2023-2024 Board of Directors

LIZ NIELSEN
President

Liz Nielsen has guided hundreds of families through the estate planning process, serving as their trusted advisor to bring peace of mind to their lives. As a wife, mother, and business owner, she understands how overwhelming an estate plan can feel. As an attorney, she knows just how important it is to have that plan in place. Liz is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She practices exclusively in the areas of estate planning, special needs planning, and estate administration. She received her Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, in Psychology and Religion with a concentration in Human Rights from Barnard College of Columbia University and her J.D. with honors from The University of Texas School of Law. Liz and her family enjoy going on walks around their Northwest Austin neighborhood, traveling around the world, spending time with friends and family, and watching sports, including the Texas Longhorns, Iowa Hawkeyes, and Chicago Cubs.

www.estateplanatx.com

GABRIELLE SMITH
President-Elect

Gabrielle Smith is an attorney at Lloyd Gosselink Rochelle & Townsend, P.C. She represents clients in litigation matters in state and federal courts, often involving issues of administrative and environmental law. She provides guidance to clients as they navigate through the steps of the process at both the trial and appellate levels. Gabrielle earned her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law and her B.B.A. from Texas A&M University. She is admitted to practice in the State of Texas, as well as United States District Court for the Western, Northern, Southern, and Eastern Districts of Texas.

Prior to joining Lloyd Gosselink, Gabrielle practiced in Dallas, Texas. Most immediately before moving to Austin, she represented federal government employees in their discrimination complaints and appeals of adverse personnel actions before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Merit Systems Protection Board. Gabrielle has also represented Texas public school districts in the areas of employment law, student discipline, and school board governance. While in Dallas, Gabrielle was involved in the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers and served as Co-Chair for the Law Student Assistance Committee.

CAROLINE HALL NELSON
Immediate Past President/TCWLF Liaison

Caroline Hall is the Marketing Manager for Allensworth, a leading construction law firm. After graduating from Baylor Law School, Caroline practiced construction law for 3+ years – just long enough to figure out she didn’t actually enjoy the practice of law. So she made a career change to focus on what she did love about it – business development and marketing. As a proud mom, Caroline knows life is all about balance and being present. She’s not afraid to laugh in the face of stress, or at herself. With her infectious energy and quick wit, Caroline always brings a smile to the room and a little extra fun to a party. When she’s not busy at work or industry events, Caroline loves spending time with her family at the lake, the ranch, or her favorite place – home.

JENNIFER WARD
Treasurer

Jennifer Ward is Principal Attorney at Law Office of Jennifer D. Ward in Austin, Texas. Her practice focuses on employment law and general counsel services for individuals, small businesses, and non-profits. She handles a range of legal issues from business formation to workplace disputes. She is licensed to practice in the State of Texas, the State of California, the U.S. Western District of Texas, the U.S. Southern District of Texas, the U.S. Eastern District of California, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. She also represents clients in administrative proceedings.

Jennifer graduated from University of California, Davis School at Law with a Certificate in Public Interest Law. She participated in Moot Court and Appellate Advocacy, served as Research Assistant to Professor Lisa Pruitt, and was active in numerous organizations. Prior to attending law school, Jennifer pursued a career in the Arts with the goal of becoming a music professor. She graduated cum laude from Rice University with a double major in piano performance and music history. She earned a Master’s of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in piano performance. She also founded a piano studio, working as an independent music teacher for a number of years.

Jennifer continues to enjoy the Arts. She spends time cooking, traveling, or exploring Austin whenever she can. Jennifer is looking forward to giving back to the legal community through her work with TCWLA.

www.jdwlawoffice.com

APRIL LUCAS
Secretary

April Lucas is a civil litigation partner at McGinnis, Lochridge, & Kilgore, LLP. She has practiced at McGinnis Lochridge since 2005, after working as briefing attorney to Justice David Puryear at the Third Court of Appeals in Austin, Texas. April’s civil litigation practice includes commercial, contract, and business disputes, trust and family disputes and probate suits, oil and gas, and occasional personal injury or wrongful death matters. A large portion of her practice is dedicated to fiduciary litigation, including defending attorneys against legal malpractice claims.

April practices in federal and state courts throughout Texas and the Fifth Circuit and often handles clients’ disputes through arbitration and mediation. She also enjoys appellate work and has handled briefing, argument, emergency motions, and mandamus matters in a variety of appellate courts.

