Megan Phillips, 2023-24 president of The Missouri Bar
Vol. 79, No. 5 / Sept. - Oct. 2023
Megan Phillips is all about conversation. Conversation about the future of the profession, the law’s impact on Missourians, and the value of working together.
“To advance the causes of equality, justice, and civic education, The Missouri Bar is where I – and more importantly we – can do the most good,” she says.
Phillips was sworn in as the 2023-24 president of The Missouri Bar this September during the bar’s Annual Meeting in Kansas City. Ascending to the rank of Missouri Bar president is no small feat, but Phillips is the type of individual who thrives in the face of a challenge and doesn’t hesitate to step into the role of leader.
The St. Louis lawyer has spent the last 17 years as a law clerk for a string of judges in the state appellate and federal district courts. She describes her career trajectory as “an ampersand,” but at the core of all her professional positions is a passion for helping those around her and being a catalyst for the widest influence for good.
Phillips grew up in Kansas City, the daughter of a teacher and a lawyer. After attaining her bachelor’s degree at the University of Missouri, she moved to France, where she nannied for a Parisian family and obtained advanced degrees in French. That wasn’t her only brush with the City of Lights, however. She later returned to work for the Paris office of the New York law firm Coudert Brothers, where she focused on contracts and translations.
After returning to Missouri for good, Phillips worked in the corporate group at Bryan Cave before accepting a fellowship in Mizzou’s Family Violence Clinic, where she taught with Mary Beck.
“I loved working with students and seeing their eyes light up when they helped someone,” Phillips says.
When the fellowship ended, she transitioned into a position with the St. Louis County Family Court before stepping into the role of president of the Women Lawyers’ Association in St. Louis. During her time heading the WLA chapter, the group spearheaded a variety of initiatives, including conducting a statewide survey of workplace policies and practices affecting the advancement of women lawyers. Phillips also led the charge to create a taskforce that examined due process violations against battered mothers in juvenile dependency proceedings and organized a multi-disciplinary symposium on the topic for lawyers and social services professionals.
“I’ve found nothing more rewarding than public service,” she says.
Most recently, Phillips stepped down from her clerking duties to focus on bar work and open her own practice. She notes this new journey is an opportunity to learn more about The Missouri Bar’s numerous tools for solo and small firm lawyers, joking that she’s now the “posterchild” for the bar’s law practice management resources.
As president, Phillips wants to steer the course of the bar through its ongoing strategic plan and draw out the best in others. That includes building on wellbeing and diversity initiatives within the bar.
“Let’s normalize real talk about tough subjects,” she told lawyers at Annual Meeting. “Lawyers experience alarming rates of depression, anxiety, substance use, and even suicide. Lawyers of color leave the profession at twice the average rate. The bar strives to be a place of inclusion and belonging, where your lived experience is valued and celebrated, and your well-being matters.”
Phillips is also focused on capturing the voices of our newest lawyers, who can off er fresh perspectives and knowledge.
“We need to talk to each other more,” Phillips says. “We need to cross-pollinate. [New lawyers] need to inform our decisions, and we need to leave the ladder down and start pulling them into our dialogue on policy issues that impact the bar.”
Phillips understands the value of early opportunities for service through The Missouri Bar. Previously, she held committee leadership roles in the Young Lawyers’ Section and was eventually elected to the Board of Governors as a representative. She has also chaired the Missouri Joint Commission on Women in the Profession, established by the Supreme Court of Missouri and The Missouri Bar.
Her enthusiasm for the bar can be traced to her time with Leadership Academy in 2003. That year, the class focused on overhauling curriculum for the law track at The American Legion Auxiliary Missouri Girls State. She later ended up serving as the program’s law faculty chair, communicating information about the profession with young, ambitious minds.
“It was so rewarding to see these girls get so excited about the law and advocacy,” she says.
Phillips is continuously looking for ways to share civics lessons with the public and young adults. It’s not uncommon to find her in a classroom, using a Citizenship Education teaching plan as she speaks to students about the rule of law, how it impacts them on a daily basis, and how they can help shape it.
“Lawyers are uniquely positioned to correct misconceptions and explain the principle of judicial independence,” she notes. “Next time you’re feeling burned out, go spend an afternoon at your nearest school presenting one of the bar’s lesson plans.”
Even outside of work, Phillips likes to stay busy. When she’s not spending time with her friends and family – particularly her son Leo – you can find her teeing off a golf ball, volleying on the tennis court, or rollerblading around Forest Park.