Megan Phillips sworn in as 2023-24 Missouri Bar president
Phillips says lawyers, judges can unite in common goals
Megan Phillips, a solo practitioner in St. Louis, was sworn in as 2023-24 president of The Missouri Bar on Sept. 14 at the state bar's annual meeting, held at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City. Hon. Lisa Van Amburg, of the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District (retired), administered the Oath of Office. Phillips was elected to the position, as were other officers, by the Board of Governors the previous day.
Phillips delivered the following remarks during the opening luncheon of the joint annual meeting of the Judicial Conference and The Missouri Bar following her Oath of Office. View the video or read the full text below.
"Good afternoon, friends and colleagues, judges, and distinguished guests. It’s great to be back in my home town (although I haven’t been out of this building yet).
First of all, I want to thank Judge Van Amburg for doing the honors today. I was her law clerk for several years on the Eastern District Court of Appeals, and now we teach together at Saint Louis University School of Law. Judge, thank you for your mentorship and friendship and for being here to support me today. And happy birthday!
Next, I want to recognize Immediate Past President Lauren Tucker McCubbin and all the past presidents in attendance. I stand on your shoulders, and I have you on speed dial this year. I especially want to thank the women presidents who came before us. Before Lauren, there were only five in The Missouri Bar’s 79-year history. For the first time in the bar’s nearly 80-year history, all four officers are women. To my generation and those before us, it’s a big deal! Hopefully, for the younger folks, it’s totally normal, nothing to see here, and that’s a good thing!
Thank you to my friends and colleagues on the Board of Governors for entrusting me with this profound honor and responsibility. I promise to give you my very best effort this year while making your service meaningful and fun.
I was raised by a lawyer and a teacher. My dad, who is no longer with us, was a University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School grad and practiced here in Kansas City. Some of the senior lawyers here may have known him, Roger Phillips. I miss him fiercely today but have been showered with well wishes from many of his peers, telling me how proud he would have been.
And I have a large cheering section here today! First and foremost my mom, Patricia Phillips. If you live the Kansas City area and have had children in the Johnson County school district, you probably know of her because she is a legend, having taught in elementary schools here for decades. She has educated generations. She is everyone’s favorite teacher, especially mine. With her are some of her closest friends, whom I’ve known all my life, and who supported my mom through the hell of my teenage years. These women demonstrate that friendship is the key to success and longevity. Thank you for being my role models in friendship, motherhood, and good trouble. Which brings me to my own squad. I am obnoxiously, filthy rich with the best of friends. My cousin and I were raised like sisters. She gave me a pixie haircut with my aunt’s sewing sheers when we were three years old. Several of my college and law school friends are here as well. These women have seen all versions of me, at all stages of life. These are friends who drop everything and run toward the crisis. But this time, thank you for being here to share this celebratory moment (and help me get through this speech).
I’ve always been a joiner. In college, I joined a sorority founded in 1870 by women seeking equal access to education and the social support of a chosen family. They aspired to challenge themselves intellectually and effect the widest influence for good. My experience among these high-achieving women had a profound impact on who I am and why I stand before you today.
I came up in bar service primarily through women’s advocacy. I led the Women Lawyers' Association of Greater St. Louis, through The Missouri Bar’s Leadership Academy I taught the law curriculum at the American Legion Auxiliary Missouri Girls State for several years, and I chaired the Missouri Joint Commission on Women in the Profession. Meanwhile, for 17 years, I earned a living as a career law clerk in the state appellate and federal district courts. Along the way, I realized that, to advance the causes I care about – equality, justice, and civic education – The Missouri Bar is where I – and more importantly we – all of us here today, can do the most good.
We know that, within the profession, The Missouri Bar provides CLEs, practice resources, and networking opportunities to help us thrive and succeed in our service to clients.
Within our communities, The Missouri Bar is a conduit for public service and civic education. Next time you’re feeling burned out, go spend an afternoon at your nearest school presenting one of the bar’s lesson plans, or just log on to Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org from your computer and make someone’s day by simply answering a question. It feels good to do good.
And within society at large, lawyers are the guardians of democracy and the rule of law. Our rules of professional conduct mandate truth, civility, and integrity because these qualities are vital to the public’s confidence in our justice system.
Additionally, the bar collaborates with and serves the judiciary in furtherance of its critical role as the Third Branch in our democracy. I cannot fathom a wider influence than that.
Unfortunately, disinformation abounds and fuels public distrust, undermining our courts and the rule of law. Lawyers are uniquely positioned to correct misconceptions and explain the principle of judicial independence. With the privilege of our profession comes this civic responsibility.
Advances in technology, such as generative artificial intelligence and alternative models for the provision of legal services, are barreling toward us. Your bar is tracking these developments to identify best practices, to utilize new tools for efficiency and access while protecting the public from an unregulated emerging market.
And friends, let’s normalize real talk about tough subjects. Many of us are struggling. 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.
The Supreme Court of Missouri created our unified bar almost 80 years ago. Today, we enjoy the collective strength of nearly 31,000 members. Like siblings in a family, we may have our internal differences on any number of issues, but here we are united in our common goal to improve the profession, the law, and the administration of justice on behalf of all Missourians.
Last year at this lunch, then Chief Justice Paul Wilson said something that stuck with me, and I bet it resonates with you, too: “Commit yourself to a life of service, and the pursuit of happiness will take care of itself.”
I couldn’t agree more.
I am profoundly honored to serve as president of The Missouri Bar for the coming year. I look forward to us working together, unified, to effect the widest influence for good.
Phillips also recognized Lauren Tucker McCubbin for her service as the 2022-23 president of The Missouri Bar before introducing Supreme Court of Missouri Chief Justice Mary Russell to deliver the keynote address.
Learn more about the leadership of The Missouri Bar, including its officers, here.