April is a 2004 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, a member of the Order of the Coif, and a proud member of the fighting Texas Aggie Class of 2001. Although a devoted Aggie (and former resident of Lechner, Keathley, Hart, and Santa Chiara), she fails to follow collegiate sports closely and will be unable to keep up if you attempt to engage her in football banter. She grew up in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

April enjoys her family, horse, and dog. She also used to read a fair bit, before the law came along.

www.mcginnislaw.com

MILDRED ANAELE
Events Co-Chair

Mildred Anaele is an Attorney at the Public Utility Commission of Texas in the Division of Compliance and Enforcement. As a staff attorney, Mildred represents the public interest with issues involving utilities through litigation and mediation.  Mildred obtained her undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University in College Station and her JD from Texas A&M University, School of Law.  Mildred enjoys hiking, traveling to see family, exploring new places, cooking, reading and going to concerts.

LESLIE DIPPEL
Website Co-Chair

Leslie Dippel is the Executive County Attorney with the Travis County Attorney’s Office. Prior to joining the County Attorney’s office, Leslie was a trial lawyer with the Office of the Attorney General of Texas and a briefing attorney for United States Magistrate Judges Stephen H. Capelle and Andrew W. Austin. Immediately prior to joining the Travis County team, Leslie was in private practice with Brown McCarroll, L.L.P (now Husch Blackwell, L.L.P.) in Austin. For the majority of her legal career, Leslie’s practice has emphasized labor and employment law.

Leslie is an active member of the Austin community. She served on the board of directors of the State Bar of Texas and is a past President of the Austin Bar Association. She is an alumni and past member of the board of directors of Leadership Austin, her children’s school’s PTA boards, and the Bowie High School soccer team booster club. Leslie is a frequent speaker on employment law and government related topics for the State Bar of Texas, the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association, and the Austin Bar Association.  Leslie and her husband are native Austinites and live in south Austin with their three children.

MEGAN HONEY JOHNSON
Membership Co-Chair

Megan Honey Johnson has been the Staff Attorney for Judge Tim Sulak in the 353rd District Court since October 2012. Prior to public service, she practiced litigation and intellectual property law for seven years at Jackson Walker, LLP, representing clients in cases of all types of litigation including large, complex litigation and small contract or property disputes, and in various trademark and copyright matters. She attended undergraduate at Southwestern University and law school at Wake Forest University.

Megan serves on the Austin Bar Association Board of Directors, the Austin Bar Association Bench Bar Committee, and as an Austin Bar Association mentor. She is also member of the Civil Litigation Section and Austin Young Lawyers Association (AYLA) and is a graduate of the Austin Bar Association/AYLA 2017 Leadership Academy Class. Megan is a Barrister in the Barbara Jordan Inn of Court, a member of the League of Women Voters Austin Area, and a member of Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association (MAMAs).

Megan enjoys hanging with her husband, Jeff, her three children, and all of their animals. She also loves cooking, travelling to new places, and exploring all that Austin has to offer.

KIMBERLY KAUFFMAN
CLE Co-Chair

Kimberly Kauffman practices employment law at Littler Mendelson. Kim represents clients from a variety of industries both in litigation and in matters before administrative agencies. She also assists clients with drafting handbooks and agreements and advises clients on how to navigate employee-related issues. Kim previously served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Attorney General of Texas in the Law Enforcement Defense Division, where she represented state employees in litigation matters involving civil rights.

In her free time, Kim enjoys exploring Austin with her husband and their dog Milo.

www.littler.com [littler.com]

MELISSA LORBER
Publicity Co-Chair

Melissa Lorber is a founding partner on Enoch Kever PLLC, where her practice focuses on representing businesses in litigation at both the trial and appellate levels, in state and federal courts. She regularly represents clients before the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Courts of Appeals, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and she has handled appellate matters before the United States Supreme Court. Melissa is Board Certified in Civil Appellate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She earned her J.D. with Honors from the University of Texas School of Law (2001), an M.B.A. in Strategic Management from the University of Houston–Victoria (2019), and B.A. in Journalism and Political Science from the University of Arizona (1996).

In addition to serving on the Travis County Women Lawyers’ Association Board of Directors, Melissa serves as Immediate Past Chair of the Austin Bar Association Civil Appellate Section and as a member of the Calvert Inn of Court. She has been a volunteer advocate for CASA of Travis County for more than 15 years and also serves on the Grants Leadership Team for Impact Austin, a women’s collective giving organization. Melissa has a son who is a junior at the University of North Texas, a daughter who is a freshman at the University of Texas, and a daughter who is a sixth grader at Kealing Middle School.

