"The Life Journey of Richard Rizk"
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Richard was born in Manhattan, New York near Central Park, but his family was soon forced out of the U.S. when his father's student visa lapsed. Richard's father, Mahfouz Rizk, M.D., led his young family to a small village deep in the South American jungle, Kwakwani, Guyana. For two years, Richard’s parents operated a sparsely equipped medical clinic for the Reynolds Aluminum Company.
“We left the urban jungle for the real jungle of Guyana where I learned to walk, swim and talk. I was stalked by a boa constrictor and swam with piranha in the local river. Whenever I face hard times, I think of obstacles my parents faced in those early days of my life.” - Richard Rizk
Dr. Rizk moved his family back to the U.S. They lived in or near Cleveland, Ohio; Gary, Indiana and Kankakee, Illinois.
Stuttering in Grade School
Another challenge for Richard was growing up with a speech impediment, which his classmates harassed him about.
“While other kids practiced sports after school, I took speech therapy sessions. Overcoming stuttering and opportunistic bullies was one of my earliest and most enduring accomplishments.” - Richard Rizk
“Jon Shadid is the big brother I never had. He will always be a source of inspiration for me.” – Richard Rizk
In 1976, Richard met Jon Shadid, who had come to live with Richard’s family for a few months before going to college. Months earlier, Jon escaped Lebanon’s civil war. Every few weeks John would learn about another of his friends from back home who died because of the civil war.
Jon also suffered serious burns to his face while working on a car and was barely recognizable for several months.
“His face eventually healed, and he would go on to establish “The Caravan of Hope,” a traveling educational initiative in Mauritania which stemmed the tide of AIDS in that country.” – Richard Rizk
(Learn more about that here: https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/report/54364/mauritania-aids-caravan-hope-travels-river-valley-break-taboos)
Fruits of Labor
Richard’s father built a successful medical practice from the ground up, took orders from no one and Richard learned from all of it.
“After he passed, I searched past emails from him for words of encouragement. I found these:
‘Do what you do best, plant seeds and they will bear fruit soon’ - Mahfouz Rizk, M.D.
“Mom would go on to earn her master’s degree in psychiatric nursing (valedictorian) and be honored as a ‘Prestigious Alumni’ by Barnes-Jewish Hospital for her charitable work in emerging central American nations.” - Richard Rizk
Military School & a Serious Car Crash
Richard’s time at Culver was one of the most pivotal times in his life.
"I was a good student, but I was underwhelmed by the 'military dogma' and those who thrived in that environment. I graduated from Culver in 1981." - Richard Rizk
YMCA Camp Counselor & Lifeguard
Richard spent about ten summers at Phantom Lake YMCA camp, first as a camper and then as a counselor, lifeguard, and boating instructor. There, he learned how to put others first while enjoying life in a caring community. He taught sailing, canoeing and row boating to school-age children and worked as a lifeguard.
“Although I am not a religious man, in life I strive to live by Phantom Lake’s mantra:
‘And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man’ (Luke 2:52).”
- Richard Rizk
Richard’s childhood stuttering experience helped him appreciate what it feels like to be ridiculed because of a deficit. He first coached Special Olympics in 1982 for an Illinois Special Olympic softball team.
“What a joyful experience! Our sluggers helped the team earn a silver medal. The season culminated in a dance party that left me overwhelmed with joy, humility, and hunger for more.” – Richard Rizk
Richard would later coach Special Olympics skiing on Mount Hood.
Leader & Photographer at SMU
Richard earned degrees in Political Science and Advertising at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas. A close friend started the SMU Law Society. Richard became the group's second president.
Richard also lived in Salzburg, Austria as an exchange student during his final semester at SMU. He traveled throughout Europe that summer.
Lewis & Clark Law School
Mr. Rizk relocated to Portland, Oregon in 1985 to attend Lewis & Clark Law School where he graduated in 1988. At LC Law Richard learned from Oregon’s most talented and respected law professors.
“Professors I learned from were legends of law, including Bill Newell (contracts), Jack Bogdanski (tax) and Susan Mandiberg (criminal law). L&C law was already nationally known for its environmental program.” - Richard Rizk
Early Insurance Defense & Plaintiff Firm Experience
Richard began learning about insurance law after landing a position with Oregon’s largest workers’ compensation insurance company, SAIF corporation.
In the late 1980s, Mr. Rizk accepted a clerking position with a Portland personal injury firm where he continued drafting appeals and pleadings for workers involved in workers’ compensation matters.
