Sonya Pfeiffer


  • Ohio University

    Bachelor of Science in Journalism; Summa Cum Laude

  • University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Law

    JD With Honors

Bar Admission

  • North Carolina
  • District of Columbia
  • Massachusetts
  • U.S. District Court, WDNC
  • U.S. District Court, MDNC
  • U.S. District Court, EDNC
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • Ontario, Canada


  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

    Board of Directors

  • North Carolina Bar Association

    Communications Committee member

    Women in the Profession, Committee member

  • North Carolina Advocates for Justice

    Past Vice President Legal Affairs

    Past Vice President of Communications

    Diversity and Inclusion Committee Member

    Member – Board of Governors

    Past Chair – Criminal Defense Section

    Past Vice President of Membership

  • Mecklenburg County Bar Association

    Chair, McMillan Committee

    Past Chair – Communications Committee

  • Mecklenburg County Bar Foundation

    Board of Directors


  • Racial Equity in Jury Selection

    North Carolina Advocates for Justice Trial Briefs, Spring 2021

  • Life After Wrongful Incarceration

    Resources, Rules and Moral Responsibility: The Role of the Attorney Post-Release NACDL’s The Champion Magazine, December 2020

  • The Intersection of Civil and Criminal Law in the #MeToo Movement

    Trial Briefs, January 2019

  • Chapter Editor, “Competency to Stand Trial”

    Klinkosum on Criminal Defense Motions 4th Edition, 2018

  • Contributing writer, Mecklenburg Bar Newsletter

    2014 – 2017

  • Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration: a review

    NACDL’s The Champion Magazine, July 2023

Speaking Engagements

  • Winning Strategies for the Defense: Ethical Dilemmas in Creative Advocacy

    National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Advanced Criminal Law Seminar – Aspen, CO – January 2023

  • How Ya Gonna Spin That? Getting the Media to Warm Up to Your Case

    Zealous Advocacy in Sex Assault Cases- NACDL – Las Vegas, NV – November 2022

  • How Cognitive Bias Impacts Litigators

    Toronto Trial Lawyers Association – November 2022
    McCarthy Tetrault – October 2022

  • You Can’t Win a Plea, Trial Techniques from the Masters: Effective Use of the Media

    NACDL Annual Seminar Palm Beach, FLA August 2022

  • The Staircase: the Role of Cognitive Bias

    CrimeCon UK – London, England – June 2022

  • Confessions of a Civil Rights Attorney: Art, Justice and the Law

    The Charlotte Center for the Humanities and Civic Engagement – June 2022

  • The Impact of Human Behavior on Criminal Investigations

    Brauti Thorning, LLP, Toronto, ON – May 2022

  • Lies, Fake Science and the Owl Theory

    The University of Ottawa, Ontario April 2022

  • The Impact of Cognitive Bias on Criminal Cases

    Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association – April 2022

  • Wrongful Convictions: the Role of Cognitive Bias

    CrimeCon Las Vegas – April 2022

  • Legal Ethics and Professionalism – Lessons Learned from a Varied Career

    Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, March 2022

  • Headlines, Heartburn and Handling Voir Dire – Jury Selection in “High Profile” Cases

    National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Mid-Winter Seminar Austin, Texas – March 2022

  • The Endless, Expansive Definitions of Art, Impact and Community

    Faculty of Law, University of Toronto – March 2022

  • Police Misconduct, Wrongful Prosecutions and Innocence Claims:

    What Criminal Defense practitioners can learn from Civil Rights cases: how to litigate cases that involve police brutality, investigatory overreach and cognitive biases – January 2021

  • Race in the Courtroom:

    How to Confront Peremptory Strikes that Appear to be Based on Race North Carolina Advocates for Justice Virtual – August 2020

  • Moderator, “Get to Know the Show with Tim Robbins & The Actors’ Gang: The New Colossus”

    Blumenthal Performing Arts Center – January 2020

  • Moderator, “A Conversation on Educational Inequality” panel discussion

    Mecklenburg Bar Foundation Annual McMillan Dinner – February 2019

  • Moderator, “The Staircase Post-mortem: Lessons Learned from a Hard Fought Case”

