When asked for three words they use to describe themselves, both Lori-Ann Ricketts and Robin Frankel independently began with “outgoing.” While this adjective certainly seems to match this mentoring team, their connection runs much deeper.
Robin is a career public defender (and self-proclaimed “Princess of Westchester” — listen to her Moth radio story to learn more!). Though this is Robin’s first year as a Her Honor mentor, she has spent her life as an attorney amplifying her voice to lift others up. She’s been a mentor for junior attorneys and led trainings to teach Pace Law students how to conduct “Know Your Rights” workshops with middle schoolers. For over thirty years, she’s worked with the Legal Aid Society of New York, an organization that seeks to be, “...the voice for those who suffer in silence, face oppression, and struggle to access justice because of poverty.” Robin has also been sharing her expertise for the past 7 years as a professor at Pace Law School teaching the Criminal Justice Clinic.
Lori-Ann, a senior at Mount Vernon high school, discovered her passion for law in the past year. “Being on that mock trial team sparked an interest in law for me,” she writes. “I was assigned to be a lawyer and I loved it. I worked hard to prove the defendant as not guilty.”
Her Honor is giving Lori-Ann an opportunity to explore the many career avenues available to her — from behind the desk to behind the bench. In her short time as a mentee with Robin, Lori-Ann has been amazed by the willingness of those around Robin to open up to her. “I met several people who work in the law field ranging from judges to paralegals. They all were willing to share their personal stories of why they chose law as a career,” shared Lori-Ann.
One remarkable experience for Lori-Ann was joining the Honorable Frances Wang on the stand. Judge Wang, a judge on the New York City Criminal Court, accepted an invitation from Robin to have Lori-Ann join her for a series of hearings. Lori-Ann writes, “The most rewarding part of my Her Honor experience so far was sitting with a judge on the stand for the first time… [Judge Wang] explained all the questions I had about what was happening as the procedures went.”
The experience of working side-by-side with women who have followed a legal career path before her can help Lori-Ann navigate future challenges and celebrate her successes. As Robin says, mentoring allows young women an opportunity to uncover “a whole new world of learning, relating, and understanding.”
Such an experience becomes particularly important in fields predominantly occupied by men, like law. As the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy points out, even though over 50% of individuals graduated with law degrees are women, far fewer are represented in the legal profession. They call it: The Gavel Gap.
Worst still: these numbers skew even more dramatically when looking at statistics for women of color in legal professions. Less than 1% of prosecutors across the country are women of color.
In her recommendation for the Her Honor program, Lori-Ann’s Mock Trial coach wrote, “[Lori-Ann] regularly went beyond the expectations of her role out of innate sense of curiosity and willingness to learn. She has also been willing to step up to challenges for her team and her own personal growth as a member of the team.” She added, “[Lori-Ann] demonstrates a passion for her future that will ensure her success at her pursuits.”
We need intelligent, curious, passionate, and, yes, outgoing individuals — like Lori-Ann and Robin — supporting our legal systems. By creating opportunities for entry at early stages in young women’s decision-making, we can create legal spaces that are more understanding, inclusive, and reflective of our broader society.
As Lori-Ann says, “Everyone that I've encountered so far treated me like I belonged, and I appreciated that.” Through the guidance of Robin — and the amazing network of women surrounding her — we hope that more individuals navigating the legal system can feel this same sense of belonging.
In Their Own Words
Three words you would use to describe yourself?
Lori-Ann: Outgoing, Entertaining, Smart
Robin: Outgoing, Funny, Talkative