Michigan Law alumnus finds perfect fit afterall

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By Jeanine Matlow

Legal News

While attorney Andrew Rifkin has received numerous accolades for his legal work, it's his positive attitude that makes a lasting impression for a man who appeared destined to make his mark in the medical profession.

After graduating cum laude from the University of Michigan with a bachelor of arts degree in economics, Rifkin attended the University of Michigan Medical School, before becoming a marketing staff consultant at the University of Michigan Medical Center.

There, he designed a prototype system for computer access to Medical Center patient data. Rifkin also developed programs for data analysis as part of a survey project that won a Touchstone National Marketing Award.

Still, something was missing.

"You have to have a passion for what you do," says Rifkin, who was much more interested in the law school material his buddies were studying than his own subjects, which prompted him to make the switch.

Rifkin then went on to the University of Michigan Law School, where he won the Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition and taught legal research and writing, earning an award as the year's outstanding legal research and writing instructor.

In 2000, after years of general litigation experience, Rifkin joined The Law Firm of John F. Schaefer in Birmingham, becoming a partner specializing in matrimonial matters, business and entertainment representation and contract negotiation, and other complex relationships.

He is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and an adjunct professor of law at Michigan State University College of Law. Rifkin previously taught at the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law.

The 46-year-old Birmingham resident lives with his wife, Gillian Rifkin, an immigration and trademark attorney who also works in Birmingham. They have two sons and a daughter.

With two attorneys and three kids in the family, there is rarely a dull moment, but there is an advantage to sharing the same profession.

"She can understand exactly what I'm saying," Rifkin says of his wife.

Two years ago, their oldest child, Cameron, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 9. Since then, the family has been extensively involved in fund-raising with the American Diabetes Association.

Despite all they've been through, Rifkin credits his son with being "incredibly" responsible. In fact, he is able to manage his insulin at sleep-away camp.

In April, Cameron, who was named the 2012 Youth Ambassador for the American Diabetes Association, spoke at the 20th Annual Commitment for a Cure Gala at the MGM Grand in front of hundreds of people.

"The room went totally silent and he received a standing ovation," Rifkin says of his son.

In his spare time, the proud father also coaches football for his boys' teams. Rifkin has only missed three University of Michigan home football games since 1972.

His all-inclusive approach to coaching is refreshing.

"We make sure everybody gets a chance to play. That's when it's really fun," says Rifkin.

David Timmis, an attorney with Vandeveer Garzia in Troy, has become friends with Rifkin through their kids and their coaching. He believes Rifkin's dispute resolution skills have served him well.

"As a family lawyer, Andy has to step into some pretty sticky situations, so he's been able to develop a very wonderful demeanor," says Timmis.

"He's not antagonistic. The kids are very eager and willing to follow Andy," adds Timmis. "In addition to being a wonderful coach, he's a wonderful guy."

When asked about the most rewarding aspect of coaching, Rifkin says: "Hands down, when you give a kid the chance to score a play that works. He may not be the best athlete, but he gets to feel like a hero."

Published: Mon, Aug 6, 2012

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