renters' Rights, Negotiate the Best Lease for Your Business, Leases & Rental Agreements, The California Landlord's Law Book: Rights and Responsibilities, and California Tenants' Rights. Drawing on her days as a "PD," Janet also contributes to the criminal law sections of Nolo's websites.
Janet has contributed commentary to major media outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, Kiplinger's, and The New York Times. For many years she was a nationally-syndicated columnist, writing "Rent It Right" every week.
Why Nolo? Joining Nolo was a natural next step after the public defender's office. Janet went from helping indigent criminal defendants to educating people about everyday civil law—how to understand it, apply it, and stay away from entanglements in the court system. She takes pride in writing books for both landlords and tenants, without bias. The best compliment she ever received came from a landlord who, having read Every Tenant's Legal Guide, said, "I wish all my tenants would read this—I'd have way fewer problems!"
Micah Schwartzbach is Nolo's Managing Editor, overseeing digital editorial content and other aspects of the company's publishing operation. He considers himself fortunate to work with the talented and experienced team of Nolo Editors.
Education. Micah earned his B.A. from the University of California, Davis, where he graduated with highest honors, and his J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where he graduated cum laude. He received several academic awards from both institutions, among them a distinction for excellence in the study of evidence law.
Law practice. Before coming to Nolo, Micah practiced criminal defense law. In his early career, he represented clients throughout Northern California in various stages of criminal cases as part of a small law practice. In his next opportunity, his work centered on writing, editing, and research. One of his most rewarding moments was overcoming a government argument against financial compensation for an innocent man who spent nearly nine years in prison.
Nolo. Micah's relationship with Nolo began in 2012, when he started to contribute articles to the renowned publishing company as a freelance writer. He joined the staff the next year as a Legal Editor, creating articles and editing books across areas of law. Beyond the websites in the Nolo family, Micah's analysis has appeared on HowStuffWorks and in the Daily Journal, a periodical for attorneys.
Like other team members, Micah finds tremendous meaning in spreading understanding of and access to the legal system.
Chris Barta is a Nolo Legal Researcher who also writes articles. Chris received a B.A. from Saint John's University (the smaller one) in Minnesota, and his law degree from Mitchell Hamline School of Law—also in Minnesota.
Legal research. Chris worked as a reference librarian while in law school, then further honed his research skills during a long stint at Thomson West (now Thomson Reuters) in Minnesota. Starting as a reference attorney for Westlaw, Chris was certified as a topical specialist in multiple practice areas, and provided "on the fly" user-level support for customers doing online research. During this period, Chris became aware of Nolo Press; he quips that he referred "literally hundreds" of callers to Nolo's self-help publications.
Teaching research. Chris was eventually promoted to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he worked as a Westlaw account representative and later an account manager for government agencies and large law firms—including the top ten largest law firms in the county. Chris was responsible for training law firm summer and new associates on how to do research and also worked closely with librarians on general research issues. He also conducted research seminars at Stanford Law School, the Internal Revenue Service, and many California state agencies.
Nolo. In 2015 Chris started his role at Nolo. Although he enjoys exploring most areas of the law, he has a deep passion for the topic of real-estate, primarily landlord-tenant issues. Chris says "property law is fascinating because, even though it's steeped in ancient English tradition, it's also evolving at a dizzying speed."
Chris's goal has always been to take the complex and make it simple.
Ilona Bray, J.D. is an award-winning author and Legal Editor at Nolo, specializing in real estate, immigration law and nonprofit fundraising.
Educational background. Ilona received her law degree and a Master's degree in East Asian (Chinese) Studies from the University of Washington. She is a member of the Washington State Bar. Her undergraduate degree is from Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in philosophy. She actually viewed law school as an extension of her philosophy studies, with its focus on ethics, fundamental rights, and how people can get along in society—of particular concern to her as the daughter of a WWII refugee.
Working background. Ilona has practiced law in corporate and nonprofit settings as well as in solo practice, where she represented immigrant clients seeking asylum, family-based visas, and more. She has also volunteered extensively, including a six-month fellowship at Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle and a six-month internship at Amnesty International in London. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers' Association (AILA), the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE), and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).
Working at Nolo. Ilona started at Nolo in 2000 as a Legal Editor. Since then, she has not only continued to edit other writers' books and online articles, but also has taken an active role in planning and authoring new Nolo books. Many of these have become consistent Nolo bestsellers and award-winners, among them Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits, Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home, and Selling Your House. Ilona particularly enjoys interviewing people and weaving their stories into her books. She also won the 2012 "Best Blog" award from the National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE).
