Chief Executive Officer

  • Implements board policy
  • Policy and business planning
  • Oversees association
Melissa J. Schank, Chief Executive Officer, has worked with nonprofit associations for over 20 years, and has been with TCDLA more than 16 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.

Chief Financial Officer

  • Budgets and financials
  • Grant compliance
  • Financial analysis
Mari Flores, TCDLA’s Chief Financial Officer, 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 over 20 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.

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.


Database Director

  • Database management
  • Operations 
  • Membership benefits
Miriam Duarte, Database Director, is an Austin native and has been with TCDLA for over 14 years. Miriam is committed 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. Miriam is a mother of four and enjoys camping and volunteering at her church with her family.


Director of CLE

  • Event coordination and management
  • Contract negotiations
  • Marketing development

Briana Ramos is a native New Yorker, who moved to Austin in 2018. She attended Baruch College where she studied Intercultural Communications while minoring in Psychology. Briana started her career in restaurant management and transitioned into an event planning role at a catering company in New York City. When Briana moved to Texas she began working a Hotel/Conference center so she could fine-tune her contract negotiating and executing abilities. When Briana’s not at work, she can be found volunteering, gardening, exploring, or spending time with her furbabies.

Communications Coordinator

  • Voice for the Defense
  • Communications
  • Graphic Design
Rebecca Keith is a solution-driven graphic designer and visual artist from the “wild and wonderful” state of West Virginia. She earned her BFA from Marshall University, graduating with honors in 2015. She has since built strong relationships with clients and gained ample experience generating creative content across a wide variety of industries. Utilizing her fine-tuned skills and expertise, creative problem solving is her happy place. Rebecca takes pride in the work she does and enjoys the design process, working passionately on projects from concept to delivery. When she is not putting the pencil to paper or the pixel to screen, Rebecca enjoys drawing, painting, reading, riding her longboard, traveling, and spending time with her family.


Executive Assistant

  • Liaison to Boards and Committees
  • Office Management
  • Assist Management
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.


  • Payroll
  • Accounts payable
  • Deposits
Cristina Abascal, TCDLA’s Accountant, has been with TCDLA for thirteen years. She has 12 years of nonprofit experience in accounting and auditing. Her hard work, dedication, efficiency and ability to adapt to change are her greatest strengths. When she is not at work she is enjoying spending time with her first and only grandson Elijah.


CLE Coordinator

  • Speaker Coordination
  • Materials for Seminars
  • Venue Logistics
Irma Rodriguez was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She made the transition to TCDLA following fifteen years in clinical pharmacy. During her free time, Irma enjoys swimming, reading, baking, and kayaking with her son. As a mother of four, two with special needs, she volunteers, consulting and counseling fellow parents of special-needs children. 


Media Specialist

  • Manager virtual programs
  • Oversee media at seminars
  • Coordinate speaker travel and materials
Alicia Thomas is a former South Dakotan, now a Texan. Within the span of a month in 2020, she graduated with a BFA from South Dakota State University, got married, packed up and moved to Texas. She has a strong background in many areas, such as: social media, graphic design, customer service, and communication. Now that she has gotten settled, Alicia and her husband have adopted two rescue pups. She loves to spend her free time crafting, listening to podcasts, and being with her family.

Seminar Associate
  • CLE Credits & Online CLE
  • Scholarships
  • Travel Stipends


Seminar Clerk

  • Data processing
  • Shipping
  • Attendee packets
Desirae Esquivel has six years of service industry experience and has been a bookkeeper for over two years. She likes to draw, paint, craft and sew; her small side business allows her to express her creativity by designing stickers for clients as well as making clothes for her dog. During her spare time she likes to volunteer at dog adoption events, hike and enjoy the outdoors.


Seminar Clerk

  • Data processing
  • Shipping 
  • Attendee packets 

Jessica Steen is a born and raised Texan. She has participated and staffed countless Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts events, holding a variety of positions, which include, secretary work, accounting, administration, and training. Jessica is a hard worker that enjoys working with others. When she is not working or studying, she enjoys spending her time with her reptiles or crafting.


Seminar Clerk

  • Data processing
  • Shipping 
  • Attendee packets 

Legislative Lobbyists


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.



  • Legislative lobbyist 
  • Legislative listserv 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.


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