Brice Phillips ’21 wanted to study the law in a unique environment away from his home state of Texas. So the Houston native stepped out of his comfort zone and onto Law School Hill.
“For me as an attorney, it’s important to be familiar and comfortable with different types of people who face a variety of legal issues,” Phillips said. “I thought WVU Law was the ideal place to provide the kind of learning experience I was looking for when I decided to go to law school: it is in a different region of the country from where I grew up, and the people in Appalachia face different legal issues.”
To help Phillips make his move, the College nominated him for WVU’s prestigious W.E.B. Du Bois Fellowship. Named in honor of Dr. William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, the fellowship is available for African American graduate and professional students. It provides an annual stipend and covers the cost of tuition for up to three years.
“I am so thankful for this fellowship because I don’t have to worry about how I will pay my rent or afford school supplies and books,” Phillips said. “It allows me to focus on my law school classes and to put ‘my all’ into my schoolwork. I can just focus on becoming the best possible attorney I can be.”
Phillips is making good use of his time on Law School Hill, exploring various areas of the law in and outside of the classroom. He is an Associate Editor for Volume 122 of the West Virginia Law Review, a member of the MootCourt, and secretary of the ACLU of West Virginia Student Chapter.
He is also a member of the Leadership Council for LegalDiversity, a national organization dedicated to creating opportunities for minority law students. WVU Law joined the LCLD in 2016 to connect law students with a mentor practicing the law.
“My LCLD mentor has been valuable in helping me navigate law school. It can be difficult coming to law school as a first-generation student who doesn’t know the lay of the land and who doesn’t have someone there to help guide them through the experience, as others with attorneys in their families might have,” Phillips explained.
His mentor, Jill Hall ‘01, is a member of Jackson Kelly PLLC in the firm’s Charleston, West Virginia, office. Her specializations are labor and employment law, employee benefits, and litigation surrounding the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. This year, Hall and Phillips have discussed possible job opportunities as Phillips develops his own path in the law.
Phillips also took advantage of a unique summer clerkship opportunity with the Allegheny County Bar Association, coordinated by WVU Law Career Services. The ACBA program gives 1L minority students the opportunity to work for 12 weeks at a law firm, corporate law department, or government agency in Pittsburgh. Phillips worked at Steptoe & Johnson PLLC.
“I was treated like any other summer associate, and was given the opportunity to invest in a firm that may want to keep me on in the future,” he said. “The experience allowed me to get a feel for different settings and see what the best path is for me as I look ahead to graduation. It helped me realize what activities I should pursue and what courses to take during my second and third years of law school.”
Phillips came to WVU Law with a desire to work in public interest law. Now, he plans to follow a new-found passion for litigation into a career in the courtroom fighting for clients. He says he is keeping an open mind as to what field he will go into, but he is interested in labor, employment and civil rights law.
“Law school is such an excellent opportunity. I love to learn, and as an attorney, you are constantly learning. The law is constantly changing, and you have to explore many areas of the law in order to solve your clients’ problems,” Phillips said. “People will come to me in their time of need, and I’m able to solve their problem, give them comfort, and hopefully get a good outcome for them.”
Phillips received his undergraduate degree in Forensic and Investigative Science from Texas A&M University.