www.enochkever.com

RACHEL LUNA
AYLA Liaison and Community Outreach Chair

Coming soon

NISREEN B. MAHESRI

Publicity Co-Chair

Nisreen B. Mahesri is excited to be a publicity co-chair for Travis County Women’s Lawyers Association. As a litigation attorney at the Law Office of Ilana R. Tanner, PLLC, Nisreen specialized in representing clients in a range of family law matters, including divorces, custody disputes, and child protective services cases. She is driven by a deep-seated passion for assisting individuals during some of the most challenging periods of their lives, and she approaches each case with the utmost attention, patience, and care, guiding her clients successful through each step of the legal process. Nisreen earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas before obtaining her J.D. from Western Michigan University. Her academic background, combined with her practical experience, equips her with a comprehensive understanding of the complexities of family law and the legal system as a whole. Outside of her legal endeavors, Nisreen finds joy in traveling to new destinations, reading, and cherishing quality time with her family.

KIELE LINROTH PACE
Bar Outreach Liaison

Kiele (Kee-EH-leh) Linroth Pace is a Success Mindset Coach, Speaker, and Consultant. Her passion is helping law leaders and other ambitious high achievers who are successful but unfulfilled find peace of mind and navigate more effectively and intuitively so they can live their best lives NOW while they create the life of their DREAMS.In her role as Special Counsel, Kiele also helps criminal defense attorneys and solo/small law firm owners who are ready for change but pressed for time by taking things off their plate so they can focus on more lucrative and impactful activities to get the results they want faster in law, business, and life in general.

JEANA PATEL
Membership Co-Chair

Jeana Patel is a Director of Legal Recruitment at Special Counsel. Originally from California, Jeana is licensed in both California and Texas and practiced primarily family law and business litigation in both Southern California and Austin before joining Special Counsel as a legal recruiter. She recruits and places candidates to fill temporary, temporary to hire, and direct hire attorneys, paralegals, and other legal professional positions for a variety of law firms and corporate clients in the Greater Austin area. Jeana also frequently works with law firms and corporations to ensure their staffing, recruiting, and employment needs are met.

Jeana obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego and her JD from California Western School of Law. Jeana is also a member of the Austin Young Lawyers Association and the Austin Bar Association, and served as a member of the AYLA 2017 Leadership Academy Class. In addition to serving on the Travis County Women Lawyer’s Association Board of Directors, Jeana also serves on the South Asian Bar Association Board of Directors. In her free time Jeana enjoys traveling and trying new restaurants around Austin.

BETH PAYAN
CLE CO-CHAIR

Beth Payán is a criminal defense attorney that handles all types of criminal and DWI cases for clients in and around Austin, Texas.  Prior to joining Jason S. English Law, PLLC, she spent 25 years at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. 

She graduated from the University of Texas in 1989 and St. Mary’s School of Law in 1992. After volunteering with the Legal Aid Society of Central Texas for a short time, she began her career as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Austin. While there, she handled class C misdemeanors, including traffic code, penal code and City of Austin code violations.

Beth went to work at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office in 1996 where she handled felony cases for 25 years. Beth handled thousands of serious cases and has extensive jury and bench trial experience in everything from cold case capital murders, child abuse – civil and criminal, sexual assaults, motor fuel tax fraud, burglaries, robberies, domestic violence and most felonies in the Texas Penal Code.  Beth supervised the Child Abuse and Juvenile Division, Sexual Assault Division, Diversion Division and a Trial Court.  She created and implemented programs to train and mentor newly licensed attorneys as they joined the office. Beth also served on the Hate Crimes Task force.

Beth is licensed in the State of Texas and the U.S Western District of Texas. Beth was recently honored by both the Austin Bar Association, Criminal Law Section with an award for Excellence in Criminal Law (2021) and the Travis County Women Lawyers’ Association recognition in Criminal Justice (2021). 

Beth is a member of the programming committee for the National Council of Jewish Women- Austin Division, Mother Attorneys Mentoring Association and currently on the boards of Capital Area Democratic Women and Project Graduation Anderson High School.  She enjoys spending time with her husband, Ariel, their children and two dogs.  

NEHA PAYMASTER
Mentoring Program Co-Chair

Neha Paymaster is an associate attorney at Eccles & McIntosh PC. Her practice is focused on Estate Planning, Probate, Trusts and Guardianship. As an associate, Neha assists in drafting Wills, Trusts, Disability Documents, Premarital Agreements and Family Settlement Agreements. She aids clients through the probate process and helps them navigate their role as the personal representative of an estate. Neha works with clients to determine when a guardianship is necessary and how to fulfill the duties of a guardian of the estate or person. She also serves as an Attorney ad Litem on Heirship and Guardianship cases in Travis County.

