Melissa J. Schank
Executive Director
implements board policy 
• policy and business planning
• oversees association

Melissa J. Schank, Executive Director, has worked with nonprofit associations for over 20 years, and has been with TCDLA more than 15 years. She earned her Master’s of Human Resources, Business Administration, Bachelor’s of Communication and Mediation Certificate from Saint Edwards University in Austin, Texas and is a Certified Association Executive. Her greatest strengths are overseeing the long-term planning and strategy for legal educational programs, in addition to managing the organization’s seminars, membership and communication departments.

Rick Wardroup
Curriculum Director/
Staff Attorney
• Develops and directs training for criminal defense lawyers
• Supervises law clerks for research
• Provide resources for criminal defense attorneys

As Curriculum Director, Rick is responsible for assisting in the creation and development of trainings to address the needs of Texas trial lawyers, particularly in the areas of forensic science, capital litigation, trial advocacy and wellness issues. He is a regular presenter at trainings which focus on these topics and maintains relationships with nationally known experts, primarily on these topics, who he calls on to assist in our programs. He has served as a co-course director in TCDLA's Forensics seminar for the past 8 years, the TCDLA Capital Litigation/Mental Health programs on South Padre Island and in alternating Texas cities each year since joining TCDLA. He has also served as the Course Director for the Cross-examination course at the Center for American and International Law for 11 years and as co-course director for the Capital Defense College at CAIL for 8 years. As Staff Attorney, Rick assists in the development and reviews the grant applications to the Court of Criminal Appeals and serves as a resource for legal questions which arise at the home office. He leads the updating of TCDLA's publications, soliciting attorneys to update individual books and cheat sheets, updating some publications personally and editing the books and cheat sheets before publication. Rick's greatest strengths are his inquisitive nature and his desire to assist attorneys in the development of their trial skills and their coping/life-balancing challenges.

Mari Flores
budgets and financials
grant compliance
financial analysis

Mari Flores, TCDLA’s Controller, has been with TCDLA since February of 2012. She has an MBA in accounting and a BBA in Finance from Saint Edwards University in Austin, TX. She has 15 years of nonprofit experience in accounting, financial management and auditing. Her accounting and financial nonprofit knowledge, as well as the professionalism, efficiency and dedication she brings to her position are her greatest strengths.

Craig Hattersley
Communications Dir.
Voice for the Defense magazine
graphic design

Communications Director Craig Hattersley has been with TCDLA for eleven years. He graduated summa cum laude from UT with a BS in journalism, and was senior editor at 3rd Coast magazine, Texas Life magazine, and Austin Weekly, as well as writing or working for the Village Voice, Texas Monthly Publications, and the Texas Observer, among others. Additionally, before coming to TCDLA, he worked at G&S Typesetters in Austin, specializing in the production of college textbooks. A misspent youth featured tours of duty at the Fillmore East in NYC, the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, and years spent under the hood working as a mechanic in a Volkswagen dealership. His son has finished undergrad degrees in math and comp sci and a master's in statistics and probability at the University of Arizona in Tucson and works for JP Morgan in Houston.

Cristina Abascal

accounts payable

Cristina Abascal, TCDLA’s Accounts Payable Specialist, has been with TCDLA for eleven years. She is currently attending Austin Community College pursue a BA in Accounting. She has four years of nonprofit experience in accounting and auditing. Her hard work and dedication and ability to adapt to change are her greatest strengths. When she is not studying or at work she is enjoying her four children.

Miriam Duarte 
Database Director

database management
membership benefits

Miriam Duarte, Database Coordinator, has been with TCDLA for twelve years. Her experience at TCDLA has allowed her to utilize her professionalism and ability to learn and master new concepts. Miriam has shown a commitment to providing unsurpassed service in the membership, seminar, and publication departments. Her attention to detail and accuracy has provided great management and upkeep of the organization's database, her greatest strength.

Program Coordinator

• Event coordination and management
• Contract negotiations
• Marketing development


Keri Steen
Seminar Planner
• Plan and organize CLEs and events
• Travel arrangements for board and speakers
• Prepare seminar materials and marketing

Keri Steen is a native of Wisconsin who brings a wealth of experience to the association. Besides working in a number of office environments and gaining the skills required to handle multiple accounts, Keri has done work with both the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts in a variety of positions, including training, accounting, and fundraising. She is the mother of twin teenage girls and a boy.

Chelsea Jones
Administrative Assistant

data processing
• attendee packets 

Chelsea Jones is a born and raised Texan. She has attended Texas State University and ACC and is now working to get back into school for forensics and criminology. Chelsea has experience with volunteer work for nonprofit organizations such as Grassroots, Austin Humane Society, and Planned Parenthood. She also spends her free time as a digital artist hired for commission.

Elisa Jaramillo
Seminar Associate

• Stipends

Elisa Jaramillo is a native Austinite. She is a licensed cosmetologist, but wanted something more in the line of office work. She therefore transitioned into a clerical position as a childcare worker in the after-school ACE program in the Austin Independent School District. Elisa is proficient in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

Susan Nay
Seminar Clerk

data processing
• attendee packets 

Susan Nay was born and raised in Alaska and worked her way to Texas through California. She is a mom of two teenage boys who love life. Susan is a strong advocate for education and has spent many years working for the betterment of students all around her. She loves to travel, and she encourages student educational travel every chance she gets. When she’s not working she will be found exploring Austin and all it has to offer!

Nymph Gill
Seminar Clerk

data processing
• attendee packets 

Nymph Gill was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Currently, Nymph is a student at the University of Texas at Austin. When not at work or studying, you can find her immersed in a book, traveling to new cities, volunteering, or spending time with her family and beloved dog, Gilly.

Avea Reyes
Seminar Clerk

data processing
• attendee packets 

Avea Reyes was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She is currently a full-time student at Texas A&M in San Antonio, majoring in political science. After completing her undergraduate degree, she wants to attend law school and become a lawyer. Avea enjoys being around family and relaxing at home watching TV shows or movies when she's not at work or school.

legislative lobbyists

Allen Place Jr.
Head Lobbyist
chief media contact 
 chief lobbyist

Allen Place graduated from Baylor University with a BBA in 1977 and from Baylor Law School in 1979. Since that time, he has practiced law in his hometown of Gatesville. Until he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1990, Allen had a general trial practice in Central Texas and since 1991 has primarily focused on parole law. In 1993, Allen was named Chairman of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and authored the Penal Code revision during the 73rd Texas legislative session. Texas Monthly named him one of the Ten Best Legislators for his work in 1993. Upon his retirement from the Texas House, Allen was asked to assist TCDLA's legislative program. By January of 2019 when the 86th Texas legislature convenes, Allen will have worked for TCDLA for 20 years.

Shea Elyse Place


legislative lobbyist 
 legislative listserve reports

Shea Place graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Psychology from St. Edward’s University, interning as a research assistant for State Representative Jessica Farrar in 2009. She received her JD from Baylor University, where she was a technical editor on the Baylor Law Review. In 2016 Shea joined the Place Law Office in Austin, practicing criminal defense with a focus on parole issues. She is a member of the Austin Bar Association and the Austin Young Lawyers Association. Shea joined the TCDLA team in January 2017 as a lobbyist for the legislative session. She will continue to assist in legislative efforts throughout the interim.

Austin headquarters

6808 Hill Meadow Drive
Austin, TX 78736
512.478.2514 phone | 512.469.9107 main fax | 512.469.0512 seminar fax

Lubbock Office

915 Texas Ave.
Lubbock, TX 79401
806.763.9900 phone |  806.769.9904 fax