Spare time. (What spare time?) Ilona enjoys swimming, gardening (though she's still looking for a vegetable the squirrels won't eat every last morsel of), cooking gluten- and sugar-free meals, and writing children's books.
Jessica Gillespie is a Legal Editor and Nolo's Research Director. Her articles appear on Nolo.com, CriminalDefenseLawyer.com, and Lawyers.com.
Education. Jessica received a B.A. from the University of Virginia, an M.S. in Library and Information Science from Long Island University, and an M.A. in United States History from North Carolina State University. She also did doctoral work in history at the University of Tennessee, where she focused her research on Progressive Era reform movements in the Appalachian South.
Working at Nolo. Jessica joined the Nolo Editorial team in 2014. At Nolo, Jessica conducts legal research and writes and edits articles across many areas of practice, including estate planning, criminal law, and personal injury. She is also the current editor of Nolo's Legal Forms for Starting & Running a Small Business and a cocreator of many of Nolo's online legal forms, including the online LLC and online corporation formation services.
Before Nolo. In addition to her background in academia, Jessica has years of experience working in law libraries. Before coming to Nolo, Jessica managed the U.S., E.U., and U.N. documents collections at New York University's Law Library and worked in the library of a large law firm in Richmond, Virginia, where she provided technical services support and research assistance to attorneys and staff.
E.A. (Liz) Gjelten has been a Special Projects Editor at Nolo since 2016. A generalist when it comes to subject matter, she enjoys using her research, analytical, and writing skills to translate complex legal issues into jargon-free language that's accessible to lay readers without compromising accuracy.
Nolo. In addition to her work on surveys about lay people's experiences with the legal process, Liz writes articles for Nolo.com, Lawyers.com, Criminaldefenselawyer.com, and Alllaw.com in several areas of the law, including workers' compensation, criminal law, civil rights, school law, and animal law.
Legal background. Before coming to Nolo, Liz worked for 12 years as a legal author for Thomson Reuters, writing about new legal developments in workers' compensation and family law for Westlaw and print publications. She also wrote an annual roundup of new California legislation for a monthly family law journal. Before that, Liz worked as an author, legal editor, and managing editor for California Family Law Report, a small legal publishing company.
Other pursuits. Liz has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California at Los Angeles and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. She's a produced playwright and has taught at San Francisco State University and New College of California. She's also worked as a freelance book editor, journalist, and grant writer.
David Goguen is a Legal Editor at Nolo, focusing on claimants' rights in personal injury cases. He is a member of the State Bar of California with almost two decades of experience in litigation and legal publishing. His work has been featured and quoted in a number of publications, including Medscape and Fodor's.
Legal career. After a few years as a practicing attorney, handling everything from car accident claims to groundwater pollution cases, David began his career as a Legal Editor. Over the years at Nolo, David's area of expertise has expanded to encompass all kinds of injury-related cases, from fender benders and medical malpractice to the latest mass tort cases making headlines—including Roundup-cancer lawsuits.
Personal injury law. Few areas of the law are more fraught with stress than personal injury. Accidents are by definition unexpected, and they can give rise to all kinds of uncertainty. In the days and weeks following an injury, more and more people go online with questions about their options and the right path forward, and David is proud to be part of a Nolo team that provides some of the best answers out there.
Aaron Hotfelder is a Legal Editor at Nolo specializing in employment law and workers' compensation law. He has written for Nolo and Lawyers.com since 2011, covering topics ranging from workplace discrimination to unemployment benefits to employee privacy laws. He's a member of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA).
Books and citations. Aaron has edited a number of Nolo titles, including The Manager's Legal Handbook, Dealing With Problem Employees, and Working With Independent Contractors, and is a co-author of The Employer's Legal Handbook. Aaron's work has been cited by U.S. News & World Report, TheStreet.com, the St. Louis University Law Journal, and the Minnesota Law Review, among many other outlets.
Early legal career. Prior to joining Nolo as a Legal Editor, Aaron worked at a small law firm in Columbia, Missouri, representing clients in Social Security disability, long-term disability, and workers' compensation cases. He later spent three years serving as an employment law consultant for a human resources and benefits compliance firm.Education. Aaron received his law degree in 2010 from the University of Missouri School of Law. He holds a B.S. in criminal justice from Truman State University, known by some as the "Harvard of Northeast Missouri."
