Featured Alumni of 2009

Lisa A. Van Fleet

Partner, Bryan Cave in St. Louis, MO
– 1985, Valparaiso University School of Law
– 1982, B.S.W., highest distinction, Valparaiso University
– Leader of the firm’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation GroupMs. Van Fleet serves as leader of the firm’s Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation Group. She counsels clients, including tax-exempt organizations, with respect to qualified and nonqualified retirement plans, welfare and fringe benefit plans, and deferred and equity-based compensation. She has designed and implemented strategies for integration of employee benefit plans in mergers, acquisitions and similar corporate transactions. Ms. Van Fleet has defended clients in connection with Internal Revenue Service and Department of Labor audits of employee benefit plans and represented clients seeking rulings and
exemptions from their national offices.In addition, Ms. Van Fleet is a member of the firm’s Tax Advice and Controversy Client Service Group and works closely with the Hedge Fund Client Service Group, counseling clients on complex ERISA regulatory compliance matters, including the plan asset rules, fiduciary duties and prohibited transactions.
Lisa Van Fleet
Ms. Van Fleet is a frequent speaker and writer on employee benefit and tax-related topics and is often quoted in professional journals and business publications. She has served for many years as an adjunct professor of law at Saint Louis University School of Law teaching employee benefits courses.Areas of Concentration:
Qualified and nonqualified retirement plans, executive compensation, deferred compensation, equity based compensation, welfare benefit plans, compensation and benefit plans for tax-exempt organizations, multiemployer plans, plan asset vehicles, fiduciary duties, prohibited transactions, COBRA, HIPAA, FMLA and employee benefits in corporate transactions.Speaking Engagements:

  • “Section 409A in a Nutshell,” Sponsored by the Estate Planning Institute St. Louis, Missouri, April 2008
  • “409A and Other Compelling Executive Compensation Issues,” Sponsored by CBIZ Annual Tax Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, June 2008
  • “Designing and Administering Stock Plans after 409A,” Sponsored by the National Association of Stock Professionals, San Francisco, California, October 2007
  • “Section 409A,” Sponsored by the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, June 21, 2007
  • “Pension Protection Act – What You Need to Know Now,” Sponsored by the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri
  • “Effective ESOP Strategies,” Sponsored by The President’s Forum, St. Louis, Missouri, February 2007
  • “Benefits for Religious Organizations,” Sponsored by the Legal Resource Center for Religious Organizations, St. Louis, Missouri, February 2007
  • “Best Practices for Designing and Maintaining Successful Benefit Programs,” The Employee Benefits Legal Leadership Conference, Sponsored by Reed Logic, 2006
  • “Protecting Executive Compensation,” Sponsored by the Maricopa County Arizona Bar Association, Phoenix, Arizona, 2006
  • “Current Developments in Executive Compensation” Sponsored as a Forum for Public Companies, St. Louis, Missouri, September 2006
  • “Hedge Funds – Implications of Accepting Investments From ERISA Plans,” Sponsored by Hedge Funds Regulation and Compliance, New York, New York, May 2006
  • “Executive Compensation: New Rules – High Stakes,” Sponsored by Roth Capital, Laguna Beach, California, February 2006
  • “409A Compliance,” Sponsored by the National Association of Stock Professionals, Chicago, Illinois, October 2005
  • “Nonqualified Deferred Compensation,” Sponsored by Hedge Funds Regulation and Compliance, New York, New York, 2005
  • “Deferred Compensation after the Jobs Act,” Sponsored by the Fourth Annual Effective Hedge Fund, Tax Practices, New York, New York, 2005


  • “Correcting 409A Violations,” St. Louis Bar Journal, 2009
  • “Reminder: New Federal Regulations Regarding Anti-Discrimination on the Basis of Genetic Information,” Privacy and Data Security Law Journal, 2008
  • “Designing and Administering Stock Plans under the Final Section 409A Regulations,”
  • Pension Planning and Compliance, September, 2007
  • “Employee Benefits in Mergers and Acquisitions,” The Best in Mergers and Acquisitions, 1999
  • “Employee Benefits in Mergers and Acquisitions,” The Banking Law Journal, 1996

J.D., Valparaiso University, 1985
B.S.W., highest distinction, Valparaiso University, 1982

Professional Associations
American Bar Association
Missouri Bar Association
Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis – Secretary of the Employee Benefits Section
Employee Benefits Association of St. Louis
Workers in Employee Benefits (WEB) – Program Committee

