Community activists with law degrees.

Hansel Law lawyers don't just protect your rights - we exercise our own!  Our lawyers and staff take advantage of paid time off to engage in protected First Amendment activities like protests, voting and testifying before the legislature.

Our work to increase the quantum of justice in the world doesn't stop at the courthouse door.

We March

Our Managing Attorney Tiana Boardman takes to the streets with other protestors to add her voice to the chorus calling for an end to civil rights abuses.

We Protect Protestors

Cary Hansel serves as a legal observer to protect the rights of marchers and provide immediate legal assistance to protestors on the street.

We stand as Allies

Cary Hansel stands behind trans activists in Baltimore.  Cary also serves on the Board of the city's leading trans rights advocacy organization.

We Testify

Our lawyers help make change by offering both invited and public testimony to the legislature.  We work closely with bill sponsors to provide legal expertise related to our practice areas. Above, Cary Hansel testifies in favor of police reform legislation.  CLICK HERE for video of Tiana Boardman testifying.

We Help Make Change

The firm has joined the chorus of voices calling with success for reforms like standards for police uses of force, the release of police disciplinary records and body camera footage, as well as meaningful rights for victims to recover. 

We Save Lives

Cary Hansel is one of the few public witnesses cited by the Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment in its historic 2008 report, which led to the abolition of the death penalty. The impact of his testimony is described in the excerpt above. Click to expand.

We Serve

Ashton Zylstra and Tiana Boardman are pictured above with other firm personnel serving dinner to people who are food insecure while volunteering with a non-profit.  The firm sponsored the dinner and served dozens of people from the community.

We Give

Tiana Boardman and Cary Hansel volunteer to deliver coats and winter clothing provided by Hansel Law to those in need. We pride ourselves on helping the populations we serve both in the courtroom and in the community.  

We Celebrate

Hansel Law seeks opportunities to uplift the communities we serve.  Above, Ashton Zylstra, Tiana Boardman and Cary Hansel join in the fun at a community holiday party. The firm sponsored free toys for any children and we made ourselves available to everyone needing free legal advice.  

We Speak Up

Cary Hansel offers solutions at the Next Steps Police Accountability Forum.  Our lawyers are frequent speakers at community events designed to drive reform.

We Support

The firm takes its obligations to the communities we serve.  We give of our time and resources both in and out of the courtroom.  We support the causes for which we fight in every way! 

We Educate

Our lawyers take every opportunity to speak to members of the bar and professional organizations about our core civil rights mission.  We aren't just fighting - we're recruiting others!

Why We Do It

Our reasons are as diverse as we are, but our mission is the same: to contribute to the quantum of justice in the world, leaving it a better place. Please read the stories of Tiana Boardman and Kristen Mack below to understand their reasons and what they bring to their role as your lawyer.

Whatever it takes...

By Tiana Boardman

One of the first cases I got to work on at Hansel Law was a class action lawsuit against the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.  Maintenance men were routinely sexually harassing and assaulting primarily young single mothers.  The victims of these men were denied basic necessities like heat, running water, and a safe place for them and their children to sleep at night if they refused the men’s advances.  Even worse, some of our clients were physically assaulted on numerous occasions.
Most of our clients did not have access to reliable transportation to come to our office or didn’t have access to a computer and printer to fill out the paperwork we needed.

On top of all of that, sexual assault is a painful and uncomfortable topic.  It is one that is usually discussed with hushed tones and certainly not a conversation that most people feel comfortable having with a woman on the phone who they’ve never met before.  Our conversations always felt strained and even with all of the open-ended questions I asked, I often received one-word responses.  So, I started asking clients if I could meet them where they were.  

I sat in the homes of dozens of clients and listened while they described the horrific things that were done to them.  I passed them a tissue from the coffee table when they cried or got them a glass of water from the kitchen while they processed what happened.  I hugged them if they needed a hug but most importantly I believed them.

The vast majority of the clients in this particular class action were Black women.  Just like me.  Nearly every time a client opened the door I saw…well first I saw looks of confusion.  Usually when you hear that someone from an attorney’s office is coming to meet with you, a face like mine isn’t the first to come to mind.  Once they realized who I was, I could see some of the tension dissipating.

I wasn’t an attorney at that time so I couldn’t argue a motion or depose the defendants or anything “lawyer-y” like that, but my role was just as important.  Seeing a similar face seemed to release that pressure valve and make an incredibly difficult conversation a little bit easier.  Our conversations were very natural like two girlfriends chatting over lunch and I think that made a world of difference.  I received so many “thank you” notes which are still on display in our office today.

One of my favorite parts of being an attorney is being a Black attorney in Baltimore City. I love my community and I love that I can be a microphone to amplify the voices of the people here in this beautiful city.

Struggle, Adversity and Empathy...

