2024 Well-Being in Law Week

Speakers & NJLAP Staff

Speaker Bios

listed by day

Monday, May 6, 2024

 Diverse and Personal Pathways to Physical Well-Being

Benita Talati, Esq.

Benita Talati is an attorney who has had to overcome multiple challenges and personal trauma. Once predicted to not do well in school or go to college, she earned a J.D., paralegal certificate and a B.A. in political science.

She is currently a Senior Law Clerk lead supporting a federal government agency processing FOIA requests and utilizing her prior e-discovery skills. Looking for opportunities that enabled her to both work and manage a chronic illness, she pivoted her career by joining the e-discovery field where she developed an expertise in managing the drafting of privilege logs and utilized her leadership skills to serve as a team lead on multiple projects.

Her leadership skills earned her a promotion to Project Attorney at her most recent firm where she managed contract attorneys on high profile cases as a member of the Defensive Discovery team.

Matthew Maisel, Esq.

For the past six years, Matt was General Counsel at a real estate management company just outside of Camden, NJ. Before this, Matt was an attorney at several law firms in Central Jersey in South Jersey, mainly practicing commercial litigation. Matt completed a clerkship in the New Jersey SuperiorCourt, and earned his J.D. from Rutgers School of Law-Camden, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of the Rutgers Journal of Law & Public Policy.

Matt's fitness journey began in earnest in 2011, when we was treated for sleep apnea. The next year, in 2012, Matt lost approximately 80 pounds with the help of a commercial weight loss program, some changes to his diet, and aiming to walk 10,000 steps per day – he didn't even join a gym. Subsequently, in the spring of 2017, Matt started running with a local running club, and ran his first 5k and 8k later that year, and the ten-mile Broad Street Run in Philadelphia the following year. This past November, Matt completed the Philadelphia Marathon.

Matt believes that having some structure, meal planning, having support from others, and putting yourself first are critical to achieving your physical fitness goals.

Defne Ekin, PhD

Dr. Ekin is NJLAP’s Team Clinician.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Spirituality: What Is It?

Michael Brusca, Esq.

Since 2009, Michael has devoted his practice to representing vulnerable people and their families in abuse, neglect, and death cases in nursing homes, rehabs, assisted living facilities, group homes, and hospitals. He is one of a select few lawyers in New Jersey to truly concentrate their practice in this area. He shares his knowledge on this important topic by regularly lecturing around the country and teaching other lawyers to prosecute these claims the right way. He has also been consulted by reporters and law enforcement in this field. Michael has been published many times, including in the New Jersey Law Journal and in “Trial” – the national attorney magazine published & disseminated by the American Association for Justice. He is the past chairman of the Executive Board of the National Nursing Home Litigation Group for the American Association for Justice. Michael brings a unique perspective to his work. He himself has lost family members in institutions and he knows, first-hand, what it’s like to see someone you care about struggle and die. He uses that passion and understanding to bring about justice for his clients. Michael is a highly skilled and experienced advocate. Prior to entering private practice, Michael served as a Judge Advocate in the United States Air Force, where he tried many cases all over the world, including Japan, Qatar and Kuwait.

Ray Ortiz, Esq.

Ray Ortiz is a Senior Attorney Counselor for NJLAP.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Intellectual and Occupational Well-Being

James R. Garts, III, Esq.

James Garts is a continuing education programming attorney with the New Jersey State Bar Association. Holding law licenses in Tennessee, Colorado and New Jersey, James has significant litigation experience in civil,criminal and domestic relations. James has a social personality and a mind toward service having participated extensively as a volunteer leader with the Colorado Bar Association and honored recipient of the Denver Bar Association Pro Bono Lawyer of the year award for 2020. During James’ 20-years of practicing law he focused upon consistent client contact and education; his goal being to create consistent and principled outcomes that his clients understood and were pleased with.

James graduated from Colorado College in 1999 and obtained his law degree in 2002 from the Samford University Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama. He began his legal career in his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, moved back to Colorado in 2006 and then to New Jersey in 2023.

James finds great value in the development of continuing legal education programs that normalize the practice of law and develop collegiality among practitioners. His goal is to make legal processes more efficient for business, the judiciary and individuals while creating an environment where lawyers can find personal satisfaction in their profession.

