Leaders in the Law: Jennifer Kifer

Jennifer Kifer is a new partner at Holland & Knight in Jacksonville and a member of the Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section.

Jennifer Kifer
Jennifer Kifer
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Who or what inspired you to become a lawyer? My father, who adopted me when I was an infant, was an attorney and my grandfather was a judge in Pennsylvania for many years. I have fond memories of my first “job” working at my dad’s law firm and of sitting in my grandfather’s courtroom watching him dispense justice. They were like superheroes to me, and while being an attorney was not always on my radar, it is fitting that I should follow in their footsteps. They both did a lot of good through their legal careers, and it is a blessing that I can continue their legacies.

Someone who inspires me: My mother. She is one of the most courageous, intelligent and generous women I have ever met. She overcame and sacrificed a lot at a young age to give my brother and I the best life possible.

How do you relate your undergraduate degree to your practice of law? I received my undergraduate degree in communication with a focus on broadcast communication and journalism. There is much about my undergraduate degree that relates to the practice of law, especially given the quest for truth inherent in the legal practice and the importance of being able to effectively convey and utilize information to effect positive change in the world. My job involves communicating with executors, trustees and their attorneys all over the world to the benefit of my charitable clients.

How did you decide your practice area? And why have you chosen that? A few years into practicing law, I had the opportunity to handle some trust and estate matters in Holland & Knight’s Bequest Revenue Program for several nonprofits. This work held special meaning to me, as I was helping to fund important charitable missions across the U.S. and beyond to assist those in need. After handling my first few matters, I knew that this was my calling, and I completely transitioned my practice to represent nonprofits.

What do you think will be the next biggest change in your area of law? We currently are handling more than 1,500 open trusts and estates for our charitable clients and expect that the number of charitable bequests will steadily increase over the next 20-plus years. Every day in the U.S., about 10,000 baby boomers are turning 70, and this philanthropic-minded generation is leaving enormous wealth to nonprofits. Charities should be planning to address this volume so that the gifts that should be funding their missions are received quickly and completely.

If I could change anything in the legal system, I would … Make online access to court records available across the country in all jurisdictions at all levels. When I transitioned to a nationwide practice, I became acutely aware of the number of courts that do not offer remote/online access to court records. That issue was further highlighted last year when COVID-19 largely shut down in-person access to courts across the country. Access to court records is a vital part of our legal system.

What community service have you pursued and why that? Pro bono legal service is important to me as a way to utilize my skills as an attorney to give back to the community. I believe it is imperative that those of us who are in a position to provide assistance to the less fortunate do so.

What’s your advice for new lawyers? Don’t be afraid to try something new. Perhaps you graduated law school with your mindset on practicing in a particular area of the law – or maybe you are hesitant to try something different because you’re worried you will make mistakes in unfamiliar territory. Don’t let uncertainty or fear hold you back. You may find there is a path for you outside of your plans where you will realize fulfillment and happiness in abundance.