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Austin Kaplan

Austin Kaplan, Kaplan Law Firm

Austin Kaplan is the Founder and Managing Attorney at Kaplan Law Firm.

Austin is an employment law and civil rights attorney and litigator serving clients in Austin, Texas and surrounding communities. Austin represents individuals in a wide range of employment and civil rights matters, including claims for breach of employment contract, breach of noncompete agreements, discrimination, overtime violations, wage and hour violations, whistleblower retaliation, FMLA violations, and marriage equality matters.  Austin spends most of his days litigating cases for the Firm’s clients in state and federal court.

Protecting employees who have been sued by their former employers

Austin defends people who are sued for misappropriation of trade secrets, violations of non-competes (non-competition, non-solicitation, or no-hire agreements), and other contract matters by their former employers, or by other entities.

Advice and Counsel

Austin regularly provides advice to employees about their employment rights, what their options are at work, and how to negotiate a fair severance.

Memberships, Awards, and Organizations

  • 2024 Super Lawyers
  • Recipient of the 2016 Austin Under 40 Legal Category Award
  • Recipient of the 2016 Austinite of the Year Award
  • President-Elect, Austin Young Lawyers Association
  • Texas Bar Foundation Fellow
  • 2016 Super Lawyers Rising Star
  • 2017 Super Lawyers Rising Star
  • Co-Chair, Austin Capital Area Plaintiffs Employment Law Association
  • Former Chairperson, City of Austin Ethics Review Commission
  • Member, Austin Bar Association Labor and Employment Section
  • Member, Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association
  • Member, Texas Trial Lawyers Association
  • Member, Board of Directors of the Central Texas Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
  • Member, Texas Bar College
  • Member, The Anti Fraud Coalition (TAF)


  • State Bar of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
  • State Bar of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois

Presentations and Publications

  • CLE presenter – April 4, 2012 Austin Employment Law Update – Lorman Seminar.  Topic: Dealing with Discipline and Discharge
  • Co-author, “Issue Spotting: The Multitude of Ways Social Media Impacts Employment Law and Litigation,” State Bar Litigation Section Report, The Advocate, Fall 2012
  • Co-author, “Copyright: Google’s Library Project: Copyright and Fair Use,” E-commerce Law & Policy, October 2009
  • Co-author, “Media Law Legislative Record of President Barack Obama,” Media Law Resource Center, January 2009


  • University of Illinois College of  Law – Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, recipient of the Rickert Award in Pro Bono Service
  • American University – Bachelor of Arts in Law and Society, cum laude, recipient of University Honors and Honors in Law and Society

J. Bryan Wood

  1. Bryan Wood joined Kaplan Law Firm in March 2024 to launch its Chicago office, bringing nearly 25 years of experience practicing employment law.

Bryan’s experience includes representing small businesses, Fortune 500 companies and officers, executives, and employees of all types. He has represented predominantly employees for the majority of his career, helping them successfully transition jobs and recover for their losses without ever filing legal claims. But he’s not afraid of a good fight – and has also helped employees win multi-million-dollar settlements, verdicts, and awards after litigating vigorously on their behalf.

His experience, legal ability and work ethic have earned him a Martindale-Hubbel AV Preeminent® rating and a place on lists of notable attorneys, including “Super Lawyers,” the nation’s Premier Employment Lawyers and America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators®.

Bryan is committed to making sure employers treat employees legally and fairly. To that end, he counsels and litigates for employees ranging from blue-collar workers to the C-Suite regarding all aspects of the employment relationship. He also helps businesses and not-for-profits navigate their ever-growing compliance obligations through counseling, handbook reviews, and investigations, offering insight from the perspective of the attorney who may sue them for violations.

Bryan’s employment law roots run deep. He quit his first grocery store job after being paid a sub-minimum wage but being required to (illegally) operate a meat grinder as a minor. He drafted the employee handbook at his college grocery store job – working his way up from stocker to shift supervisor.

After law school, good lawyers at Seyfarth Shaw convinced Bryan he could help protect employees’ civil rights best as the employer’s lawyer. Eager to change things faster, Bryan left Seyfarth Shaw for Stowell & Friedman, Ltd. – an employment discrimination class action firm – and quickly found himself face-to-face with General Counsel at major corporations discussing systemic changes beneficial to employees and those companies’ bottom lines. He saw how quickly executives’ careers could be ruined because they opposed illegal activities – and learned how to counsel executives to protect their careers without ignoring the workplace wrongs they observed.