Bethany Laurence is a Senior Legal Editor at Nolo, where she has worked since 1997. She holds a J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and is a member of the California Bar. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Boston University.
Disability law. At Nolo, Bethany is the editor for the Disability Law Center and the Social Security and Medicare Center. She edits the books Nolo's Guide to Social Security Disability; The Complete IEP Guide; Social Security, Medicare, and Government Pensions; and Long-Term Care. Bethany is a member of NOSSCR (National Organization of Social Security Claims Representatives).
Business law. Bethany has also combined her legal and financial expertise to edit many Nolo small business books, such as LLC or Corporation and How to Form an LLC, and is the lead editor for Nolo's online LLC and corporation services. Over the years she has co-written several business books, including Business Buyout Agreements: Plan Now for Retirement, Death, Divorce or Owner Disagreements; Save Your Small Business: 10 Crucial Strategies to Survive Hard Times or Close Down & Move On; and Bankruptcy for Small Business Owners: How to File for Chapter 7.
Other pursuits. In addition to her work at Nolo, Bethany co-founded several educational nonprofit organizations, including River Montessori Charter School and Red Barn Montessori, and served on their boards of directors. She most recently served on the board of the Magnet Program Foundation of Hillcrest Middle School. Bethany has also volunteered her time at a disability law clinic in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco.
Originally from Rhode Island, Bethany enjoys reading and hiking in the redwoods of Northern California.
Jennie Lin is a Legal Editor in estate planning at Nolo. She writes for Nolo.com and other sites in the Nolo Network and edits a variety of Nolo books.
Legal career. Previously, Jennie was an attorney at Latham & Watkins LLP in New York, where she worked in several practice areas before settling into international arbitration. She has also interned at a state attorney general's office, the Housing Law Clinic at the Legal Services Center in Jamaica Plain, MA, and the Immigration and Refugee Clinic at Greater Boston Legal Services.
Writing career. Jennie has also worked as a writer/editor for the last decade. She has written for companies and publications including Yahoo!, Kimpton Hotels, The New York Times, and NewYorker.com. She is thrilled to be working at Nolo in a rare position that allows her to utilize her expertise in both law and writing on a daily basis. She finds it especially rewarding to work in estate planning—an area of law that is applicable to pretty much everyone—and to help make the legal system just a touch more approachable.
Amy Loftsgordon is a legal editor at Nolo, focusing on foreclosure, debt management, and personal finance. She writes for Nolo.com and Lawyers.com and has been quoted by news outlets that include U.S. News & World Report and Bankrate.
Working at Nolo. In 2012, Amy started writing for Nolo as a freelancer. Since that time she has written hundreds of articles covering foreclosure, credit issues, consumer protection matters, and more. In 2017, Amy became a full-time legal editor with Nolo. Her favorite part of the job is researching and analyzing dry, complicated materials—like state statutes, federal regulations, and court cases—and then explaining that information in a way that makes it palatable and engaging for the everyday reader.
Early legal career. Amy began her writing career while still in law school, producing case summaries for Wickstrom Legal, a small publishing company. After graduating from law school in 2001, Amy started working in foreclosure and related areas, first in her own law practice and then at a law firm where she was responsible for ensuring compliance with foreclosure and collections laws.
Foreclosure experience. Amy has drafted foreclosure-related training programs and loan servicing compliance procedures for various law firms, as well as written training manuals for collections operations in Panama. (She takes pride in the fact that she drove to and from Panama—around 7,000 miles roundtrip.) Amy also performed compliance reviews of foreclosures in multiple states as part of the national Independent Foreclosure Review.
Bank litigation support. In 2016, Amy began working for Investors Consulting Group (ICG), a firm that provides subject matter expert services in fields such as loan origination, credit underwriting, securitization, and mortgage servicing. She was instrumental in the preparation and writing of expert reports that were used in several lawsuits against banks and servicers accused of mishandling preforeclosure, loss mitigation, foreclosure, and REO processes. At ICG, Amy also conducted loan-level audits to assess servicer compliance with federal mortgage servicing laws, RESPA, TILA, SCRA, state foreclosure laws, and UDAAP/UDAP laws, as well as Making Home Affordable and FHA loss mitigation procedures.
Publications. Amy has updated several Nolo books, including The Foreclosure Survival Guide, Credit Repair, and Solve Your Money Troubles, and edited several others, like The Essential Guide to Handling Workplace Harassment & Discrimination, Working for Yourself, Starting & Building a Nonprofit, and the Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business.
