The Big Apple's Cowgirl: Ag Lawyer Finds Success in NYC
Cari Rincker may be the only lawyer in New York City who gets the Angus Journal mailed to her apartment and posts updates on Twitter about livestock (she’s @CariRincker). “She’s the only one of my friends that tweets about cows,” says Ellen Victor, a business and estate planning attorney based in Garden City, N.Y.
Rincker is a self-professed farm girl with enough drive to match any city maven. She sharpened her oral advocacy skills by excelling as a livestock judge while studying agricultural science in college. Her firm, Rincker Law, is a national general practice specializing in agricultural and environmental issues, but Rincker also helps New Yorkers with matters such as real estate closings and divorces.
“No two days are the same,” the 31-year-old says. “Ag law is every kind of law—estate planning, family/matrimonial, corporate transactions, commercial litigation, intellectual property, international trade—it’s just geared toward a specific industry.”
During a two-week stretch in February, she researched a trademark matter for a Midwest agriculture technology firm, represented an organic farm on Long Island in a landlord-tenant dispute, and handled a matrimonial matter for a nonfarm client in Queens. She also attended the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association annual convention.
Rincker grew up near Shelbyville, Ill., a picturesque town of fewer than 5,000 in east-central Illinois where her family has farmed for generations. Her father, Curt Rincker, a former high school teacher now chairman of the agriculture division at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Ill., took out a loan to buy 25 cows to start his own business, Rincker Simmentals. It produces Simmental cattle, a breed originating in Switzerland, for breeding and show.
She recalls her father tying a calf named Peaches to a tree when she was 4 and teaching her to lead the calf in a circle. By age 8 she was showing her own cows at county fairs. She soon learned to bale hay and herd cattle.
She credits her entrepreneurial instincts to her mother, Pam Rincker, a former math teacher who cashed out her IRA to buy a computer and taught herself programming. Pam Rincker grew her home-based operation into a national company: Software Solutions Integrated of Shelbyville, which develops software for agri-businesses.
Cari Rincker initially set out to follow in her father’s footsteps by teaching. But by 2004, when she completed her Master of Science degree specializing in beef cattle nutrition at the University of Illinois, she no longer wanted to pursue a PhD.
“While I enjoyed my master’s degree, I felt like I was discussing things on the molecular level when what I really wanted to do was help cattle people make money,” she recalls.
CALL OF THE LAW
In 2002, her eyes had been opened to the wider world of agriculture policy and law during an internship for U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. The internship was offered by Texas A&M University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science, and it provided her first sustained exposure to city life—and to lawyers.
“She found politics and the legal system to be extremely interesting,” says fellow intern Stefphanie Gambrell, now a human resources generalist at American Agricultural Insurance Co. in Washington, D.C. “She was always thinking ahead to what she wanted to do next. She’s probably the most driven person I know.”
After completing a JD in 2007 at Pace University School of Law in White Plains, N.Y., Rincker worked as an associate for Budd-Falen Law Offices in Cheyenne, Wyo. But she yearned to be back in New York.
“I thought, ‘How can I live in New York City and be an ag attorney at the same time?’ There are no ag law firms in New York. I figured I’d better do it on my own,” Rincker recalls. She opened her New York City office in August 2009.
An inveterate networker, she’s active in more than a dozen bar associations and cattle and farm organizations. “When she takes the reins on something, she’s very good at following through and engaging other folks to be part of the process,” says Barb Wilkinson, executive director of leadership development for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Rincker has ambitious goals for her firm, including plans to offer federal and state lobbying services for agriculture producers and agri-businesses.
“Every day in my practice I dream big,” she says. “I know that it will take a lot of patience and hard work, but I hope to build a nationally renowned food and agriculture law practice.”