Kim E. Ferraro

Founder & Executive Director

LEAF was established by attorney, Kim E. Ferraro to empower Indiana citizens with legal resources needed to fight polluting industry and complicit regulatory agencies.Before earning her JD from Valparaiso University School of Law, Ms. Ferraro was a litigation paralegal for  20 years and was inspired by attorneys  who were able to achieve social justice by forcing powerful corporate and government entities to answer for their action in a court of law. As an environmental activist, she recognized that these same entities can and should be held accountable for causing and allowing ever increasing toxic pollution to degrade our air, land and water with serious implications for human health.During law school, she received several scholarships and awards including the Dean W. Kohlhoff Memorial Award for Excellence in Environmental Law, the Corpus Juris Secundum Award, and the Charles R. Gromley Scholarship that was given to one member of the class of 2007 for outstanding academic achievement and community service. Also while in law school, Ms. Ferraro clerked for the U.S. EPA Region 5 Office of Regional Counsel, the City of South Bend Legal Department and Lake County Superior Court Judge, John Pera. Finally, Ms. Ferraro was an elected officer of the Valparaiso Environmental Law Society, a teaching assistant in the law school’s legal writing program and graduated in the top quarter of her class. Ferraro

Since founding LEAF, Ferraro has earned the respect of the environmental community and legal profession. In 2008, the Hoosier Environmental Council named her “Legal Advocate of the Year” for “her exceptional commitment to provide legal counsel to Northwest Indiana communities facing great environmental challenges and limited financial resources.” In 2009, Ms. Ferraro was one of 15 Indiana lawyers honored by the Indiana Lawyer as an “Up and Coming Lawyer” for her contribution to the legal profession and community and her demonstrated “Leadership in Law.”

In addition to representing LEAF’s clients and managing the organization, Ms. Ferraro is an adjunct professor at Valparaiso University’s MBA College where she teaches “Business and the Natural Environment.”  She lives in Valparaiso, Indiana with her husband, Dennis Ferraro, also an attorney and her two daughters, Andrea and Alexandra.

Supreme Court of Indiana
Supreme Court of Illinois
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Indiana
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana


Indiana State Bar Association
Indiana Trial Lawyers Association
Illinois State Bar Association
Chicago Bar Association
American Bar Association, Section of Environment, Energy & Resources Law
National Association of Women Lawyers

J. Sebastian Smelko

Counsel and Policy Director, Governor Mitch Daniels, Jr.
– 2007 – Valparaiso University School of Law,  Accelerated J.D.
– 2003 – Carnegie Mellon University, B.S.
– 2002 – University of Queensland, Brisbane, AustraliaSebastian serves on the Governor’s staff and counsels him on a multitude of legal issues as well as policy related topics pertaining specifically to gaming and public safety matters.   The agencies under his purview are: Indiana Gaming Commission, Horse Racing Commission, Criminal Justice Institute, Indiana State Police, Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Indiana War Memorials, Law Enforcement Academy, Department of Corrections, Indiana Integrated Public Safety Commission, and the Indiana Parole Board.  He advises, directs and liaisons between these agencies and the Governor’s office.Sebastian began an externship within the Office of the Governor for Valparaiso students in May, 2007. He clerked for the Governor’s General Counsel from May until his early graduation from law school in December.  Sebastian became an official part of the Governor’s team while studying for and successfully taking the Indiana Bar.  He progressed from law clerk to overseeing more than ten government agencies or organizations for the Governor.   Under the Governor’s leadership and guidance, a part of Sebastian’s functions include working with his agencies to provide the best service available to the citizenry while capturing efficiencies and cost-effective manners of governing.

Sebastian’s legal responsibilities include facilitating the review of the legislative agenda, review and approve all administrative rules, and composing Executive Orders and contracts.  He also works with the Governor’s General Counsel to advise on all pardon or clemency cases.

Sebastian’s hometown is Punxsutawney, PA, but has lived in Pittsburgh, Australia, and New Jersey.  He received his Bachelors of Science in History and Policy & Political Science from Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, PA in 2003 and served as the team captain on the University’s football team.   He graduated in the top fifteen percent of his class in college and was all conference in football.  During his senior year, he received the Senior Leadership Recognition Award.

Prior to law school, Sebastian worked for Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International in New Jersey and New York where he was the director of political research for eleven states during the 2004 Presidential Primary and General Elections.  He recruited, hired, instructed and supervised approximately 1500 exit pollsters for the General Election.  His company provided all the data responsible to the major news networks to correctly project the elections.

During law school Sebastian served as President of the Student Bar Association, a member of the Federalist Society, and was actively involved within Valparaiso’s political community.  As president of the SBA, he strived to professionalize the student body and assisted in the creation of a mentoring program for incoming law students to Valparaiso.  In 2006, Sebastian took part in the Valparaiso University School of Law’s’ Cambridge Program.  He was also an active member on the Steering Committee for the Conversations Project and served as a legal writing teaching assistant for Professor Clare Nuechterlein.  Sebastian received his accelerated J.D., from Valparaiso Law in December, 2007 and was the student speaker of the Class of 2008’s graduation.

Living in Indianapolis since December, 2007 with his fiancée Heather James (Valparaiso Law accelerated J.D., 2007; Ice Miller Associate), Sebastian is active within the community.   For last years General Election, he served as an Election Judge within Marion County.  He also is a 2009 Graduate of the Indiana Leadership Forum as well as the FBI Citizens’ Academy and is a member of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.  Finally, he is a mayoral appointee on the Massachusetts Avenue Economic Development Corporation.

