President: Melissa J. Cook, FRP

Melissa Cook is originally from Michigan and has been working in the legal field for over 15 years.  She currently works for Peterson & Myers, P. A., located in Lakeland, Florida where she works in the transactional practice group which focuses on Commercial Real Estate, Banking and Finance, Corporate Governance, Mergers and Acquisitions, as well as Agricultural transactions. She has been involved with Tampa Bay Paralegal Association, Inc. for over16 years and has been a director or officer in that time frame. She looks forward to continuing to serve TBPA and its members in the year ahead.


Since becoming "empty-nesters", Melissa and her husband, Michael, enjoy  camping and traveling when possible, as well focusing on a new hobby of photography.  When they are not traveling you will find Melissa and her husband spending as much time with their daughters and the rest of each of their families when possible.

Contact Melissa here. 

President-Elect: Nita Serrano, ACP, RP, AACP, FRP

Nita Serrano, ACP, FRP, AACP, is a Litigation Paralegal in Tampa, Florida working in the area General Casualty handling all aspects of cases from case inception through trial preparation and participation.  Nita has been a paralegal for most of her adult life, four of those years as a freelance paralegal.  Nita specializes in the areas of civil litigation, insurance defense, medical malpractice, personal injury, nursing home, general negligence, criminal and family law.  Nita is also a Florida Notary Public and Florida Remote Online Notary Public.


In April 2022, Nita was appointed by the Supreme Court of Florida to the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit’s Unlicensed Practice of Law Committee. In addition, Nita has been a member of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (NFPA) since 2005 and has served as NFPA President (2018-2020), and as Board Advisor for the NFPA Board of Directors from 2020-2022. Among other activities with NFPA, she served as the Vice President & Director of Paralegal Certification 2014-2018 and Marketing/Public Relations Coordinator and CLE Co-Coordinator.  


Nita has been a member of the Tampa Bay Paralegal Association, Inc. (TBPA) since 2006, and has served various leadership roles including, TBPA President, 2nd Vice President, Director and Board Advisor.  She was TBPA’s first Paralegal Certification Ambassador and has chaired a number of TBPA committees. Nita has been a member of the Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (“FAPA”) since 2013, and served as President in 2014.  Nita has been a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants (“NALA”) since 2020. Nita has also served on the Hillsborough Community College, Paralegal Advisory Board since 2010 and served on Keiser University’s Paralegal Advisory Board from 2011-2020.


Nita earned her Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies from Florida Metropolitan University in 2000. She then earned her designation as a PACE Registered Paralegal (RP®) from NFPA in 2007, achieved the designation as an American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) in 2019, Certified Paralegal (CP) and Florida Registered Paralegal (FRP) in 2020. She also achieved the NALA Advanced Certified Paralegal (ACP) designation in Trial Practice in October 2020.


Away from work, Nita can usually be found reading, scrapbooking, photography, and spending time with her family and their furry family members, three Yorkshire Terriers and three cats.

Contact Nita here.

1st Vice President: Vacant

2nd Vice President: Irene Hahn, CRP

Irene Hahn is a Core Registered Paralegal employed by The Day Law Office. The firm’s focus is Family Law, Bankruptcy, Probate, and Estate Planning. Irene has worked in Probate and Estate Planning since 2004. She attended Kalan University earning a book award for exemplifying superior research and writing skills and was named on the Dean’s list each semester. She is currently studying for NALA’s Certified Paralegal Exam and would like to return to complete her Associate's Degree.

Irene has been a member of TBPA since December 2012 and a member of the Board of Directors since 2018 as the Certification and Education ambassador and the Secretary since 2020.

Irene is a Tampa native. She enjoys spending time with family, going to the beach, camping, kayaking and frequents Florida’s theme parks. She is always looking for new adventures to keep life interesting.

Contact Irene here.

Secretary: Emily Merlin, CP


Emily Merlin is working in-house as the director of contracts management at Atos Digital Health Solutions focusing on IT Agreements for McLaren Health Care Corporation working with in-house attorneys, internal stakeholders, financial team and outside vendors. Prior to that she was a contracts manager working in-house at HealthPlan Services, Inc., a Wipro company, for five years and with WellCare Health Plans for ten years. She has over 25 years of experience as a Certified Paralegal working in contract negotiations and management, real estate, corporate compliance, mergers and acquisitions, healthcare, telecommunications and complex litigation.

Emily is a founding Officer of TBPA and has been an active member since its inception in the fall of 2000.  She has served in various capacities on the Board of Directors and as Chair on several Committees during her tenure as a member.  In addition, Emily is currently serving as Past President and Voting Officer with the Florida Alliance of Paralegal Associations, Inc. (“FAPA”), which TBPA is an Association Member.

Emily has a Bachelor’s Degree in Legal Administration from the University of West Florida (“UWF”) as well as two (2) Associate’s Degrees, one of which is in Paralegal Studies and the other in Music (Opera as the focus).  In addition, Emily achieved and continues to maintain the designation of Certified Paralegal ("CP") from the National Association of Legal Assistants (“NALA”).  During her leisure time, Emily enjoys spending time with her family and friends, scalloping during the summer, sailing/boating, singing at church, walking along Bayshore and the Riverwalk and cheering on the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team and Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.

