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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

  • 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


  • 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 (inactive)
  • 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

Matthew (Maff) Caponi

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

Maff’s practice has focused on pursuing justice for workers on a wide range of employment issues, including workplace discrimination, wage and overtime violations, and whistleblower retaliation. At Kaplan Law Firm, Maff has tried two employment cases to jury verdict, including a jury verdict and damage award in his client’s favor in federal court for FMLA interference.

In addition, Maff has litigated police abuse cases, reviewed and negotiated severance agreements, advised and defended employees on alleged violations of non-compete or non-solicitation clauses, successfully represented clients at mediations, and successfully tried a breach of contract case remotely via Zoom in small claims court during the pandemic, obtaining a judgment in his client’s favor.

As a law student at his hometown University of Texas School of Law, he focused on public interest work, completing internships with the Equal Justice Center, Refugee Services of Texas, and Save Our Springs Alliance. As a student attorney with the University of Texas’s Civil Rights Clinic, Maff worked with a small team that won a habeas corpus case in federal court for a detained asylum seeker, securing the client’s release after nearly a year in detention. Maff is passionate about enforcing employee and civil rights in Texas and practical about obtaining the best result for his clients.

Memberships, Awards, and Organizations

  • 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

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 (inactive)

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

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

Caitlin Boehne

Caitlin Boehne is an attorney at Kaplan Law Firm.

Caitlin has been on the vanguard of the struggle for civil rights and racial justice in Texas for eleven years, spending the past nine years litigating impact employment claims for low-income immigrant workers. As a Senior Managing Attorney at the Equal Justice Center, Caitlin 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.

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


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


Sylvia R. Vela

Sylvia joined the Kaplan Law Firm in 2023 as Director of Client Services.

Sylvia has over 35-years of experience in both the public and private sector with a specialty certification in civil litigation and appellate work.  Sylvia worked in local government for over ten years. In recent years, Sylvia worked primarily on whistleblower and fraud cases, suing on behalf of taxpayers to recoup money defrauded from the government.  Sylvia also has over 20-years of office administration experience and is focused on developing and improving processes for the Firm to more efficiently and effectively serve its clients.

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

Sylvia comes from a family of musicians with a strong heritage.  Sylvia’s grandfather was a mariachi, her father a “Tejano” orchestra band leader, her husband a touring trumpet player in a Tejano band, and her son a touring professional rock drummer, just to name a few.  Sylvia even did a little performing herself.  It would be no surprise to see her at a concert or festival supporting local musicians.

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


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

Meera Sam

Meera graduated from the University of Texas in May of 2022 with degrees in Government and Sociology. She has worked with various community organizations in Austin, where she discovered her interest in pursuing social justice work. She is passionate about using the law to bring redress and support to those whose needs are often neglected in Texas.

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.

Law Clerks

Tanner Michelle Scheef

Tanner Scheef is a third-year law student at Baylor Law School and a Jaworski Scholar for Outstanding Undergraduate Advocacy. Tanner will graduate in April 2023 and sit for the Bar Examination in July 2023. She is set to graduate with honors, as well as with distinctions in Public Interest and Litigation.

Having done mock trial since the age of 14, Tanner has always been passionate about advocacy. At Baylor Law, Tanner won “Outstanding Advocate” at four national mock trial competitions and was one of two finalists in Baylor Law’s “Mad Dog” Competition. As an undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin, Tanner graduated with a degree in Government and captained the University of Texas Mock Trial Team.

Tanner’s passion for public interest also extends to helping victims in civil and criminal cases. She is the Co-Founder and former President of Baylor Law HEAL (Help, Educate, Advocate, and Learn). HEAL is an organization designed to help victims of domestic and sexual abuse, educate lawyers on how to interact with victims, advocate for changes in the legal field to protect victims, and encourage future attorneys to learn not only from professors, but from victims themselves. She is also a student member of the National LGBT+ Bar Association and is a founding member of Baylor Law’s LGBT+ Law Student Association. She is passionate about advocating for and representing the underrepresented.

Baylor Law, J.D. Candidate | Class of 2023
UT Austin, B.A. | Class of 2020

Esmeralda Barrera

Esmeralda Barrera is a current first-generation college student at The University of Texas at Austin who is pursuing an English major with a Business minor. Esmeralda, who was born and raised in South Houston, was inspired to pursue a career in law through the experience she gained working for small law firms and courthouses back home. She is passionate about advocating and aiding vulnerable people in legal situations they may find themselves in.

Kirsten Padilla

Kirsten Padilla joined Kaplan Law Firm as an intern in January of 2023. As an undergraduate student at The University of Texas at Austin, Kirsten will graduate in Spring 2024 with a degree in English, a minor in Philosophy of Law, and a certificate in Ethics and Leadership: Law, Politics, and Government. At UT Austin, Kirsten holds leadership positions in Minority Women Pursuing Law, where she serves as Director of Professional Development, and in Texas Darlins, where she serves as President.