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Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence

The Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence recognizes a lawyer, law firm, or group of lawyers for their work on an individual law-related education or public service project.

​​Rebecca E. Rapp

For her Outstanding Contributions to Public Service in 2020, this year’s award winner is Rebecca E. Rapp. Rebecca is the General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer of Ascendium Education Group in Madison, Wisconsin. She is also a non-director member of the Legal Service Corporation and serves on the Finance Committee, Operations and Regulations Committee, and the Delivery of Legal Services Committee of LSC’s Board of Directors.

Rebecca is known for her devotion to public service and pro bono work, an integral part of her legal practice. Three years ago, Rebecca contacted Madison College about the possibility of setting up free legal clinics at Wisconsin technical colleges – legal aid that would be highly focused on solving civil legal problems that are barriers to technical college degrees and education and jobs. In fall 2019, the Student Legal Aid Project was launched and clinics were opened at Madison College and MATC-Milwaukee. Nearly 150 people reached out for assistance in the first few months, but not long after the inauguration, stay-at-home orders were issued. The Executive Director of Legal Action of Wisconsin was admittedly worried about whether the Project could survive. As Director Deedee Peterson shared,

“In the world of legal aid, it takes some time for a project to take root and thrive – the community needs to become aware of it and make connections to the legal problems they’re facing and then we must deliver services that help solve those legal problems... With this brand-new project, we just weren’t there yet. Rebecca did the single most important thing: She ensured that her company would continue to support the project during (and after) the pandemic.”

In response to COVID, Rebecca and her team pivoted from conducting in-person to virtual clinic appointments. The clinic has also served a dual purpose as a training opportunity for Madison College paralegal program students, and to date, over 470 people have reached out for help with unmet legal needs.

Watch the presentation of the Gordon Sinykin Award of Excellence

​​In addition to initiating free legal clinics in the community, Rebecca is also passionate about education and keeping students in school so that they get the education needed for better jobs. She is an active volunteer for the Wisconsin Coalition on Student Debt, where she has been instrumental in helping the group formulate program activities and connect with panelists for their Convenings.

Her previous professional experience includes serving as a Dane County Circuit Court Judge, where, in addition to her judicial responsibilities, she organized a summit to address issues faced by victims of domestic violence in the court system. She also worked as an Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Appeals Unit at the Wisconsin Department of Justice in Madison and at a law firm and nonprofit in Washington, D.C.

She received her B.A. and J.D. degrees from The University of Chicago and her M.Sc. in economic and social history from The University of Oxford in England.​