Andrew D. Manns

Andrew D. Manns, Jr.'s is a retired Criminal Trial Lawyer. As the Drug Court Public Defender in Middlesex County he shepherded hundreds of clients through the five year program to completion and graduation to a new life. He was an elected Board member for the National Association of Counsel for Children. His leadership extended to his tenure as President of the Garden State Bar Association.
In addition to his legal career, Manns has demonstrated his entrepreneurial acumen as a Social Entrepreneur and Creative Change Agent. He brings innovation and vision to his endeavors, seeking solutions to societal challenges and driving positive change.

Manns is recognized for his leadership in the nonprofit sector, where he served in executive roles and provided guidance as a Non-profit Executive Coach.

As chairman of the Board of Directors for the Greater Life Community Outreach Center in Newark, NJ. for nearly four decades, under his leadership the non-profit raised more than $3,000,000 to support the center's mission supporting thousands of youths in the Newark community.

In addition to his legal career, Manns has demonstrated his entrepreneurial acumen as a Social Entrepreneur and Creative Change Agent. He brings innovation and vision to his endeavors, seeking solutions to societal challenges and driving positive change.
Currently, Manns lends his expertise as a Marketing Consultant to World Wide Marketing, a leading AI-driven business marketing platform catering to high-end businesses and entrepreneurs.

Eric Salzman, Esq.

Eric is an Attorney Counselor for NJLAP.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Fostering Social Well-Being in the Legal Community

Ray Ortiz, Esq.

Ray Ortiz is a Senior Attorney Counselor for NJLAP.

Eric Salzman

Eric Salzman is an Attorney Counselor for NJLAP.

Defne Ekin, PhD

Dr. Ekin is NJLAP’s Team Clinician.

Friday, May 10, 2024

What’s Eating You? Three Ways to Balance Your Emotions

Kim Groshek

KIM GROSHEK, the "Pause Lady," is the Host and Producer of live events and InnerCircle Masterminds. She teaches high-achieving professionals to become even more successful and happy by doing less. As a keynote speaker, international best-selling author, and powerful force in business, Kim delivers her message around the world to people and organizations from many walks of life.

Jessica Kishpaugh, JD, CHN

Jessica Kishpaugh is a Holistic Nutritionist, Mind Body Eating Coach and Emotional Eating Coach. She is the CEO of LoYo Wellness and the Founder of the LoYo Method coaching program. She works primarily with women to heal and nourish their relationship with food and body through the power of food psychology and habit change. Jessica specializes in nutrition psychology, emotional eating, binge eating, stress reduction and mindfulness.With an intuitive eating and self care approach, Jessica counsels clients to let go of dieting and emotional eating so they can create happier, wholesome,balanced lives, and to empower them with confidence to live a life of health,body positivity and freedom.

Jessica lives in New Jersey with her husband and 3 children. Jessica is a former trial attorney and transitioned out of law after 10 years of practicing law to pursue her passion in health and wellness Jessica holds numerous health certifications. She obtained her Integrative Health Coaching Certification from one of the top health coaching schools, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She received her certification as a Mind Body Eating Coach and Nutrition Psychology Counselor from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. She has a certification in Exercise Nutrition from Precision Nutrition, and she has completed coursework in Intuitive Eating, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Hormone Health.

She is currently working toward her qualifications as a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach (NBHWC). She obtained her Juris Doctorate degree from The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law. Jessica obtained her undergraduate Bachelors of Science degree in Communications with an Honors Research Thesis distinction and a minor in Psychology/Human Development from Cornell University.

Noreen Braman, CLWI

Noreen is the Communications Manager for NJLAP, and a certified laughter wellness instructor.

NJLAP Staff Who Contributed Time And Talent For This Year’s Event

Nancy Stek, Interim Director

Nancy Stek, MS, LCADC is the Interim Director of the New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program/NJ Judges Assistance Program. Ms. Stek’s career spans the fields of health care, education and the non-profit sector. She has been a featured speaker at national conferences and has provided specialized training for the New Jersey Department of Education, the Rutgers University Center for Alcohol Studies, the American Bar Association and the National Judicial College.

She is a certified Stress Hardiness Trainer through the University of California at Irvine, a certified Life Coach and Reiki Master Practitioner. Ms. Stek holds a B.A. degree from California State University, Sonoma and an M.S. in Psychology from California Coast University. She is a Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor and serves on the Board of A.S.A.P, a jail-based addiction treatment program.