    Hilton Ballroom, Charlotte, NC – November 2018

  • Moderator, “Inside the Staircase”

    McGlohon Theatre, Charlotte, NC – October 2018

  • Moderator, “Documentary as both Art Form and Social Critique”

    with Jean Xavier de l’Estrade, Allyson Luchak and David Rudolf – October 2018

  • Moderator, “Inside the Staircase: Lies, Fake Science, and the Owl Theory”

    Boston, Massachusetts – July 2018

  • Moderator, #ShapingCLT Panel discussion on the #MeToo Movement in the South

    Levine Museum of the New South – April 2018

  • Moderator, The Role of the Artist in Times of Upheaval

    Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art – February 2018

  • Moderator, “Spotlight” panel discussion

    Byron’s South End, Charlotte, NC – March 2017

  • Mecklenburg County Public Defender Office

    Jury Selection Essentials, Mecklenburg County Public Defender Office

  • Jury Selection 101

    Mecklenburg County Public Defender Office

  • Curatorial Activism

    Queens University, Arts and Advocacy Conference

  • Navigating the Interplay Between Civil Fault and Criminal Responsibility: Lessons Learned in the Acquittal in State v. Gay

    North Carolina Advocates for Justice, Fall Conference Asheville, NC

  • The Defense Perspective in the Kenan Gay case

    Justice Bobbitt Inn of Court, Charlotte, NC

  • Melendez-Diaz basics and update

    Presenter, Justice Bobbitt Inn of Court, Charlotte, NC
    Mecklenburg County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association

  • Challenging HGN

    Presenter, Mecklenburg County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association


Sonya PfeifferFounding Partner

Sonya Pfeiffer is a skilled litigator who vigorously represents individuals in the United States and internationally. She successfully advises clients in complex, high-conflict matters and specializes in handling well-publicized cases that often draw media attention.

Pfeiffer began her legal career as a public defender, then transitioned to a large corporate law firm where she handled white-collar criminal matters, civil litigation and pro bono death penalty work. For the past decade, Pfeiffer has worked with her husband and law partner, David Rudolf, trying both high-profile and routine cases, taking on high-stakes civil litigation matters as well as complex criminal and civil rights cases. She focuses the majority of her present work on wrongful conviction and police misconduct matters. Pfeiffer also regularly advises attorneys and law firms on media strategy and working with the press.

Pfeiffer is a board member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, a member of the American Bar Association, the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and the North Carolina Bar Association. She serves on several Bar committees at the local and state level in North Carolina. She is also a member of the Bar in Washington, D.C. and Massachusetts, and is licensed to practice in all federal districts in North Carolina and before the Supreme Court of the United States. Sonya is also a licensed barrister and solicitor in Canada and handles high-conflict, high-stakes civil and family litigation in the province of Ontario. She teaches trial advocacy at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, and is a member of the Ontario Criminal Lawyers Association and the Toronto Trial Lawyers Association.

In addition to her legal experience, Pfeiffer is an award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker. Before earning her law degree, she spent more than a decade as a television news reporter in the United States and in Europe, with a focus on investigative reporting. She covered major international stories while based in Paris, France, including the Yitzhak Rabin assassination in Tel Aviv and the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in Paris. As a result of this experience, Pfeiffer has a unique ability to tell each client’s story in a compelling and persuasive manner.

She is the co-host of Abuse of Power, a Webby Award-winning podcast that spotlights injustices in the criminal legal system. She is also the owner of Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art, a North Carolina-based gallery with a focus on content-driven contemporary art. In addition to strategic planning at the gallery, Pfeiffer puts her legal skills to work for a number of arts-related organizations, advising artists and providing creative counseling.

Pfeiffer also speaks across the country and internationally on a variety of topics related to trial skills, the practice of law, working with the media and decision-making. She also regularly moderates panels and roundtables related to law, art, and current events.