Meet Our Officers
Jenny L. Womack has practiced family law in Texas since receiving her law license in 1998 after graduating with honors from the University of Texas School of Law. Ms. Womack was invited to join AAAA in 2004 and has served in various leadership positions over the years before being elected President-Elect in April of 2020. In 2009, Jenny was selected by the Congressional Coalition for Adoption Institute to receive an Angels in Adoption award in Washington, D.C. Locally, Jenny is a member of the Dallas Bar Association and has served as a director for both the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers and the Dallas Women Lawyers Association. Jenny opened her own firm in October of 2012 and has focused her practice exclusively on family formation law (adoption, surrogacy and other assisted reproduction matters) since then. She speaks frequently on various aspects of family formation law.
Jennie Sullivan has been working in the area of adoption for nearly 30 years, first in the adoption law firm of Kirsh & Kirsh and now in her role as the Executive Director and Secretary for the Academy of Adoption & Assisted Reproduction Attorneys. In addition to her work for AAAA, Ms. Sullivan handles the administrative duties for the Family Formation Charitable Trust, a non-profit foundation started by AAAA and dedicated to providing education, support and financial assistance to those seeking to build their families through adoption or assisted reproductive technology. Ms. Sullivan received her law degree from Indiana University and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Xavier University.
Jennie Sullivan is a wife and mother of three boys – two in college and one in high school. She is an avid reader, loves to travel, delights in cheering at her youngest son’s sporting events, and in her free time enjoys handling her own home improvements.
Debra E. Guston is a partner in the law firm of Guston & Guston, L.L.P., Glen Rock, NJ and Visiting Lecturer at Rutgers School of Law where she teaches Family Law. Deb is a Past President of AAAA. Deb graduated cum laude from Mount Holyoke College, holds a M.A. from Emerson College and received her J.D. from Cardozo School of Law. Deb’s practice focuses on family formation through adoption and assisted reproduction and family protection through estate planning; estate litigation and administration and guardianships for seniors and special needs children. She also represents non-profit organizations in formation and governance issues and is an advocate for LGBTQ families.
Nidhi is an attorney in private practice, practicing in the areas of assisted reproductive technology (ART) and adoption. She currently serves as the Director of ART for the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (AAAA) and as a member of its Board of Directors. She serves as a board member of the Chicago Coalition for Family Building, a foundation that helps individuals and couples struggling with infertility through education and financial assistance and has been appointed to the legal advisory group for Men having Babies, a not-for-profit group providing education and resources for prospective intended parents.
She has been instrumental in helping to craft local and national policy surrounding ART. She has worked on drafting and passing legislation to protect the rights of families born of assisted reproductive technology in Illinois, first in 2005 with the passage of the Illinois Gestational Surrogacy Act and most recently in 2015 with updates to the Illinois Parentage Act to protect children and families born of gamete donation. She has served on the Illinois State Bar Association’s Genetics and Human Reproduction Task Force, formed to examine and develop policy recommendations for the myriad issues that arise surrounding these new technologies, and has been appointed to several committees throughout the years to provide education and recommendations to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding federal embryo donation policy.
Nidhi previously served on the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology’s (SART) executive counsel as well as serving as the Chair of the Legal Professionals of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and the Leadership Council of the Illinois local area affiliate of RESOLVE. On behalf of RESOLVE of Illinois, she has cocoordinated and taught “The Nuts and Bolts of Collaborative Reproduction,” a one-day seminar that highlighted the psychological, medical and legal issues involved in family building through assisted reproduction.
Her peers have also selected her as a member of the Leading Lawyers network by her peers.
Nidhi authored the chapter on surrogacy and assisted reproduction for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE) Practice Handbook on Illinois Adoption Law, and is a frequent speaker on legal issues, both locally and nationally, addressing medical and legal professionals including ASRM, the American Bar Association and AAAA.
Nidhi obtained her undergraduate degree from Washington University in St. Louis. She then received her law degree from Loyola University Chicago, where she served as an articles’ editor for the Loyola Annals of Health Law.
She works with individuals and couples from all around the globe to help them realize their dreams of creating a legally secure family.
Margaret Swain (Peggy) is an attorney in private practice in Baltimore, Maryland. A former surgical, delivery room and IVF clinical nurse, she focuses her legal practice on Assisted Reproductive Technology Law, Adoption and Guardianship. Peggy is a fellow of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, where she chaired the ART Committee, and served four years on the Academy’s Board of Trustees. She is a long-standing member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, co-chaired the formation of its Legal Professional Group, of which she is a Past-Chair, and has served as faculty on numerous Post-Graduate/Pre-Conference seminars. Peggy served for three years on the Executive Council of ASRM’s affiliate, The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. She is a member of the ABA and its Family Law Section on ART. Ms. Swain was also a charter fellow of AAARTA and served for three years as its Deputy Director and as Chair of its CLE and Legislative committees. Ms. Swain has authored a number of textbook chapters, is a frequent lecturer, and has taught as adjunct faculty at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and a board member of the Family Formation Charitable Trust. In 2008, she was recognized for her advocacy on behalf of adoptive families, birth parents and children by the national Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, and honored as an “Angel in Adoption”.