Nicole Perskie, JD, Administrative Director

Nicole L. Perskie, JD, is Administrative Director for the New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program. Ms. Perskie is a former bankruptcy attorney and holds a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers University, Camden and a Bachelor of Science from Pennsylvania State University as well as graduate level accounting courses. She currently spreads the message of hope, and the ability to recover and works with attorneys with a variety of mental health concerns and substance use disorder. She is working on obtaining mental health credentials in addition to working with the NJLAP’s database, automations and other fun stuff.

Noreen Braman, CLWI, Communications Manager

Moderator: Emotional Well-Being, Friday

Speaker: Emotional Well-Being, Friday

Noreen Braman is Communications Manager for NJLAP. She has extensive experience in Strategic Communications for print and digital: including writing, editing and graphic design; social media and web design. She has produced award-winning videos and been a judge for annual PRSA-NJ Pyramid Awards.

A humor writer since childhood, she was encouraged by founding NJLAP Director William Kane, Esq., to become a Certified Laughter Wellness Instructor. Noreen teaches the importance of laughter for the health of it, especially for lawyers. She is an instructor at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Rutgers University and continues to share her well-being message, including with mental health professionals in the Ukraine and as Keynote Speaker for conferences in Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Defne Ekin, PhD, Team Clinician

Moderator: Physical Well-Being, Monday

Dr.Defne Ekin is the team clinician for New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program. Defne is a versatile clinician who has helped many individuals, families and groups navigate crises and transitions. She earned a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from New York University and has an M. A. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University. She was trained at the Ackerman Institute for the Family for her post-graduate work.

Before joining NJLAP, she served as a faculty member at Columbia University, Adelphi University, New York University and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.For much of her years in academia, she held key administrative and supervisory positions in addition to teaching. She maintains a private practice in New York City since 2009. Her research on mindfulness-based interventions and resiliency informs her counseling approach. She believes in the power of listening closely, earning trust, and building collaborative relationships. Clients value her strengths-based perspective and straightforward style. In her personal life, she enjoys exploring the world and tries to step out of her comfort zone by trying new activities.

Ramon Ortiz, Senior Attorney Counselor

Moderator: Spiritual Well-Being, Tuesday

Speaker: Spiritual Well-Being, Social Well-Being

Ramon Ortiz is Senior Attorney Counselor with the New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program for the past 28 years assisting lawyers with problems related to mental health (stress, anxiety, depression), alcohol, drugs, gambling, and other process addictions.

Prior to joining the New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program, he worked as a drug and alcohol counselor at Turning Point in Verona and Eva’s Village in Paterson, NJ. Before entering the field of addictions treatment he was an Associate Professor of Property Law, Clinical Professor of Law, and Director of Clinical Programs at Seton Hall Law School. He also practiced law with the firm of Ortiz & Velez for 20 years.

James Burke, BA, CRSP Candidate, Program Assistant/Resource Coordinator

Moderator: Social Well-Being, Thursday

James Burke is a dedicated Program Assistant/Resource Coordinator at the New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program, bringing a wealth of experience from his role as a Community Associate in the non-profit sector. Through his work with at-risk families and the homeless population, James has developed a profound understanding of the importance of offering support to those in need.

Skilled in Data Entry, Conflict Resolution, Case Management, Public Speaking, and Community Outreach, James is committed to making a positive impact in the lives of others. A graduate of Georgian Court University with a B.A. in Criminal Justice, James draws from personal experiences in seeking help during difficult times, which fuels his passion for his work with the NJLAP program.

Currently in the process of applying to become a Certified Recovery Support Practitioner and undergoing training to become a Certified Life Coach, James is dedicated to continuing his professional development. With over two years of personal recovery experience, he approaches his work with humility and empathy, always striving to uplift and empower those around him.

Guided by Theodore Roosevelt's timeless wisdom, "Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing," James is committed to making a meaningful difference in the lives of others. He believes that everyone deserves support and is dedicated to being a source of hope for those who reach out for help.

Eric Salzman, Attorney Counselor

Moderator: Occupational & Intellectual Well-Being, Wednesday

Speaker: Social Well-Being

Eric Salzman is a New Jersey attorney with over 16 years of legal experience. Since 2007, he has been dedicated to advocating for clients and providing expert legal guidance. Beyond his legal practice, Eric has made significant contributions to the recovery community for the past 20 years.

Now, as an Attorney Counselor, licensed Recovery Coach and Peer Advocate, he combines legal expertise with a compassionate approach to support NJLAP clients on their journey to wellness.

Mission Statement

The New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program is

the free and confidential resource assisting all

NJ Lawyers, Judges, Law Students, and Law Graduates

achieve and maintain personal and professional well-being.

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