Christine Mathias is a Legal Editor at Nolo specializing in business formation, nonprofit law, and intellectual property. She writes for Nolo.com, Lawyers.com, and Avvo.com, and works on small business forms.
Christine has a B.A. from Portland State University, a J.D. from Penn State Dickinson School of Law, and an M.L.I.S. from the Simmons School of Library and Information Science. She is an active member of the California State Bar and an inactive member of the Vermont Bar Association.
Legal career. After graduating from law school in 2009, Christine started her own practice in Vermont, specializing in employment law, small business, and family law. Drawn to research and teaching, Christine spent many years working in law libraries in Boston and San Diego, including the Northeastern School of Law's Library, the Social Law Library, the San Diego County Public Law Library, and the University of San Diego Legal Research Center. Nowadays, Christine operates a law practice based in Joshua Tree, California, with a focus on small businesses and nonprofits.
Nonprofit experience. In 2011, Christine co-founded and directed a music camp for girls, Girls Rock Vermont. After moving to San Diego, she founded the Sunshine Sound Center, another music nonprofit, focused on providing equitable access to music and advancing independent artists. She also served as the director of the Placitas Community Library in New Mexico.Writing for Nolo. Christine has published hundreds of articles for consumer-facing websites to help people understand the legal process. She believes the law should be accessible to everyone and strives to demystify the legal process by creating content and forms that are easy to understand and use.
John McCurley started writing criminal law articles for Nolo as a freelancer in 2015. He joined the Nolo staff as a Legal Editor in 2016.
Legal training. During law school, John became interested in the criminal justice system while interning with the Prison Law Office and the San Francisco and Contra Costa County public defender's offices. After graduating and passing the California Bar in 2008, John practiced criminal defense and juvenile dependency law, primarily doing writs and appeals.
Legal career. John is currently a member of the California State Bar and has been a certified appellate law specialist since 2017 (certification from by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization). John maintains a small private practice in San Diego (see www.mccurleylaw.com), handling mostly court-appointed juvenile dependency appeals out of various Southern California counties. He has a number published victories, including In re Juarez (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 1316, K.F. v. Superior Court (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 1369, People v. Hill (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 1100 (co-counsel), and In re Bianca S. (2015) 241 Cal.App.4th 1272.
Ann O'Connell is a Legal Editor at Nolo specializing in landlord-tenant and real estate law. She writes for Nolo.com, Lawyers.com, and Avvo. Ann is a coauthor of Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home, which won a silver Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Book Publishers Association in 2020, and Nolo's Every Landlord's Legal Guide.
Legal career. Before joining Nolo as an editor, Ann was a freelance writer for Nolo as well as other publications and law firms. Ann practiced civil litigation in California and Colorado, and had her own firm in Colorado. At her firm, she focused on real estate, landlord-tenant, and small business cases.
Credentials. Ann earned her B.A. from Boston College and her J.D. from UC Berkeley Law. She has passed the bar exams in California, Nevada, and Colorado, where she is both an active attorney and a real estate broker.
Landlord-tenant law. Ann's favorite part of writing about landlord-tenant matters is the opportunity to help tenants—who often find it difficult to afford or hire a lawyer to represent them—understand and assert their rights. Ann's research and writing on coronavirus-related eviction bans and tenant rights has been cited by numerous news outlets and government agencies, including Yahoo Finance, CNET, Fannie Mae, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Cara O'Neill is a Legal Editor at Nolo, focusing on bankruptcy and small claims. She also maintains a bankruptcy practice at the Law Office of Cara O'Neill and teaches criminal law and legal ethics as an adjunct professor. Cara has been quoted in bankruptcy, finance, small claims, and litigation articles by news outlets that include USA Today, CNBC, U.S. News & World Report, Nerd Wallet, and Yahoo Finance.
Cara received her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law, where she graduated a member of the Order of the Barristers—a highly-selective honor society that gives national recognition to top law school graduates demonstrating excellent skills in trial advocacy, oral advocacy, and brief writing.
Working at Nolo. Cara started writing for Nolo as a freelancer in 2014 and became a full-time Legal Editor in 2016. She has authored a number of Nolo self-help legal books, including How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, The New Bankruptcy, Everybody's Guide to Small Claims (national version), and Everybody's Guide to Small Claims in California. She also co-authors and edits Solve Your Money Troubles and Credit Repair and has written hundreds of articles for Nolo.com, Lawyers.com, TheBankruptcySite.org, and AllLaw.com.
