Rick attended the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate and then Fordham University School of Law, where he graduated on the Dean’s List and in the approximate top 15% of his class.

He served as a U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General (JAG) for approximately ten years.  In his first assignment at Edwards Air Force Base, California, he was appointed Claims Officer and handled all claims against Edwards AFB, to include negligence and medical malpractice causes of action.  He also served as the legal adviser to an Accident Investigation concerning the crash of an F-16 aircraft near the northwestern boundary of Death Valley National Park.  

He was appointed a Special U.S. Attorney (SAUSA), ran the Edwards AFB Magistrate Court, and prosecuted hundreds of civilian misdemeanors committed on the base.  

At his next assignment at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, he served as one of the base's two area defense counsels, in which position, he was responsible for representing any active duty member who was facing criminal or adverse administrative action (such as non-judicial punishment or an involuntary discharge board).  In this position, he represented over 500 clients.  He had clients throughout the Pacific, including Hickam AFB, Hawaii, Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, and Yokota Air Base, Japan.  As a defense counsel, he tried about twenty criminal trials and represented clients in multiple discharge boards.

He later ran one of the busiest criminal justice offices in the Air Force at Yokota Air Base, Japan, supervising five paralegals and personally prosecuting or supervising the successful prosecution of dozens of cases.  

He was competitively selected by the Air Force to pursue a Masters of Law (LL.M.) in environmental law, which he received with Highest Honors from the George Washington University School of Law in Washington, D.C.  

Rick then provided Headquarters-level environmental advice on all high-level hazardous waste and HAZMAT (hazardous materials) issues.  He represented the Air Force in meetings with federal and state regulators and other entities.  He also taught numerous environmental law courses at the Air Force JAG School in Montgomery, Alabama, and in the Washington D.C. area.  Further, he worked with the U.S. Department of Justice and various Assistant U.S. Attorneys on numerous federal law suits, providing legal advice and drafting pleadings and other court documents.  

Over his Air Force career, he deployed twice in support of the "War on Terror," once as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, and had the honor of being one of the first Air Force attorneys to prosecute courts-martial at a deployed location (prior to these trials, the Air Force had a policy of holding courts-martial of deployed crimes back at the home station). 

After leaving the Air Force, he worked at Gribetz & Loewenberg, PLLC, one of the busiest and most well-known firms in Rockland County.  At Gribetz & Loewenberg, he handled hundreds of complicated criminal and family court matters, as well as numerous appeals.  In March 2015, after about eight years, Rick left Gribetz & Loewenberg to open his own office, the Law Office of Richard S. Pakola, PLLC.

He is currently "of counsel" to the Law Office of William F. Smith, Esq.

Since 2008, he has also been a Deputy Town Attorney with the Town of Orangetown, in which capacity he has represented the Town on state and federal environmental and civil rights issues and is a legal adviser to the Sewer Department, Highway Department, Architecture and Community Appearance Board of Review (ACABOR), and the Orangetown Sanitation Commission.

In December 2016, Rick was elected Village Justice for the Village of West Haverstraw, New York.