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Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Stacy D. Phillips of Blank Rome Is Helping to Change Our World

Authority Magazine

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stacy D. Phillips.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I come from a family of lawyers and was quite familiar with what I believed was a highly noble profession. Even though I did not see many women attorneys in the field, I saw two very powerful women partners in my dad’s law firm — they were great role models and inspired me. They also set a very high bar! But it was not until I was in law school that I was compelled to pursue family law. Quite literally, I was drawn to the idea of having a client with a heartbeat and knowing that I could absolutely make a difference in the lives of people and possibly their families. Helping people in their times of need, which are often very difficult times, has genuinely kept me in the field and invigorated me. I also work at a firm where pro bono work is highly regarded and valued, which adds significantly to the number of lives I can touch. I believe that those who do well must also do good.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

First, let me be clear: I do not lead the Blank Rome LLP law firm, but I am a partner. For 26 years before joining Blank Rome, I ran my own firm, so I have seen law practices and firm operations from both sides–each has its challenges. I can tell you countless stories about how I, as a woman, was treated differently than my male colleagues. And even today, as successful as I am in my job and career, I know that in many instances, I am treated differently than I would be if I were a man. The thing is, I think being a woman makes a difference in what I do in my profession and specifically in how I mentor. I mentor in different ways, whether my mentee is local or across the country in another office location. A key point for me–and what I was always taught–is to be yourself and not try to conform to a standard that is not you. I also believe we must be compassionate, empathetic, and good listeners, which often comes more easily for women. How people communicate and listen to men is different from how they communicate and listen to women. For this reason, I try to lead by example, to show women that it’s possible to stand in rooms dominated by men and not only succeed in life and our careers but to use our unique abilities to mentor, support young people, encourage them to do the same, and a big part of it is giving back to the community.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you first started? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I have followed the adage: Good judgment comes from experience, most of it bad. Said differently: We learn from our mistakes. My best example is not in my career but in a test I took in the seventh grade. It was of the Greek and Roman Gods. I got one answer wrong, and to this day, that one is really the only mythological God I remember… all because I got that answer wrong. My mistake started my interactions with many of my partners and was the foundation of our relationships.

When I first joined Blank Rome, there was an email that went out to all partners. I mistakenly hit reply-all with a simple but legitimate question; it clearly was not intended for all 300+ partners. As a testament to the firm’s partners and their character, dozens of people responded to me with supportive answers, and not one person mocked my lack of business etiquette. Again, I then sent out an apology to all, but this time, telling them about the kind responses and that I was convinced that if this was how my peers responded to mistakes, I knew I was in the right place.

I believe that if you go through a bad time or you make a mistake and you don’t learn from it, then it’s just a mistake or a bad time. But, if you learn from it, then it is something positive. And I use that in my career all the time. And one of the things we strive to do is never make the same mistake twice.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

In law, I believe we make a social impact in the work we do, from representing clients in certain areas, including in our pro bono work. At Blank Rome, we have set a goal for our attorneys and paralegals to each complete 75 hours of pro bono work, requiring at least 25 hours of service. In 2022, for example, my colleagues totaled more than 31,000 hours of pro bono services that touched many lives and communities. In addition to being important work, our pro bono services send a great message to our clients.

But I am most proud of an idea I had more than 25 years ago. My idea was to create the Adopt A Center program to help community non-profits needing more than just monetary support. Based in Los Angeles, our AAC program annually adopts a different not-for-profit organization — one that is non-proselytizing and takes care of children and families. This year is the 25th anniversary of the program, and I’m proud to have made a tremendous social impact with each of those nonprofits. This past year, we adopted a young women’s mentoring organization called MOSTe, and we hosted a day-long career symposium with presentations and speakers representing a myriad of career options. We served the group lunch courtesy of our client, In-N-Out Burger, and it was all very well received by the young women, their mentors, our staff, and the clients who participated.

Additionally, many of the partners and associates in my law firm, Blank Rome, sit on nonprofit boards. For example, I sit on the Public Counsel board, the largest nonprofit public interest law firm in the country dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice and amplifying the power of our clients through comprehensive legal advocacy. I am the current Vice Chair and the incoming Chair, starting in October of this year.

Public Counsel was founded on and strengthened by a pro bono legal service model; its staff and volunteers seek justice by providing direct legal services, promoting healthy and resilient communities through education and outreach, and supporting community-led efforts to transform unjust systems through litigation and policy advocacy in and beyond Los Angeles and throughout the U.S., as well as what they call opportunity law, tackling cases to help eliminate economic and other injustices in the areas of K-12 public and higher education, voting rights, poverty law and homelessness, racial, gender, class and sexual orientation discrimination, health care, immigrants’ rights, veteran’s rights, foster care and more. I can think of few better examples of social impact.

To read the full article, please click here.

"Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Stacy D. Phillips of Blank Rome Is Helping to Change Our World," by Yitzi Weiner was published in Authority Magazine on March 26, 2024.