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LEGAL CHAMPIONS

Megan Phillips, judicial clerk for the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District

Megan Phillips has a favorite quote she likes to use when discussing her work as co-chair of the Missouri Joint Commission on Women in the Profession.

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try spending the night with a mosquito.”

The commission, which was formed in July 2013, has prompted a Missouri Supreme Court rule change regarding re-entry into the profession that began Jan. 1.

Attorneys who have opted to put their license on an inactive status, many of them women taking time off to raise children, now have fewer requirements to get back into practicing law.

Phillips, lists the rule change among her proudest accomplishments with the commission, although she’s quick to point out that it was a collaborative effort between the group, the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel and the Missouri Supreme Court.

“I’m reluctant to receive this award as an individual medal. It was really a team effort,” Phillips said.

Megan Phillips, co-chair of the Missouri Joint Commission on Women in the Profession, helped implement a change to court rules that makes it easier for women who take time off to raise children to get back into practicing law.  Phillips is a MLA 2015 Legal Champion. Photo by Karen Elshout

Megan Phillips, co-chair of the Missouri Joint Commission on Women in the Profession, helped implement a change to court rules that makes it easier for women who take time off to raise children to get back into practicing law. Phillips is a MLA 2015 Legal Champion. Photo by Karen Elshout

That attitude is exactly what makes Phillips worthy of the honor, said Lucy Unger, who met Phillips while serving on the commission.

“I’m not really big into awards at all, but I do see their point sometimes, and this would be one of those times,” Unger said. “She does this stuff, not for the award, she does it because she does just love to set the tables straight and have an even playing field.”

Although Unger said she’s only known Phillips for two years, she said she was “immediately impressed by her because she’s so unwavering in her dedication to what it is she does.”

“She looks at not only the obvious issues affecting women in the legal profession, she tries to garner support and consensus on how to attack problems large or small and how to alleviate them,” Unger said.

Phillips has been looking at issues affecting women lawyers for some time. She got involved with the Women’s Lawyers Association as soon as she moved to St. Louis in 1999, later serving a president, before becoming co-chair of the task force at its founding.

In addition to the rule change, Phillips said she is also proud of the resource bank the commission has compiled on its website, the first report the group released this month and getting the Missouri Bar to add a check box for gender on its enrollment forms, which Phillips said will collect more accurate statistics about Missouri lawyers.

The group is continuing to advocate for other issues important to women. For example, they are looking into the possibility of a model or policy that can be implemented statewide for breast feeding accommodations at courthouses.

Unger said one tactic that makes Phillips such a successful leader of the commission is that she is “constantly talking about it,” so people continue to think about the issues at hand.

“She brings people together about things they care about deeply and gets them to work together toward a common goal,” she said. “Even if they are competitors in the marketplace, they are rolling up their sleeves for the betterment of women in the profession.”