Oklahoma Bar Journal

Meet the Eighth Class of the OBA Leadership Academy

The eighth class of the OBA Leadership Academy began in January. Its 16 members were selected for their demonstrated commitment to the profession and community impact. Congratulations to these program participants who are preparing to become the next generation of association leaders.

Alyssa Amundsen, Norman

Alyssa Amundsen is originally from Mustang. She attended OU, where she was a president’s community scholar and member of Alpha Chi Omega. While in college, she was a cheerleader for OU All-Girl Cheer, where she helped lead her team to secure its first-ever national championship. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in political science, Ms. Amundsen attended the OU College of Law. During law school, she was a member of the Federalist Society and the J. Rufus Fears Fellowship program.

She worked for Attorney General John O’Connor from 2021 to 2022 after he witnessed her passion and enthusiasm while advocating for Oklahomans’ health and parental rights. During her final year of law school, she interned for a local law firm to serve Norman’s family law needs and served as a member of the OU College of Law Entrepreneurial Law Clinic. She also served as the 2022 class president for the Norman Citizens Police Academy, where she learned about the various roles of her local police department.

Throughout college and law school, Ms. Amundsen ran a private tumbling and tryout preparation program for young dancers and cheerleaders in Norman. She served as the Norman High School junior varsity coach for the 2022-2023 school year.

Ms. Amundsen is currently a member of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg American Inn of Court and still coaches young athletes in the Oklahoma City metro area. She continues to passionately advocate and volunteer for women’s sports, law enforcement, free speech and Oklahomans’ health and parental rights. She is the dog mom of two blue-eyed rescue babies, Ruger Wayne and Liberty Belle. When Ms. Amundsen is not zealously advocating for her clients in all their legal matters, she likes watching college football, spending time with family and enjoying a nice meal on a patio with her fur babies.


Timothy D. Beets, Oklahoma City

Timothy D. Beets is a native Oklahoman who graduated from Okemah High School in 1990. He attended OSU, where he graduated in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in economics. He worked for campus maintenance, housekeeping and paint crew while in college and served as residence hall floor president his freshman year. Thereafter, he served as a resident advisor and held the positions of justice and chief justice of the OSU Residential Life Supreme Court.

He graduated cum laude from the OCU School of Law evening division in December 1998. During law school, he served in many capacities and received numerous awards, such as Moot Court Honors Board for three years and Who’s Who Among American Law Students for three years while working full time as a law clerk and licensed legal intern for a small civil litigation law firm. He tried his first solo jury trial in March 1999 as a licensed legal intern. His note was selected for publication in the Oklahoma City University Law Review spring and summer 1999 edition. He obtained his law license in April 1999.

He began his own civil litigation law firm in 2001, maintaining a diverse and complicated caseload in areas including federal civil rights, business and real estate litigation, divorce, medical malpractice, product liability and construction defects. In 2022, he obtained his certification in civil and domestic mediation.



Melissa Brooks, Oklahoma City

Melissa Brooks is the director of legal information and engagement at the Oklahoma Access to Justice Foundation. Ms. Brooks is a certified Legal First Aid trainer for the Oklahoma Community Justice Network and is the primary trainer for new and existing community navigators. Legal First Aid is a training program for frontline staff at community-facing organizations, which certifies caseworkers, screeners and other staff as legal community navigators. As certified community navigators, participants are able to competently recognize legal issues, refer clients to legal resources and advocate for their interests in the legal system.

She is a former Equal Justice Works attorney and staff attorney at Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, where she served low-income and senior clients with consumer (Chapter 7 bankruptcy), estate planning, guardianship, family and other elder law-related issues for five years. Additionally, she served as the pro bono coordinator for the Oklahoma City office of Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma. In that role, she maintained and developed several access to justice clinics, including wills and trusts clinics, a waiver divorce clinic and a general legal advice clinic and placed pro bono cases with private attorneys.

She continues to serve her community pro bono as an administrator and volunteer for the Oklahoma County Guardianship Clinic, an active volunteer attorney for the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City Expungement Expo program and a pro bono attorney for Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma.

Ms. Brooks earned her J.D. at the OCU School of Law with a certificate in wills, trusts and estates (estate planning) and her undergraduate degree in political science with an emphasis in pre-law. She is an admitted member of the OBA and the Western District of Oklahoma federal bar.




Brian Candelaria, Norman

Brian Candelaria worked for nine years as a legal assistant before going back to school and earning a master’s degree in legal studies from OU. He then attended the OCU School of Law. He was awarded a G. William Rice Memorial Scholarship by the OBA Indian Law Section and has been awarded multiple Sovereignty Symposium writing awards.

A member of the OBA and several tribal bar associations since April 2020, Mr. Candelaria works as a staff attorney at Oklahoma Indian Legal Services. He is currently the chair of the OBA Access to Justice Committee, vice chair of the OBA Indian Law Section and chair of the Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Mr. Candelaria has embraced the organizational mission of OILS to serve the legal needs of low-income enrolled tribe members residing in Oklahoma. He happily lives in Norman with his wife, Kathryn.





