The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.
Phil Phillips got his start in pro bono work before he was even an attorney. Thirty years ago, as a third-year law student, Phillips went to his local bar association and got his first taste of the real world through pro bono cases. Now, Phil takes about six pro bono family law cases a year, in addition to preparing qualified domestic relation orders (QDROs) for clients of the Law Clinic at Texas Wesleyan School of Law.
Phillips, who’s considered an expert on QDROs in Tarrant County, says he appreciates the pro bono cases that he handles, because unlike some of the cases he handles in his regular practice at the Law Office of Cochran & Phillips in Arlington, his pro bono cases are simple and mostly uncontested.
Phillips, who served on the board of West Texas Legal Services Corp. from 1986 to 1990, says pro bono cases help keep him grounded. “I did get kind of tired of knocked-out, dragged-out custody cases,” he says. “Pro bono work and doing QDROs helped me cope.”
Just as Phillips got a jumpstart on his legal career through pro bono work, he says more law students should take advantage of the opportunities pro bono can provide them. “Too many people are getting out of law school and don’t have the skills and experience that it takes to practice law. But there are a lot of things that law students can do to help licensed attorneys who want to provide legal aid to the poor.”