Hoping for new experiences, Bryan decided to start his own firm and develop a practice where he could have his cake and eat it, too – advising companies on how to uphold the law and avoid risk through smart business decisions while helping employees protect their careers and being free from discrimination and retaliation. He’s excited to bring that practice and perspective to The Kaplan Law Firm, PLLC as it grows.

Memberships, Awards, and Organizations

Super Lawyers – Plaintiff’s Employment (2016 to present)

National Employment Lawyers Association (2005 – present)

NELA-Illinois (2006 – present; Board Member 2008-Present; Secretary 2014-2019; Treasurer 2020-2023)

Illinois State Bar Association (2007 – present)

Chicago Bar Association (2004 – present, Co-Chair, Labor & Employment Committee 2011-2013)

Federal Bar Association (2013 – present)

Fellow, American Bar Association Foundation (2018-present)



State Bar of Illinois (1999)

U.S. Court of Appeals Seventh Circuit (2014)

U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit (2001)

U.S. District Courts N.D. Ill. (1999)

U.S. District Courts C.D. Ill. (2002)

U.S. District Courts S.D. Ill. (2000)

Presentations and Publications

Jan. 2024 – Federal Bar Association Chicago Chapter Labor & Employment Seminar – The Impact of AI on Employment Law (Speaker)

Dec. 2021 – NELA-IL Lunch & Learn – Maximizing Economic Damages – Calculating Tax Gross-Up Awards

Feb. 2020 – Annual Seventh Circuit Employment Law Conference – Civility Now! Being Civil and Effective – What Ethics Can Teach Us About Civility (Speaker)

May. 2019 – NELA-IL Spring Employment Law Seminar (Faculty Planner)

Feb. 2018 – NELA-IL Lunch & Learn – Ethical Issues for Solos and Small Firms

Dec. 2017 – CBA Labor & Employment Committee – Cook County & Chicago Paid Leave Ordinances (Speaker)

Feb. 2017 – Annual NELA Seventh Circuit Conference – Written Advocacy (Speaker)

Dec. 2015 – CBA Labor & Employment Committee – FRCP Amendments and Their Impact in Labor & Employment Law – Chicago (Speaker)

Oct. 2015 – Impact Fund’s Class Action Training Institute (Faculty)

Oct. 2015 – Northwestern Law School and Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Symposium – Over Coming Our Unconscious Implicit Bias in Policing, Employment & Education (Speaker)

Feb. 2015 – NELA Seventh Circuit Conference -Valuing Employment Cases: Plaintiff and Defense Perspectives – (Co-Author)

May 2014 – CBA Labor & Employment Committee – Employment Contracts: The Ones You Want and The Ones You Don’t (Moderator)

Aug. 2014 – FMLA Liability for Individuals The “Public” Debate-Illinois Employee Advocate, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Author)

Dec. 2014 – CBA Labor & Employment Seminar – E-Discovery Issues in Employment Litigation: One Lawyer’s Thoughts on Emerging Issues (Speaker)

Nov. 2013 – CBA Labor & Employment Seminar – Employment Law Update-2013 (Moderator)

May 2013 – CBA Labor & Employment Seminar – Legal Issues and Pitfalls in Hiring (Moderator)

Feb. 2013 – NELA Seventh Circuit Conference – Technology & The Law: The Ever-Evolving Ethical Landscape (Moderator)

Nov. 2012 – CBA Labor & Employment Seminar – A Year in a Review (Moderator)

Oct. 2012 – Bias 2.0 What Every Employee Advocate Should Know-National Employment Lawyers Association Seminar (Seminar Faculty Committee & Speaker)

June 2012 – NELA-IL Lunch & Learn – IHRC Procedural Irregularities Exhausting Administrative Remedies and Pleading Exhaustion for Charges Filed with The EEOC In Light of The2008 And 2011 IHRA Amendments- (Speaker)

Mar. 2012 – Impact Fund Annual Class Action Conference – Disparate Impact After Dukes – Post-Wal-Mart Disparate Impact Challenges to Delegated Discretion or Subjective Decision-Making: Describing The “Practice” That Causes the Disparities (Speaker & Author)




University of Virginia School of Law, J.D. 1999

University of Virginia, B.A. 1996 (American Government)

Caitlin Boehne

Caitlin Boehne is an attorney at Kaplan Law Firm.