Courtney Driskell, Tulsa

Courtney Driskell is a family law attorney with a background serving local children and families in the community. She graduated with highest honors and was in the top 15% of her class at the TU College of Law in 2020. She was also awarded a CALI Award in trial skills.

Ms. Driskell volunteers with CASA as well as Tulsa Lawyers for Children. During law school, she worked as a licensed legal intern in the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office. She also worked in Crimes Against Children and the juvenile court before practicing family and criminal law at Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis. Ms. Driskell then transitioned to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services Child Support Services as a state attorney. She now works at Schmook Law Firm as an associate attorney and looks forward to many more years as a family law attorney in Tulsa and the surrounding communities.

Ms. Driskell loves bodybuilding and spending time with her son, Rhett, and their rescue Shih Tzu, Buddy.




Sherry Erb, Muskogee

Sherry Erb moved from Florida to Oklahoma in 2000 and has been involved in the legal field since her 20s. She graduated from Tulsa Community College with an associate degree in entrepreneurial development and from Northeastern State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in business. She obtained her J.D. from the TU College of Law and is admitted to practice law in Oklahoma. She is also admitted to practice in the Eastern District Federal Court of Oklahoma, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

Ms. Erb has traveled to numerous nations for humanitarian work and ministry work. She has been involved with the United Nations, speaking on legal and social issues. She also maintains her ministerial degree and enjoys speaking to local groups, civic organizations, churches and businesses.

Her firm, Erb Law PLLC, has offices in Muskogee and Tulsa, emphasizing estate planning, probate, Chapter 7 bankruptcy, transferring asset assistance, limited scope representation and more.




Thomas Grossnicklaus, Oklahoma City

Thomas Grossnicklaus served in the Marine Corps for five years. During his service, he was lucky enough to attend Designated Marksman School and graduate at the top of his class. He deployed with his unit to Guantanamo Bay. During his second deployment, he was the section leader for the Designated Marksman. His unit was activated and tasked with recapturing and securing the U.S. Embassy in Yemen.

Mr. Grossnicklaus enrolled at OCU for his degree in political science. During that time, he worked for U.S. Rep. Steve Russell in his district office as well on a successful reelection campaign. He then went on to the OCU School of Law and worked in Gov. Mary Fallin’s office. He was then given the opportunity to clerk for Supreme Court Justice James R. Winchester. He has served as an assistant attorney general in the legal counsel unit and as an attorney for several state agencies and commissions. He is currently the chief of staff and general counsel at the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.

He is in the Leadership Certificate Program at Harvard Kennedy School. Mr. Grossnicklaus is also a NextGen Under 30 recipient, a Journal Record 40 Under 40 recipient, a graduate of Leadership OKC LOYAL and serves on several advisory boards.



Rachel Hartman, Norman

Rachel Hartman is a recent graduate of the OU College of Law. While at OU, she obtained an Indigenous law peacemaking certificate and an American Jurisprudence Award in workers’ compensation. She was also a student assistant for the Antitrust I and II classes.

Ms. Hartman is originally from Duncan. Prior to law school, she attended OSU, where she worked for the Cowboy football team and was a member of the Phi Mu sorority. She received many academic recognitions while attending OSU, graduating with an honors degree in political science and a minor in legal studies.

Currently, Ms. Hartman practices civil litigation in Norman. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with those she loves, including her fiancé, Tyler, and her dog, Rosie.





Melissa Martin, Yukon

Melissa Martin represents clients in oil and gas law, probate and estate planning, with an emphasis on oil and gas title opinions. She particularly enjoys helping royalty owners and division order departments cure title issues and release suspense funds.

Prior to joining The Title Law Group, Ms. Martin served as manager of the Division Order Department of a local Fortune 500 energy company. She has experience participating in many special projects and working across multiple assets, including operations in Oklahoma, Ohio, Texas, Wyoming and Pennsylvania. She also has experience as a corporate attorney in the land department curing title for drilling and production across numerous assets.

Ms. Martin is a native of Newark, Delaware, but is now proud to call Oklahoma her home state. She currently resides in Oklahoma City with her son. They love to travel, read books and explore all that Oklahoma City has to offer.





Calandra McCool, Norman

Calandra McCool was born in Oklahoma City and always finds her way back to Oklahoma. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in history before earning a master’s degree in the history of science, technology and medicine at OU. She returned to the OU College of Law and graduated in 2019 with distinction, as well as a certificate in federal Indian law.

After graduation, Ms. McCool moved to Omaha, Nebraska, to work as an associate at Big Fire Law & Policy Group, a Native American-owned law firm focused on federal Indian law and tribal law.

She returned to Oklahoma during the pandemic but remained an active member of the Nebraska State Bar Association – she was part of the leadership for the association’s Indian Law Section for three years. Ms. McCool has also done several CLE and conference presentations on topics such as federal Indian law, tribal law, being a disabled attorney and cybersecurity law. She has also written and contributed pieces on disability and practicing law for the American Bar Association.