Neha obtained her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and her JD from Baylor Law School. She serves on board of the Estate Planning & Probate Section of the Austin Bar Association and is a committee member of the Travis County Women Lawyers’ Association Mentor/Mentee Program. Neha is a member of the Junior League of Austin and enjoys traveling to see family, exploring new places, cooking, crafting, reading and spending time with her husband and handsome German Shepherd, Koda.

CASSANDRA PILLONEL

Events Co-Chair

 

Cassandra S. Pillonel is the COO at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law of Austin, Texas. Lincoln-Goldfinch Law handles Immigration and Bankruptcy matters. Cassandra sees her role as COO as the result of following her passion for law firm operations, which she discovered over 8 years ago through progressive law firm management experience. At Lincoln- Goldfinch, Cassandra manages all areas of law firm operations including finance, marketing, HR, IT and so much more. Cassandra loves that she never knows in the morning where her day will take her. Prior to LGL, she worked at a personal injury firm as Director of Attorneys and Staff and at an international domestic litigation firm where she was a Regional Managing Attorney and a litigator. Prior to her legal career, Cassandra worked on a Ph.D. in Literature.

Cassandra received her B.A. summa cum laude in Literature from UT Dallas, as well as her M.A. from the same university the following year. She received her J.D. from SMU Law in 2011, where she served as an officer for 2 consecutive years in Women in Law, the largest student organization on campus. In her free time, Cassandra loves reading, travel, wine tasting, French cooking and taking walks with her husband and her foster-fail dog, Remy.

VELVA PRICE
Scholarship Co-Chair

Velva Price is the first African-American District Clerk of Travis County, Texas and began her first term in January 2015.  She was reelected and began to serve her second term on Jan. 1, 2019.  She was elected as Secretary of the County and District Clerks Association of Texas in June 2021.

Velva graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1986 and worked for corporations, government and private practice. Velva was the first African-American woman elected as President of the Austin Bar Association. She also served as President of the Austin Black Lawyers Association, Travis County Women Lawyers Association, and Chair of the Travis County Civil Service Commission for Sheriff Office Employees.  The Travis County District Clerk oversees over 120 employees and has oversight for all district court proceedings on cases heard in the 12 Civil, 9 Criminal, 1 Criminal Magistrate, and 4 Associate Courts.  Additionally, her office is responsible for all levels of county and City of Austin jury empaneling and passports.

AMIE RODNICK
Scholarship Co-Chair

Amie Rodnick graduated from UT law and has been licensed since 1979. She has been in private practice since 1984, specializing in using alternative dispute resolution techniques in her family law practice, such as mediation and collaborative law.  She is Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization,  a Distinguished Credentialed Mediator by the TMCA and a senior fellow in the Texas College of Collaborative Law. She has served on the TCWLA Scholarship Fund since its inception in 1983 and currently serves as president. She is a former chair of the Family law Section of the Austin Bar Association and currently serves on several local and national nonprofit boards.

www.rodnicklaw.com

RACHEL SESHAN
Website Co-Chair

Rachel is a Staff Attorney with the Public Utility Commission of Texas.  Immediately prior to joining the PUC, she was a regulatory prosecuting attorney with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, working on Building and Mechanical programs.  In a past life, Rachel was in private practice with split focus on banking/financial and construction litigation.

When not arguing about energy efficiency issues, she travels and reads (often at the same time).  Rachel and her family have traveled the world, from Bora Bora, South Africa, Japan and even Antarctica to name a few.

SHERINE THOMAS
Mentoring Program Co-Chair

Sherine Elizabeth Thomas is the Executive County Attorney at the Travis County’s Attorney’s Office. Although Sherine litigates cases filed against and on behalf of Travis County, its elected officials and employees in state and federal court at both the trial court and the appellate levels, she also oversees and coordinates with all six civil litigation and transactional divisions of the County Attorney’s Office. She assists in developing and managing policy and the budget for the office. In her appellate practice, Sherine has presented oral argument to various state and federal courts of appeals, including the Supreme Court of Texas and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Her practice areas have included employment law, civil rights, personal injury and condemnation, elections, and land use.

When Hamilton Pool was polluted by developers, Sherine took the lead for Travis County in negotiating a collective settlement totaling $3.5 million dollars with almost $2.1 dollars going to Travis County. Not only is this the highest settlement amount received by Travis County for an environmental case of this kind, this settlement allowed for an unprecedented cleanup of the creek and Hamilton Pool. Most recently, Sherine was recognized as the 2016 Civil Practitioner of the Year by the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association and with Government Services Award by Travis County Women Lawyers Association.

She is special instructor for The University of Texas Law School’s Trial Advocacy Program. She is on the board of several professional organizations and community non-profits, with an emphasis on women’s issues.