Caitlin has been on the vanguard of the struggle for justice in Texas for twelve years, spending the past ten years litigating impact employment claims. As a Senior Managing Attorney, Caitlin has litigated dozens of employment claims for hundreds of workers in state and federal court. In the process of recovering over $1 million in unpaid wages and damages from unscrupulous employers, Caitlin has developed an expertise in handling individual, multi-plaintiff, and complex class action claims, on issues ranging from wage theft, to workplace sexual harassment, race discrimination, disability discrimination, labor trafficking, and more. Caitlin has argued and won dispositive motions, cross-examined witnesses at trial, and successfully resolved numerous cases in mediation and arbitration, including on behalf of monolingual Spanish-speakers. In 2023, Caitlin won a trial in federal court seeking unpaid wages and overtime for four construction workers. In 2024, Caitlin resolved a class action labor trafficking claim on behalf of 23 Filipino guestworkers for $730,000.

Prior to litigation, Caitlin was the Director and Co-Director of the Equal Justice Center’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration legal services program. In law school, Caitlin held clerkships at Human Rights Watch in New York, and at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.

Memberships, Awards, and Organizations

Member, Texas Employment Lawyers Association

Member, National Employment Lawyers Association

Advisory Board Member, Texas Law Alumni Mentoring Program

Former Co-Chair, State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division – Employment Law Task Force


  • State Bar of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico


CLE Presenter: “Workplace Accommodations: The New Frontier.” State Bar of Texas Advanced Employment Law Course, Jan. 2024.

CLE Presenter: “Employment Law Update 2022,” with Adam Sencenbaugh. Austin Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Section Seminar, May 2022.

CLE Presenter: “Employee Entitlement to Leave Under Federal Law.” State Bar of Texas Employment Law 101 Seminar, Apr. 2022.



New York University – Bachelor of Arts in Politics with Honors, cum laude

The University of Texas School of Law – Juris Doctor, Rapoport Center for Human Rights Fellow

Matthew (Maff) Caponi

Matthew “Maff” Caponi has been an attorney at Kaplan Law Firm since 2019.

Maff was born and raised in Austin and his practice is focused on pursuing justice for workers and individuals on a wide range of employment and civil rights issues, including workplace discrimination, wage and overtime violations, whistleblower retaliation, and police misconduct. At Kaplan Law Firm, Maff has successfully tried cases to jury verdict in both state and federal court. In 2024, Maff served as the first-chair attorney in a jury trial in state court where the Firm won a multi-million-dollar verdict on behalf of a single plaintiff.

In addition, Maff has litigated police abuse cases, reviewed and negotiated severance agreements, defended employees from alleged violations of non-competes, obtained favorable settlements at mediations, and even won a virtual Zoom trial in small claims court during the pandemic. In 2024, Maff was selected to the “Super Lawyers” Texas Rising Stars list.

As a law student at the University of Texas, Maff interned with the Equal Justice Center, Refugee Services of Texas, and Save Our Springs Alliance, and graduated with honors in 2019. Maff is passionate about enforcing employee and civil rights in Texas and practical about obtaining the best result for his clients. Outside the office, Maff enjoys bouldering, playing drums, and hiking mountains in Colorado.

Memberships, Awards, and Organizations

  • 2024 Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars
  • Austin Bar Association Labor and Employment Section
  • Austin Young Lawyers Association
  • Texas Employment Lawyers Association


  • State Bar of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas


  • The University of Texas School of Law – Juris Doctor, with Honors
  • Arizona State University – Bachelor of Arts, Psychology, cum laude

Ryan Estes

Ryan O. Estes is an attorney at Kaplan Law Firm.

Ryan has practiced employment and civil rights law exclusively since 2013 and devoted his practice to advocating for employee rights. Ryan has represented clients harmed by workplace discrimination, retaliation, unpaid wages/overtime, and contractual disputes.

Ryan has handled all aspects of litigation, including drafting complaints, arguing motions in court, questioning high-level executives at depositions, and cross-examining witnesses before a jury.  Ryan’s favorite experiences as an attorney have been the multiple times the jury has found in his client’s favor after difficult trials.

Ryan has also successfully negotiated numerous settlements on behalf of his clients, including severance agreements and in mediations.

Memberships, Awards, and Organizations

Member, The Anti Fraud Coalition (TAF)

American Constitution Society

Austin Bar Association Labor and Employment Section

Texas Employment Lawyers Association

National Employment Lawyers Association

Super Lawyers Rising Star, 2017-2020


State Bar of Texas

State Bar of Illinois

Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois


The John Marshall Law School – Juris Doctor

The University of Michigan – Bachelor of Arts with Honors in English Language and Literature

Andrew Eckhous

Andrew joined Kaplan Law Firm in the summer of 2020 after finishing his second year of law school at the University of Texas School of Law. Andrew previously worked for the Texas Attorney General, the Equal Justice Center, and Texas Advocacy Project. Andrew also worked for nonprofits all over the East Coast, a tech company in Wisconsin, and as a paralegal in New York City. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2013 with a major in Public Policy and a minor in Spanish. Having graduated law school, he is excited to work in the labor and employment field on the side of employees.