Ms. McCool is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She lives in Norman, and in her spare time, she enjoys playing tabletop games with friends and attending local events. She is excited to be a part of this year’s Leadership Academy so that she can take part in the Oklahoma legal community and continue the mentorship that was so important to her as a young, queer, indigenous, disabled lawyer.



Kinder Shamhart, Bartlesville

Kinder Shamhart is a partner with the Bartlesville law firm of Maddux, Ihrig & Shamhart PLLC, which serves the citizens of northeast Oklahoma. Prior to joining the firm in 2023, she was a sole practitioner for 10 years with the Law Office of Kinder D. Shamhart PLLC and an assistant district attorney in New Mexico for two years. Ms. Shamhart currently focuses her practice in the areas of adoption, guardianship, estate planning, probate and real estate. She also provides mediation and guardian ad litem services.

Advocacy and community service are important to Ms. Shamhart, who currently serves on the Bartlesville Public Schools Board of Education, the Bartlesville Public Schools Foundation and the Bartlesville City Board of Adjustment. She is also actively engaged with the parent support groups at her children’s schools, the Washington County Foster Parent Association and the Bartlesville Splash Club. While thankful for so many opportunities, Ms. Shamhart is most proud of the titles of wife and mother.





Tracy E. Smith, Tulsa

Tracy E. Smith was born and raised in Tulsa and is a proud graduate of Booker T. Washington High School. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in English with minors in Spanish and political science at OU, where she was active in the OU speech and debate program and the Honors College. Ms. Smith then obtained her J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law, participating in the London Law Consortium. After briefly practicing law, she moved to Austin, Texas, to become a bilingual teacher. After teaching in Austin for eight years, she returned to Tulsa in 2019.

Following her time as a consultation attorney with Rivas & Associates, an immigration law firm based in Tulsa, Ms. Smith now serves as education program manager. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering and fostering with the Oklahoma Westie Rescue and volunteering with the Tulsa Ballet. She loves documentaries and her two rescue pups, Sophie and Cowboy.





Brett Stavin, Edmond

Brett Stavin is a partner with the downtown Oklahoma City law firm of Rosette LLP. He has practiced with the firm for approximately 10 years, beginning immediately after his graduation from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

Rosette LLP is a small firm that focuses on representing tribal governments and their affiliated businesses. Within this niche, Mr. Stavin’s practice consists primarily of litigation. He represents clients in federal courts, state courts, administrative tribunals and arbitrations throughout the country. His clients typically operate in the energy, financial services and gaming industries.

Outside the office, Mr. Stavin enjoys spending time with his wife, Alexa, a 3L at the OCU School of Law, his daughter, Corinne, and his son, Connor.






Elissa Stiles, Tulsa

Elissa Stiles, managing attorney at Rivas & Associates, graduated from the TU College of Law in 2019 and began practicing immigration law that year. As an immigration lawyer, Ms. Stiles primarily advocates for clients in removal (deportation) proceedings before various immigration courts throughout the United States, as well as before appellate bodies that include the Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals and the 5th Circuit and 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ms. Stiles currently serves as chair of the OBA Immigration Law Section and the Tulsa County Bar Association Immigration Section. When she's not at the office or in the courtroom, Ms. Stiles enjoys hiking, crocheting and tending her vegetable garden.








Shannon Taylor, Oklahoma City

Shannon Taylor is an attorney in Oklahoma City. She has built a reputation of providing compassionate guidance and representation for adoption, guardianship, probate/estate administration, estate planning and other family law matters. She focuses on helping clients navigate legal situations with compassion, empathy and attentiveness. When appropriate, she favors mediation, negotiation, collaborative law and other dispute-resolution techniques to help clients swiftly and amicably resolve legal matters. However, when warranted, she is also a willing advocate in the courtroom.

A native Oklahoman, Ms. Taylor earned a bachelor's degree in humanities from OCU and her J.D. from the OCU School of Law. She received a CALI Award in juvenile law. She is a member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Oklahoma County Bar Association and the American Bar Association.





Taylor Wallner, Oklahoma City

Taylor Wallner is originally from Fayetteville, Arkansas, but he has been practicing in Oklahoma for almost a decade after attending the OCU School of Law. For the first few years of his practice, he represented disabled individuals through the challenging Social Security disability process. Now, Mr. Wallner’s primary focus is on personal injury litigation. His practice motto is simple: treat every client with respect and honesty.

While not in the courtroom, Mr. Wallner enjoys spending time with his family at the lake or being out on the golf course. He is an avid Oklahoma City Thunder and Arkansas Razorbacks fan. He is a member of the OBA and the Oklahoma Association for Justice.

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar JournalOBJ 95 No. 3 (March 2024)

Statements or opinions expressed in the Oklahoma Bar Journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Oklahoma Bar Association, its officers, Board of Governors, Board of Editors or staff.