Contact Emily here.

Treasurer (& Immediate Past President): Yvonne DeAntoneo

Yvonne Lewis DeAntoneo is a paralegal working in-house for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company at their local trial counsel office, Kevin Korth & Associates in St. Petersburg, Florida.  She has been with State Farm since 2017.  Prior to that, Yvonne worked in a similar position for Nationwide Insurance for several years. Before she worked in-house, Yvonne spent approximately 20 years as a litigation paralegal in the Tampa Bay area and briefly in the Philadelphia areas working for various medical malpractice, nursing home defense and personal injury firms. 


Yvonne obtained her Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies from St. Petersburg College and a Bachelor’s in Literature from the University of South Florida.


In addition to currently serving as TBPA’s Treasurer & Immediate President, Yvonne is a founding member of TBPA, serving as TBPA’s first President and in various roles on the board and in different committees over TBPA’s 20+ year history. 


With a passion for the paralegal profession, Yvonne also served on the national board of the National Federation of Paralegal Associations.  With NFPA, Yvonne has previously served as Vice President and Director of Membership (2015-2019) and Region III Director (2013-2015). 


When not working or volunteering her time on the TBPA Board of Directors, Yvonne enjoys spending time with her family, including her two teenage daughters, Katherine and Sarah.  Yvonne is an avid reader and pet lover.

Contact Yvonne here

Director: Jeffrey Rizzo, CP, FRP

Jeffrey Rizzo has almost thirty years’ experience as a litigation paralegal, and recently joined CItibank, N.A. where he is the Legal Program Manager / Assistant Vice President of Retail Banking Legal for Citibank, N.A.'s  Dispute Advisory Group supporting all aspects of complaint handling and pre-litigation disputes for Citi's retail broker-dealer.

Prior to joining Citibank, Jeffrey spent more than half of his career with the Guerra King team where he provided support to the attorneys of the firm in litigation and trial readiness. Jeffrey uses his considerable multitasking skills and experience by providing detailed support from inception to the conclusion of matters. He maintains document productions and is integral in preparing for filings, case evaluations, mediations, hearings and trials. Jeffrey’s work focuses on the federal and state court litigation of complex commercial disputes, arbitration, and regulatory proceedings. Jeffrey is also highly involved in administration of all aspects of the Firm’s representation of federal and state court appointed receivers.

Jeffrey earned his degree in criminal justice from Saint Joseph’s University in 1993. He received his paralegal certificate in 1994 and earned the national certified paralegal designation through NALA, Inc. and is a Florida Registered Paralegal.  Jeffrey is also a past board member of the Tampa Bay Paralegal Association, recently returning in 2022.  He is a Florida Notary Public and Remote Online Notary.

Jeffrey’s prior work experience includes admiralty and maritime, medical malpractice and general civil and criminal litigation in Florida, Texas, New York and Georgia.  He served as an intern in the Victim Services Unit for the Office of District Attorney of the City of Philadelphia, PA during college.

Director: R. Lance Cochran-LaFleur, FRP

Lance Cochran-LaFleur, a Nashville native, has been working in the legal field for 17 years, 11 of those years spent here in Florida. Starting off in Bankruptcy law, Lance has navigated his way through the Federal and Civil courts before landing in Insurance Defense. Currently, Lance is working at Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., and was recently promoted to LEAD, where he now oversees day-to-day operations, training, compliance, and attorney/assistant relations, for their Tampa office. He has been involved with the TBPA since 2017 and was awarded the 2020 Outstanding Services by a Paralegal award by the 13th Judicial District Pro Bono Committee for his work with Wills for Heroes and other events here in the Tampa Bay.  Lance is excited to be returning to full active duty with the board after a short break due to work conflicts. He will be resuming his role as Pro Bono and Community service Chair and looks forward to new adventures in 2023.

Director: Elizabeth Juszkowski, CPR

Director: Angie Hales

Angie Hales earned her Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies from Hillsborough Community College in 2023. She is currently employed with The Law Firm of Douglas G. Jackson in St. Petersburg, Florida. The law firm’s practice areas include Business law, Estate Planning and Probate, Commercial Real Estate, Bankruptcy, Criminal Defense, and Divorce. Her next goal is to pass the NALA Certified Paralegal Exam before returning to complete her Bachelor’s Degree in Paralegal Studies at St. Pete College.

Angie has been involved with Tampa Bay Paralegal Association, Inc. since 2022. She is a Florida Notary Public who serves at the quarterly Pro Bono event, Wills For Heroes, and is a regular attendee of the monthly CLE luncheons. She looks forward to connecting with students studying to become paralegals, by working to become a liaison between TBPA and the local paralegal programs, colleges, and other school.

TBPA is a voluntary professional association and does not make any representation, endorsement or guarantee as to the quality, reliability, competency, accuracy, business practice/standards/ethics, or professionalism of any member of TBPA.  TBPA does not conduct background checks or any other form of due diligence on any person or business applying for membership with TBPA.


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