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Empowering Employees

Kristin Rizzo's efforts to educate and empower employees extend to everyone via civility and integrity.


As most people are employed, I love understanding an area of law that affects most people in one way or another,” says Kristin Rizzo, Founder of Rizzo Law, PC. However, she’s quick to note that “I am not the type of lawyer who will take a case just to get paid; the cases I handle involve aspects of an unlawful nature and clients who deserve justice. My firm focuses on substantive, quality cases, where clear, unlawful action has transpired. I have always believed in an ethos of strong advocacy with civility and integrity,” she says.

For Rizzo, who launched her solo practice two years ago, that means that a great deal of the work she does on a daily basis may never result in a paycheck. “I pride myself on extensively vetting the cases presented to me so that the lawsuits I initiate are ones with strong merits, deserving justice,” she explains. “That said, working in the area of employment law, I receive a lot of calls from potential clients seeking representation for wrongful termination or a hostile work environment. I spend a lot of time just speaking with people who have lost their jobs, and even more time trying to determine whether the termination was unlawful or just unsavory. If I find the termination was unlawful, I advocate hard for my client’s rights. On the other hand, if I feel there was no unlawful action taken, then I tell the potential client in clear terms and do not take on their case,” she says. Continuing, Rizzo adds, “I believe in being straightforward with clients about what their case is and what it isn’t. Hopefully, with this reputation, defense lawyers who see a complaint filed by my firm know that I have a valid case.”

Proud To Help Plaintiffs

When it comes to opposing counsel, Rizzo is no stranger to defense. In fact, before launching her own firm in July of 2011, Rizzo spent several years in defense work. “I had been working at a great law firm, Higgs, Fletcher & Mack. After defending businesses and large corporations in employment matters, I began to feel a tug at my heartstrings and felt I could better serve people by representing employees who had been harmed through no fault of their own. In essence, I knew I wanted to change sides,” she explains.

Understandably, leaving the safety of her position to venture out onto her own in plaintiff’s work wasn’t a decision Rizzo was going to make haphazardly. She set about to try to create a safety net for herself, and found a mentor willing to provide exactly that.

“I reached out to David Strauss, a well-known employment attorney in the area and shared with him my desires to turn my practice from defense to plaintiff’s employment. He shared stories about his firm and what he enjoyed about representing employees. Several weeks later, he gave me the opportunity to work alongside him on several of his larger cases, and offered to mentor me as I went out on my own. Being offered the opportunity to start my own firm with a safety net of being aligned with a terrific plaintiff’s employment lawyer seemed like a no-brainer,” she recalls. Now, more than two years later, Rizzo hasn’t looked back for a minute. Her guiding ethos have earned her favorable peer recognition and corresponding accolades, including the 2013 Top Attorney Award for Employment Law from the San Diego Daily Transcript. She also received the Judge David R. Thompson New Lawyer Award in 2012. In 2009 and 2011, the San Diego Daily Transcript presented her with the Top Young Attorney Award, and the San Diego County Bar Association presented her with the Bar Star Award in both 2009 and 2010

Civility & Integrity Extend Beyond Client Representation

For Rizzo, advocacy, civility and integrity aren’t just nebulous ideals to aim for. On the contrary, they are interwoven into all aspects of her life, both professionally and personally. In her personal life, she is passionate about community service work, and her efforts benefit her hometown of San Diego, specifically.

Rizzo sits on the Board of Directors for her alma mater, the University of San Diego School of Law and she is the current Co-Chair of the Labor & Employment Section of the San Diego County Bar Association. She is an Adjunct Professor at USD Law School and frequently lectures to legal and community groups about employment laws. She participates in the San Diego District Attorney’s Office Adopt-a-Family Program; she’s served the YWCA and Casa Cornelia, has volunteered with the Polinsky Center, and helped to create the Higgs, Fletcher & Mack Diversity Scholarship in conjunction with USD Law School.

She is incredibly enthusiastic about her professional affiliations, most notably her work in the San Diego County Bar Association. “I’m passionate about serving the SDCBA and its community of legal practitioners.

The SDCBA is the umbrella organization for our legal community, connecting all practitioners in all areas of law, including plaintiffs’ lawyers, defense lawyers, and the numerous law-related specialty bar associations. Developing strong connections between legal groups reinforces community partnerships and creates a network of diverse attorneys working toward the common goal of civility and professionalism,” Rizzo says. “Litigation in general can be contentious, but I have found that knowing other practitioners through community work or through common membership in the SDCBA makes the litigation much more civil as there is mutual respect between the attorneys. The SDCBA promotes civility and camaraderie because it creates a place where all San Diego legal practitioners belong,” she says fondly.

Not surprisingly, Rizzo has taken her passion for her work at the SDCBA to new heights this year. She is currently running for one of the four at-large Director Seats on the SDCBA Board of Directors. “If I’m elected, I will strive to build strong connections between practitioners and specialty bar associations within our legal community to ensure the SDCBA serves the needs of its unique and diverse membership,” Rizzo explains.

Aspirations and Ambitions:

As far as the future of Rizzo’s firm is concerned, she tries not to get too far ahead of herself. “I have my own firm, am working in an area of law I am extremely passionate about, and representing clients who need counsel.” However, her plans do include giving back, whether it’s educating others about the highly specialized nature of employment law, regardless of whether they become clients; improving her hometown community, working together with her fellow attorneys in the SDCBA to raise the standards of excellence, or mentoring up and coming attorneys.

Rizzo says, “I am a firm believer in the power of mentoring. I have been very fortunate to be mentored by several well-respected attorneys and judges. My mentors have taught me the values of civility and integrity in the profession of law and have encouraged me to follow my own unique personal career path. They have helped me become the attorney I am today, and I am so grateful to them for that.”


Kristin Rizzo
Rizzo Law, PC
1111 Sixth Avenue, Suite 404
San Diego, CA 92101

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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