President's Page: The widest influence for good
Vol. 79, No. 5 / Sept. - Oct. 2023
Megan Phillips is 2023-24 president of The Missouri Bar.
I’ve always been a joiner. In college, I joined a sorority founded by women who, in 1870, sought equal access to education and the social support of a chosen family. They aspired to challenge themselves intellectually, conduct themselves nobly, and effect the widest influence for good. To be sure, our social shenanigans may have slipped below the nobility standard occasionally, but my college experience among leading women shaped who I am and what I do. It’s my “why” behind my bar service because The Missouri Bar is where I – and more importantly we – can effect the most good.
Within the profession, the bar facilitates our support for each other by providing education, practice resources, and networking opportunities to help us thrive and succeed in our service to clients. The bar strives to be a place where your lived experience is valued and celebrated, your well-being matters, and you can find help without judgment.
Within our communities, the bar serves as a conduit for public service and civic education. For a high return on investment, I’ve found few things in life are as fun and rewarding as donating your time and expertise to a classroom or civic group. Next time you’re feeling burned out, spend an hour at your nearest school presenting one of the bar’s ready-made lesson plans, or sign in to Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org and make someone’s day by answering their question. It feels good to do good.
Within our society, the law is unlike any other profession. Lawyers are the guardians of democracy and the rule of law. We take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Our rules of professional conduct require truth, civility, and integrity because these qualities are vital to the public’s confidence in our justice system. The bar collaborates with and serves the judiciary in furtherance of its critical role as the co-equal Third Branch. I cannot fathom a wider influence.
Every president strives to carry on the tremendous work of our predecessors in executing the bar’s strategic plan and adapting to new challenges facing our profession.
Unfortunately, disinformation abounds and fuels public distrust, undermining our courts and the rule of law. Lawyers are uniquely positioned to correct misconceptions and defend the principles of a judiciary free from undue influence to make impartial decisions based solely on the law and facts. With the privilege of our profession comes this civic responsibility.
Advances in technology, including generative artificial intelligence and alternative models for the provision of legal services, are barreling toward us. Courts and bars nationwide are working to identify best practices to utilize new tools for efficiency and access while protecting the public from an unregulated market.
Our profession is experiencing a major demographic shift. As Baby Boomers approach retirement, Generation X now comprises the largest group of Missouri lawyers, followed closely by Millennials, with Gen Z just joining. As our membership evolves, the bar seeks to ensure that underserved communities throughout the state have access to legal services.
And friends, many of us are struggling. We experience alarming rates of depression, anxiety, substance use, and even suicide. Lawyers of color leave the profession at twice the average rate. That’s why the bar will continue its wellness and diversity initiatives and deepen its work at the intersection of the two.
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, but we are unified in our common goal to improve the profession, the law, and the administration of justice on behalf of all Missourians. Here, we set aside our differences, optimize our diverse perspectives, and collaborate to best serve our clients and communities. One of the profound benefits of bar service, for me, has been the genuine and otherwise unlikely friendships with lawyers outside my own bubbles. From our interactions and collective success, I have learned that we really are in this life together. Our civility within and beyond the profession is what makes us noble. Unified, we effect the widest influence for good.