Early legal career. Before joining Nolo, Cara spent 20 years working as a trial attorney litigating criminal and civil cases. She also served as an administrative law judge mediating disputes between auto manufacturers and dealerships and began teaching law as an adjunct professor in 2004. She added bankruptcy to her practice after the 2008 financial downturn.
Origins of litigation and writing career. Thanks to her mother, Cara's advocacy training began early and involuntarily. In junior high school, she took second place two years running in the local Optimist Club speaking competition. She also successfully competed on her high school speech and debate team for several years, eventually serving as president of the same. During law school, she competed on a nationally ranked ABA moot court team for two years (and was recruited for a third, but declined) and served as a law journal editor.
Daniel Pan is a Legal Researcher at Nolo. Daniel received his legal education in England, where he graduated with an LLB from King's College London.
Nolo. Daniel joined the research team at Nolo in 2020. He has worked on a number of projects covering landlord-tenant law, business formation, criminal penalties, and more. He particularly enjoys researching new legislation and keeping up to date with latest developments in the law.
Legal training. Prior to joining Nolo, Daniel held a number of legal positions. During law school, he worked with AdviceUK, one of the UK's largest legal aid organizations. He also volunteered with the London Legal Support Trust, and was an active member of several student law societies. After graduating in 2019, Daniel spent time working at a major law firm in Hong Kong, before moving back to the US to continue his legal career.
Rebecca Pirius is a Legal Editor at Nolo specializing in criminal law. She has worked in the area of criminal law since 2003, most recently as a senior policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). For 12 years, Rebecca was a legislative analyst and an attorney in the Minnesota House of Representatives, providing nonpartisan legal research and drafting services to the 134 members. Right out of law school, she clerked for a judge in Hennepin County (Minneapolis, Minnesota). Rebecca earned her J.D. from Mitchell Hamline School of Law in Minnesota, where she graduated magna cum laude and served as a law review member. She is a member of the Minnesota State Bar.
Nolo. In 2017, Rebecca began freelancing with Nolo and writing articles on criminal law, traffic laws, and impaired driving. She started full time at Nolo in 2019 as a Legal Editor covering criminal law. She writes primarily for CriminalDefenseLawyer.com and Nolo.com.
Prior career. Working at the Minnesota Legislature and NCSL, Rebecca conducted extensive research and analysis of laws and legislation on criminal law, public safety, corrections, and courts. Her roles required her to break down complex legal concepts for a broad audience, including policymakers and constituents, and allowed her to work with both sides of the political aisle. At NCSL, her policy work took her around the country to work with local and state policymakers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, former offenders, young adult offenders, crime victims, and criminal justice experts.
Legal writing and publications. At the Minnesota Legislature, Rebecca authored and co-authored several publications outlining and explaining Minnesota laws on traffic citations, public defenders, jury service, domestic abuse, and more. She continued her criminal law writing at NCSL, where she authored blogs and publications on criminal records, young adults in the justice system, and bail. Her publications included Put Up or Stay Put (State Legislatures Magazine), a legislative primer on Young Adults in the Justice System, and a policy brief on Barriers to Work for those with criminal records.
Betsy Simmons Hannibal is a Nolo Senior Legal Editor specializing in Estate Planning. Her work centers around managing the editorial contributions to Quicken WillMaker & Trust.
Estate planning books. Betsy also edits many of Nolo's best-selling estate planning books, including Make Your Own Living Trust, Plan Your Estate, Estate Planning Basics, How to Probate an Estate in California: A Step-by-Step Guide, Quick & Legal Will Book, and Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won't Have To.
Press contributions. Betsy regularly speaks with journalists who want to know more about estate planning and probate. Here is some of the content to which she has contributed: End-of-Life-Planning Is a "Lifetime Gift" to Your Loved Ones (NPR's Life Kit), What Is Probate and Can You Avoid It? (HowStuffWorks), Probate Workarounds Can Save Your Heirs Time and Money (NerdWallet, syndicated by the AP), and A Brief Guide to Estate Planning, (Wirecutter, The New York Times).
Early career. Before joining Nolo, Betsy trained at two private law firms, as well as the San Francisco Superior Court and the Federal District Court of Northern California. She is a graduate of the Honors Lawyering Program at Golden Gate University School of Law, where she served as the research editor of the law review.
While she currently lives too far from her home state of California, she is enjoying the temperature variation provided by the mid-Atlantic seasons.