Genie Miller Gillespie
Immediate Past President
Genie Miller Gillespie, partner at Gillespie Law Group, LLC, has had her own practice in Chicago since 2001, concentrating exclusively in adoption, guardianship, assisted reproductive technology and other issues relating to children and families. She is an Illinois Leading Lawyer and Super Lawyer in the area of adoption; and a member of the Chicago Bar Association and American Bar Association. In 2016, she was recognized as an Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute in Washington, DC. She was one of a limited number of attorneys appointed as guardian ad litem in adoption cases in Cook County for fourteen years. She was one of the co-founders and prior Legal Services Director for the Center for Law and Social Work, where she worked part-time until 2011. From 2006 through 2008, she was the Director of the ABA Child Custody and Adoption Pro Bono Project. She is the General Editor and chapter author for the IICLE Adoption Law Manual and has written numerous training materials regarding adoption law. She has spoken at numerous seminars and meetings related to adoption for attorneys, agencies, foster parents and prospective adoptive parents and has been the chair of the Chicago Bar Association Adoption Law Committee twice. She has appeared in two episodes of Illinois Law, the Illinois State Bar Association cable television show, regarding domestic and international adoptions. Prior to starting her own practice, she served as the Pro Bono Director at the Chicago Bar Foundation; was in private practice with a small firm handling domestic relations and mental health matters; and spent her first year after law school clerking for the Honorable Wendell P. Gardner, Jr., at the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. She received her B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, and her law degree from the Columbus School of Law at the Catholic University of America.
Adoptions have been a part of Eric Freeby's legal career since the beginning. He finalized his first adoption after being licensed for only a day. Such a quick entry into the world of adoptions was made possible by the mentorship of his former law partner, Susan Paquet. After finalizing his first adoption in 2005, Eric knew that he wanted to focus his career on family formation. Now, Eric's practice is devoted exclusively to adoption and assisted reproduction law.
Eric Freeby is a Fellow and Vice President of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys (“Academy”). He is also a former Trustee and Deputy Director of Adoptions for the Academy. Over the years, he has organized numerous Adoption Day celebrations that successfully finalized hundreds of adoptions. Eric has also lobbied in both Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C., to promote legislation focused on adoption and assisted reproduction. He is active in teaching and organizing continuing education for attorneys and social workers. He also serves on the boards of charitable organizations in the community.
Away from the office, Eric enjoys spending time with his wife and two teenage boys. A lot of his weekends are filled with watching his boys play tennis and basketball. To relax, Eric enjoys fishing and beekeeping.
Harold (Hal) Atencio joined AAAA in 1999 and is a dual adoption and ART fellow. Hal is a past president of the NM Adoption and Foster Care Alliance. Hal drafted legislation that is part of the NM adoption act and created case law in the New Mexico Supreme Court regarding rights of alleged fathers to contest an adoption. Along with his dues as Treasurer, Hal also serves as a Trustee on AAAA's Board.
Deputy Director of Domestic Adoptions
Sherriann H. Hicks has been in private practice since 1995. She is a fellow of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys and a founding member of the Georgia Counsel of Adoption Lawyers. She is also the former President of the Georgia Counsel of Adoption Lawyers. She is a current member and Past President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association. Sherriann served on the Board of Youth Reach International, an organization focused on developing Mentors for orphanage outreach in the United States and Russia and Ukraine for several years and now serves on the Board of her alma mater Greater Atlanta Christian School.
Sherriann’s law practice focuses almost exclusively on family formation law (adoption, surrogacy and other assisted reproduction matters) and child advocacy matters. She speaks frequently on various aspects of adoption and family law.
She is married to Jeff Hicks who is also an attorney and their office is located Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Deputy Director of International Adoptions
Kelly Dempsey practices exclusively in family formation law, focusing primarily on international and domestic adoptions. Her advocacy work was featured in the award-winning 2013 documentary “Stuck.“ Kelly has testified before Congress, tried cases to a verdict before juries, and helped hundreds of clients around the world through her practice.
ART Deputy Director
Laura founded Koupal Law Firm, P.C. in 2012, and holds the highest possible “AV-Preeminent” rating for legal ethics and ability from Martindale Hubble. Laura began her legal career over nineteen years ago and has represented over one thousand clients in assisted reproductive technology matters, complex divorce litigation, non-traditional and LGBTQ+ family formation and dissolution, adoption and estate planning matters. Laura also completed a one-year clerkship with the Honorable Christina M. Habas of Denver District Court following law school.
Laura accepts adoption pro bono clients through Metro Volunteer Lawyers and is currently a volunteer with the Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. Laura regularly writes and speaks on the issues of family law and assisted reproductive technology law.
Laura enjoys legal advocacy work and most recently worked with Colorado colleagues to draft and successfully lobby the passage of the Colorado Surrogacy Act (HB 21-1022) signed by Governor Polis on May 6, 2021.
Outside of work, Laura enjoys travelling and spending time in the Colorado outdoors camping, hiking and skiing with her husband, Chris and their three children- Charlie (16), Josie (14) and Sam (10).