Memberships, Awards and Organizations

  • State Bar of Texas
  • Texas Employment Lawyers Association
  • National Employment Lawyers Association


  • University of Michigan, Bachelor of Arts, Public Policy
  • University of Texas at Austin, Juris Doctor, with Honors


  • Texas State Courts
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas

Trenton Lacy

Trenton is an associate attorney with Kaplan Law Firm.

After receiving his undergraduate degree with honors from the University of Texas at Austin, Trenton graduated cum laude from Texas Tech University School of Law in 2017, where he also placed on the Pro Bono Honor Roll. He returned to Austin shortly thereafter, where he’s dedicated his professional career to fighting on behalf of aggrieved employees throughout the State of Texas.

Trenton has years of experience, in both the public and private sector, handling a wide range of employment cases—including unlawful discrimination, retaliation, unpaid wage and overtime claims, noncompete and severance agreement disputes, unemployment insurance claims, and much more. He’s helped clients navigate all stages of their cases, from the initial consultation all the way to trial.


  • Author, “’Well There’s Your Problem!’: Diagnosing and Repairing Auto Dealership Exemptions Under the Fair Labor Standards Act”, Business & Bankruptcy Law Journal Vol. 3, Fall 2017.

Memberships, Awards, and Organizations

  • Texas State Bar Labor and Employment Law Section


  • Texas Tech University School of Law – Juris Doctor, Cum Laude
  • The University of Texas at Austin – Bachelor of Arts, Government


  • State Bar of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas

Tanner Michelle Scheef

Tanner Scheef is an Associate Attorney at Kaplan Law Firm.

After receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin, she received the Leon Jaworski Scholarship for Outstanding Advocacy to Baylor Law. Tanner graduated with honors from Baylor Law on the Public Interest Track with a Special Distinction in Litigation.

Tanner has a passion for advocacy, having competed in the courtroom since the age of 14 and having won “Outstanding Advocate” at four national mock trial competitions at Baylor Law. After returning to Austin, Tanner began coaching her undergraduate mock trial team, allowing her to give back to the next generation of trial lawyers.

Tanner’s passion for public interest extends to helping victims of abuse in civil and criminal cases. She was the Co-Founder of Baylor Law H.E.A.L. (Help, Educate, Advocate, Learn), training law students on how to best represent victims. Tanner extends this passion to her work at Kaplan Law Firm, helping victims in the employment context.


Memberships, Awards, and Organizations

Member, Texas State Bar Labor & Employment Law Section

Member, Texas State Bar Civil Liberties & Civil Rights Section

Member, Texas Employment Lawyers Association

Member, National Employment Lawyers Association

Member, National LGBTQ+ Bar Association

National Police Accountability Project


Baylor University School of Law – Juris Doctor, Cum Laude
The University of Texas at Austin – Bachelor of Arts, Government


  • State Bar of Texas
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas


Sylvia R. Vela

Sylvia joined the Kaplan Law Firm in early 2023 as the Firm’s first Director of Client Services.  As the Firm’s Director, Sylvia works closely with clients and staff to oversee the Firm’s processes, manage relationships with clients, and develop long term relationships with its clients and staff.  Sylvia brings over 20-years of office administration experience with a focus on developing and improving processes for the Firm to efficiently and effectively serve its clients and staff.

In addition to her support of the Firm, Sylvia has 40-years of experience in a support role in the public and private sector  with a specialty certification in civil litigation and appellate work. Sylvia also brings twenty years of senior paralegal experience working on whistleblower and fraud cases, suing on behalf of the government and taxpayers to recoup money defrauded from the federal government. Because of Sylvia’s experience with whistleblower cases, she was invited to serve as one of the founding members of the Taxpayers Against Fraud’s (TAF) newly established Paralegal Division. Sylvia is excited for the opportunity to share her experience with her peers and mentor those pursuing a strong legal support role.

Sylvia is a native Austinite who loves her community and believes in paying it forward.  Sylvia supports several local non-profits and community projects by volunteering on committees and fundraising.  Some of her favorite organizations are HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians), Family Eldercare, where she helps collect fans for the elderly, and Interfaith Action of Austin to support diversity, inclusiveness, and fairness in the community.

Sylvia has a strong heritage of Tejano music and comes from a family of musicians, including a grandfather who was a mariachi, her father the leader of a “Tejano” orchestra band, her husband a touring trumpet player in a Tejano band, and her son a touring professional rock drummer.  Sylvia even did a little performing herself.

