The Justice & Diversity Center (JDC) is pleased to recognize Lori Rifkin as our volunteer of the month for her outstanding work with the Federal Pro Bono Project. The project arranges pro bono counsel for pro se litigants in federal court. Dedicated volunteers such as Rifkin give litigants access to legal expertise and a true chance for justice.
Acting on her strong belief that every person deserves access to an attorney, Rifkin took on a prisoners’ rights case regarding religious freedom, and ultimately reached a settlement favorable to her client. Her dedication and proficiency are even more impressive, as she is one of the few solo practitioners who has accepted a case from this project.
Rifkin has worked for a decade as a civil rights lawyer in a variety of settings, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Department of Justice, and private law firms. Last year, she started her own civil rights practice in the Bay Area.
Rifkin’s commitment to serving vulnerable populations, who may not know how to navigate the court system, drew her to volunteer with the Federal Pro Bono Project. Indeed, her client’s case had been ongoing for ten years before she came on board. As she notes, “[Incarcerated people] tend to be some of the most vulnerable people around. But without a lawyer, even a meritorious prisoner case can stagnate in the court system for years without even getting past the initial complaint stage. I think this kind of advocacy is one of the most important things we can do as lawyers.”
Rifkin has lived in the Bay Area off and on since 2000 and happily reports that this time the move is final. Her law office works to change the way the legal system treats women, people of color, LGBTQI people, religious minorities, and people with disabilities. Outside of work, she hopes to begin coaching rugby, a sport she played at the collegiate and national level for 14 years.