Nationwide/Wausau Insurance: Defense of Oregon Business
In 1990 Richard accepted an associate lawyer position with Wausau Insurance, then a subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance. He defended Oregon businesses in workers’ compensation and personal injury matters.
“I travelled all over Oregon in that job and learned all about a wide range of industries
“By the mid-1990s, I honestly believed I was a rather good insurance defense attorney, not fully realizing that the deck was stacked in favor of defense lawyers.
“I soon understood that I needed a focused purpose addressing a worthy, unmet societal demand that played to my strengths. But what?” - Richard Rizk
Nationwide Insurance: Environmental Insurance Coverage
In 1996 Richard earned a transfer and promotion to Nationwide Insurance’s home office for environmental claims in suburban Chicago, Illinois. There, he supervised environmental insurance coverage litigation and claims for some of Nationwide’s highest-exposure claims.
“After a couple of years, I pieced together a ‘big picture’ of it all - insurance coverage law, how insurance companies operate and negotiate, what makes them hunker down and what makes them sweat. Armed with this knowledge and experience, by the year 2000 I was ready to set out on my own.” – Richard Rizk
Rizk Law Starts its Engines
In the fall of 2000, Richard moved from Chicago back to Portland to start Rizk Law.
In the early 2000s, he was looking for a tough case against formidable opponent. He won a case for a restaurant server whose insurance claim for her stolen car was denied. The insurance company claimed their daughter arranged for the car to be stolen because she had a conversation with a known car thief the night before.
The star witness for the insurance company was the server’s roommate, who described a plot by the server to steal the car.
“When the time came for my cross examination, I looked at the witness and said, ‘You look different today’. I continued, ‘You have a wig on, don’t you? Everything unraveled for the defense from that point on.
“It was an early win at trial against an insurer who was blindsided by its own arrogance. For that reason, I will never forget it.”
– Richard Rizk
Rizk Law Moves to Portland
After the economic recession (2008-2009), Rizk Law moved its office from Washington County to Multnomah County and eventually to its current location on South Iowa Street.
“With success, I hired more law clerks, most of whom would become associate lawyers at Rizk Law and most of whom were from Lewis and Clark Law School. I cannot help but feel the wheel turn full circle.” – Richard Rizk
Making a Difference in the Community
Cascade Ski Club
Richard is a lifelong downhill skier. He eventually joined Cascade Ski Club and in 2005 he was selected club president, a position he held through 2008. His leadership at Cascade Ski club was documented in the Oregon State Bar Bulletin in 2011.
“I loved Cascade so much Jill and I decided to get married there. For the last few years, I have been Cascade’s volunteer legal counsel.” – Richard Rizk
Disability Rights Oregon Assignment - Dammasch State Hospital
During the summer of 1987, Richard accepted an internship at Disability Rights Oregon, then known as Oregon Advocacy. Inspired by his mother’s work in psychiatric nursing, he worked to protect the civil rights of patients at Dammasch State Hospital, a mental hospital and asylum in Wilsonville, Oregon.
“One day I will never forget. A former clergyman and patient stopped me in the hall as profane non sequiturs echoed in the halls.
“’Why can’t people just love each other?’ he asked. I looked him in the eye and replied, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know.’ I quickly made my way to the restroom to silently cry outside anyone’s view.”
– Richard Rizk
Oregon State Bar Delegate (Portland)
“In 2013, I served as Portland’s delegate to the Oregon State Bar. I would advocate and vote on matters impacting my constituents. Most matters were boring and procedural, but in 2013 there was a hearing on whether the Oregon State Bar would support same sex marriage.
“During the debate one lawyer stood and exclaimed, “If we allow same sex marriages, what is next men marrying mules?”
“There were audible gasps while I quietly moved toward the microphone to speak. ‘Men may not be able marry mules, but you sir are an ass.’” – Richard Rizk
The resolution to support gay marriage, passed.
Litigation to Protect Children
Richard Rizk and Rizk Law associate lawyer Alex Pletch have filed several cases against those responsible for sex abuse to minor children as well as persons hurt by aggressive actions of the police. They took a case pro bono (without charge to the client) to help a school-age child who was hit in the face by a skateboard.
“We are passionate about seeking justice for people who have been bullied and taken advantage of in humiliating ways by others.”
– Richard Rizk
South Portland Neighborhood Association (SPNA)
From 2018 to 2020, Richard sat on the board of directors for the South Portland Neighborhood Association (SPNA).
Building a Better Portland
From 2018 to June, 2020 Richard served as the South Portland Business Association (SBPA) President and took great pride in his work to help build a better Portland, which he considers his true home.