Supreme Court of Indiana
Indiana Republican Party, Marion County Republican Party, Indianapolis Bar Association, American Bar Association, Beta Theta Pi National Fraternity

Lynda A. Bennett

Ms. Bennett has devoted her practice to complex commercial litigation with an emphasis on perfecting policyholder rights in insurance coverage disputes. Ms. Bennett’s insurance practice includes representing policyholders in declaratory judgment actions, mediating insurance coverage claims, and providing consultation services for specialized insurance policies. She has successfully recovered substantial sums for her clients from numerous major insurers in environmental, asbestos, construction, toxic tort, product liability, and director/officer liability matters. Ms. Bennett also has defended chemical, construction, and pharmaceutical companies in connection with complex litigation matters.She became ROBERTSON, FREILICH, BRUNO & COHEN, LLC’s first female partner in September 2006.Ms. Bennett is admitted to practice before all of the Federal and State Courts of New Jersey. She is also admitted to practice in New York State Court as well as the Southern and Eastern District Federal Courts in New York. Ms. Bennett has been consistently listed in a number of legal directories of distinguished attorneys including being listed in Martindale Hubbell where she enjoys the “AV” rating for excellence/preeminence in her field []. Lynda Bennett
In 2004, Ms. Bennett was recognized in the New Jersey Law Journal’s “40 Under 40” as one of the forty young attorneys in New Jersey “worth watching, not only for what they have achieved so far in their careers but more so for the potential they show to be among the leaders of the New Jersey Bar in the no-so-distant future.” Since 2006, Ms. Bennett has been listed in The Best Lawyers of America and repeatedly has been included in New Jersey Monthly magazine on the New Jersey Super Lawyers list, including as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in the State.Ms. Bennett has a demonstrated leadership in the New Jersey Bar. In 2008, the New Jersey Commission on Professionalism in the Law awarded Ms. Bennett a Professional Lawyer of the Year Award based on her conduct, competence and demeanor of setting an example for others in the profession. She is the immediate past Chair of the Insurance Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association. Ms. Bennett also serves as a Board Member of the New Jersey Women Lawyers Association, where she is the President-Elect of this 375-member specialty bar association. Finally, Ms. Bennett is routinely asked to serve as a moderator and speaker for Continuing Legal Education programs and insurance-related seminars.Ms. Bennett is a cum laude graduate of Susquehanna University (BA) and received her JD, magna cum laude, from Valparaiso University School of Law, where she served as an Executive Editor of the Valparaiso Law Review.

Melissa A. Breeden

MELISSA A. BREEDEN, is a Senior Staff Attorney at Simon Property Group, Inc., a S&P 500 company and the largest public real estate company in the United States. Simon owns or has an interest in 387 properties including regional malls, outlet centers, and community/lifestyle centers in North America, Europe and Asia. Ms. Breeden has been a member of the Simon legal staff since 1999 where her responsibilities include negotiating and closing mall and community center dispositions, single center acquisitions and commercial financings. Prior to working for Simon, Ms. Breeden worked as a staff attorney for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources where her practice focused on environmental litigation and handling various real estate issues for the Department. In addition, Ms. Breeden was in private practice in Merrillville, Indiana where she represented two governmental agencies and private clients in real estate, probate and other matters. She received her J.D. in 1995 from Valparaiso University School of Law and her B.A. in 1991 from Ball State University. Ms. Breeden is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and IndyCREW, the Indianapolis chapter of CREW Network, a network of women working in commercial real estate.

William S. Trowbridge

Background: Bill manages the Valparaiso Office of the 1st Source Bank Personal Asset Management Group. He brings with him nine years experience in trust administration and non-profit investment management. Prior to joining 1st Source, Bill was a trust officer for a $1.2 billion trust department where he served as the risk management/compliance officer and administered a portfolio valued in excess of $250 million. Since 2002, Bill has been an adjunct faculty member at Ivy Tech Community College teaching Trusts & Estates, Family Law, and Property Law.Education: Bill received his Bachelor’s degree from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, was awarded a Juris Doctorate (with Honors) from Valparaiso University School of Law, and earned a Masters in Business Administration (graduating first in his class) from Purdue University. trowbridge
Professional Affiliations: Admitted to practice law in the State of Indiana, past member on the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee for the Indiana State Bar Association, and holder of a Series 7 securities license.Community Involvement:

  •  Currently on Board of Directors for Opportunity Enterprises, Board Governance Taskforce Chair
  •  Currently on Board of Directors for United Way of Porter County, Board Governance Committee Co-Chair
  •  Past Chair (and current member) for Valparaiso Chamber’s Leadership Development Committee
  •  Past President of the Valparaiso Jaycees
  •  Immediate Past President of the Northwest Indiana Planned Giving Group