After almost nine years as a prosecutor, Rick Cofer opened up his own law practice representing people charged with crimes in Central Texas. Rick Cofer has extensive experience in criminal matters ranging from drug possession, drunk driving, and family violence, to serious felony offenses like robbery, sexual assault, and murder.
Rick Cofer has been active in the Austin community for years, having served in a variety of non-profit and governmental roles. He was the long-time chair of the City of Austin Zero Waste Commission and led community efforts to create the Universal Recycling Ordinance and Austin ban on plastic bags. Now, Rick serves as Vice Chair of the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Board where he’s worked to increase funding for parkland acquisition, aquatics, and recycling in parks.
Rick Cofer has also been active with a number of non-profits and served as president of the board of directors for the Pease Park Conservancy and the Austin Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO). Over the years he’s worked on a number of political campaigns and served as an elected member of the Democratic National Committee and sat the on State Democratic Executive Committee for a decade.
What is a recent idea you had and how did you bring it to life?
I was exceptionally frustrated by the lack of recycling and waste diversion opportunities in Austin parks. Earlier this year, working with other stakeholders, I passed a Parks Board resolution calling for the creation of a citywide task-force to take on this subject. The Austin City Council created the task-force and I chaired it. We unanimously passed a set of funding and implementation recommendations. Those ideas were incorporated into the 2018-2019 City of Austin budget and we’re now on track to greatly expand recycling opportunities in our parks over the next several years.
What’s your favorite thing about your past job?
Working as the mental health attorney for the Travis County Attorney’s Office exposed me to the inner-workings of the Austin mental health care system. I greatly enjoyed getting to work closely with social workers, doctors, and community advocates to help patients experiencing a mental health crisis.
What are your keys to making yourself productive?
I don’t think there’s one cookie cutter solution to productivity, but I have found some approaches that work well for me.
- I endeavor to close out all small tasks every day. If a to-do item takes ten minutes or less, I don’t really finish my work day until I’ve finished those tasks. Waiting an extra day to send an email response, text response, or returning a phone call just delays things.
- I try to touch something as few times as possible. When the mail comes in, I go through things and try to accomplish whatever needs to be done as quickly as possible. I don’t let invoices sit and I don’t let things wait around if they can be accomplished quickly.
- I try to set aside one day a week to focus on long-term projects that require fifteen minutes or more of concentrated attention.
- Hiring an assistant to handle routine matters is a huge help. It just makes no sense to spend time scanning a document or running invoices when an assistant can do that same work
- Go to bed early, wake up early, eat a sensible breakfast, and have a great lunch.
- Don’t stay out late on school nights.
Tell us one long-term goal in your career.
My job is to help people facing some type of legal crisis. I don’t really have long-term career goals at this point. I just want to do excellent work for my clients and let that work speak for itself.
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?
A person will forget what you said to them. A person will even forget what you did to them. But a person will never forget how you made them feel. Common decency, professional courtesy, and a little bit of goodwill goes far in life.
What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?
Find a mentor early in your career. Listen more than you talk. Watch as many trials as you can. A little bit of kindness goes a long way. Always treat support staff with the utmost respect. You won’t regret ordering dessert. Tip well.
What are your favorite things to do outside of work?
Hanging out with my sweet little fluffy corgi, Lady Bird. Spending time at Austin’s awesome parks and trails – especially the hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake and the Shoal Creek Greenbelt at Pease Park. I love going to see movies at the Alamo Drafthouse and spend way too much time (and money) enjoying Austin’s amazing restaurant scene. I try to travel as much as possible – it’s great to get out of town and it makes you appreciate what you have even more.
Name a few influential books you’ve read and/or websites you keep up with that you’d recommend to readers.
I’ve been reading The Economist every week since I was in middle school and I think it’s enriched my life greatly. I strongly recommend that everyone subscribe to their local daily newspaper and take the paper in print format. I know it seems old-fashioned to read yesterday’s news printed on dead trees thrown at your door – but local journalism is always relevant. Also – I can recommend about 87 corgi-related Instagram accounts that will improve your quality of life.