Sylvia is married to husband, Santiago “Jimmy” Vela, Jr.  Together, they enjoy all things outdoors—travelling, fishing, music, and gardening.  They have two grown children, Santiago III and Sonia Rita, and the family dog, Millie.

Memberships, Awards, and Organizations

Founding Member, Paralegal Division, The Anti Fraud Coalition (TAF), 2023


Christie Coffey, Senior Paralegal

Christie joined the Kaplan Law Firm in 2017. Christie brings more than 24 years of experience working as a paralegal and legal assistant, handling complex litigation matters, including civil litigation, medical malpractice, personal injury, and products liability. Christie first fell in love with the legal profession while working for the County Attorney’s office.

Christie’s extensive litigation experience and proficiency guide her in her role as the Firm’s Senior Litigation Paralegal and is responsible for managing the Firm’s litigation docket. During her tenure at the Kaplan Law Firm, Christie sat as third chair during three federal trials and one state trial. Christie also helped represent clients during TWC hearings, as well as two TWC appeal hearings, winning all four hearings. Christie provides invaluable assistance ranging from employment discrimination, civil rights matters, and other types of injustice to all the attorneys at the Kaplan Law Firm.

Christie has experience in many areas of law and has effectively worked with different justice departments but is most passionate about Plaintiff’s civil litigation and fighting for people’s rights. Christie volunteered during two local political campaigns and fought alongside attorneys to stop the passing of the Tort Reform Act of 2003. Christie served as Vice President of the North Texas Legal Association for two terms and treasurer for one term. During her time as Vice President of the North Texas Legal Association, she helped rebuild the Center for Battered Women and organized the annual teddy bear drive for displaced children.

Christie has built strong relationships with the clients she serves and the people she works with. Christie continues to work diligently to fight for justice.

Brent Werzner

Brent joined Kaplan Law Firm in February 2023. Brent brings with him a variety of work and life experiences that Kaplan Law is excited to utilize in his work as a pre-litigation Paralegal.

Brent has a background in Film and Theatre Arts and is a graduate of Saint Edward’s University in Austin, TX. As an actor, Brent has worked with major motion picture, television, and video game design studios, from A24, Netflix, NBC, CBS, Universal and Rockstar Games Studios. Brent is also a long-standing member of the Screen Actors Guild, The Actors’ Equity Association, and a former member of IUPAT, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.

Brent is a committed advocate of social justice, civil rights, and worker’s rights. He has picketed, marched, and rallied with fellow IUPAT members in NYC for fair wages and health care. Brent has marched to the State Capitol in Burlington, VT on behalf of disabled individuals for state funding and more inclusive programming in schools. As an actor he performed at the United Nation’s General Assembly honoring the survivors of human trafficking.

After living in New York City for over 13 years Brent returned to Austin and received his Paralegal certification through the University of Texas Law School. He is proud to be a member of the Kaplan Law Firm.


John Aden Higgs (In Memorium)

John joined Kaplan Law Firm in July of 2020. Born and raised in Austin, John brings more than 10 years of experience supporting clients as a legal assistant and trial preparation specialist. Before working for Kalpan Law Firm he clerked with Spivey & Grigg LLP and the Law Office of Craig Barker. You can expect John to be passionate about your rights and support you in securing the justice you deserve.

Legal Assistants

Madeline Zschiesche

Madeline Zschiesche graduated from the University of Washington in 2021 with degrees in Political Economics and Law, Societies, & Justice.  While living in Seattle Madeline was a legal assistant for a pro bono clinic that assisted tenants facing eviction. This position inspired her to pursue a career where she could work directly with clients and use the law to help others.

After graduation Madeline moved to Málaga, Spain to be an English teacher for two years. Upon completion of her teaching program she has returned to her hometown of Austin, Texas, and is excited to join the team at Kaplan Law Firm.

Esmeralda Barrera

Esmeralda Barrera graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English and a minor in Business. She joined Kaplan Law Firm as an intern and has now transitioned to a full-time role as a Legal Assistant. Growing up in South Houston, Esmeralda’s passion for law was ignited by her experiences in local law firms and courthouses, as well as her participation in the Teen Court Program. As a first-generation college student and second-generation American, she brings a unique perspective rooted in diversity and resilience. Her involvement with organizations like Minority Women Pursuing Law (MWPL), the Undergraduate Law Journal for Minority Women (ULJMW), and the Youth Justice Alliance (YJA) has strengthened her commitment to breaking barriers. With unwavering determination and compassion, Esmeralda is excited to continue her journey with Kaplan Law Firm, aspiring to make a meaningful impact as an attorney in the future.

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