By Kristen Mack

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Empathy is something that I believe is absolutely vital for me to be able to best serve my clients. My ability to empathize with clients on a very deep level is something that I feel sets me apart from most attorneys. This is in large part due to my own life story.
I graduated high school in the top percentile of my class countywide in the area of Western North Carolina that I grew up. I received many academic accolades and awards. I played and lettered in five varsity sports all four years of high school. I was the captain of many of these teams. I went to college on a basketball scholarship. I graduated college at the top of my class and was known as a leader by my peers and professors alike. Like high school, I received several academic and athletic awards in college. I was voted by the South Atlantic Conference of the NCAA as the Female Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2012. This award is a distinction recognizing academic achievement, athletic excellence, service and leadership. I played semi-professional basketball and signed a contract to play professionally overseas but was injured before I was able to actually go play and made the decision to start law school instead of waiting until the next season to try to play overseas again. During law school, I served as the Manuscripts Editor of the Law Forum and as the Outside Events Chair of the Women’s Bar Association. Also during law school, I received a Dean’s Citation for service to the law school community, as well as the UB Living the Creed Award. The UB Living the Creed Award is presented to a student who is the personification of the UB Creed. Recipients are a contributing member of the campus community; act with integrity and responsibility; seek to understand and respect the differences in others; pursue knowledge; and foster excellence for themselves and their community. I graduated law school cum laude in three years while also completing an M.B.A. and working full-time during that same time. I have always had a reputation in the academic and sports world with professors and peers, and coaches and players as the hardest worker around. These are things that most people know about me or can very easily learn about me without ever actually meeting me.

However, people do not know that my mom had me when she was sixteen, and that we were extremely poor. Neither my mom nor dad graduated high school, so jobs that they were qualified for were scarce. I grew up in a very poor area where I was often referred to as “white trash” and treated as such.

When I was five years old, my mom died in a car accident that also claimed the life of her mother. My little brother and I were also in the accident, but we both survived. My little brother was only a year old at the time and crawled away with minor bumps and bruises. I was unconscious for a couple of days and suffered a broken collarbone. When I woke up, everything was different.

My dad was devastated, and a part of him died with my mother. He turned to drugs to deal with his heartbreak. Throughout the next ten years I raised my little brother. We were with my dad, but more times than not I was taking care of him as opposed to the other way around. He had many abusive and toxic relationships during this time, all of which my brother and I were exposed to and often times thrown in the middle of. I shielded my brother from as much of it as I could by working with him on baseball outside or taking him fishing in the river by our house, but it was impossible for him not to be exposed to a lot of the verbal and physical abuse that took place throughout countless nights. Not to mention the drugs, and drug deals gone wrong. I can honestly say that I grew up in a trap house. Often times we would not have electricity or heat or food to eat.

I knew it was wrong, that my dad was not doing right, but losing my mom had created this bond with my dad in which psychologically I felt he needed us to survive. The Department of Social Services was called several times over the years, but my brother and I always put on a fake smile and said everything was ok. This continued until I was a freshman in high school.

The day I received my first recruiting letter for basketball reality hit me like a ton of bricks—I was not always going to be there to take care of my little brother. Something had to be done, and I was the one that had to do it in order to ensure that my brother was going to be okay when I went to college. I had to do the hardest thing that I had ever had to do at the time—I had to come forward and tell the truth about what was going on at home. We were taken away from my dad, and my little brother and dad both hated me, and blamed me for breaking up the family. The day we were taken away, a meth lab was found in my dad’s master bathroom in our trailer.

A year went by before I saw my dad again, during which I was staying with my best friend and her family, and my brother was staying with my mamaw (my dad’s mom) in a bordering county. The day that I saw my dad again was at a court hearing in which a judge was going to rule on whether my dad was able to get us back. When he walked in, he was in such bad physical shape that I broke down emotionally. When the judge asked him if there was anything he would like to say to try and keep us, he put his head down on the table. That was the moment that I lost all respect for my father. He did not even fight to keep us. Later that day, I found out that there were some classes that he was supposed to take in order to have a chance at getting us back, and that he had not completed any of them. It broke my heart that we had hid the truth for so long, and fought so hard to be with our dad, but he did not do anything to fight for us.

After that hearing came the question of permanent custody rights. My mamaw wanted both of us, but that would mean that I would have to transfer high schools. I had worked so hard where I was and had established myself both academically and athletically. I was being heavily recruited for basketball. The thought of having to transfer led me to tears. My dad’s last name was recognized by many throughout Western North Carolina, and it was tough to overcome that. My Guardian Ad Litem helped me have a say in the matter. I ended up being emancipated and becoming a ward of the court. I was independent at the age of fifteen.

I began receiving a social security check every month from where my mother passed away. Come to find out, my brother and I both had been getting these checks every month for ten years, but my dad had been cashing them and using them himself. I found an apartment with two college students, and with this monthly check I was able to pay rent and buy food and gas. On weekends that I did not have a basketball tournament (AAU), I worked at a restaurant, under the table, busting tables and waitressing so I could afford to pay my car insurance, cell phone bill, and to get clothes and such when I needed them.

At the beginning of my senior year, the lease was up on the place that I was living, and the two college students were not staying. I could not find anywhere that I could afford on the limited income that I had, so for the entirety of my senior year of high school I lived in my car, staying the night with friends at times. I would show up to school at 5:00 AM and do a basketball workout, using the locker room shower to get ready for school each day. No one ever knew this about me. Not even my best friend.
I know what it is like to struggle and face adversity. And because of that, I am able to truly empathize with my clients in a way that adds an unmeasured value to the relationship and allows me to serve them in a way most cannot.