Veteran Supreme Court advocate Carter Phillips will become chair of Sidley Austin's worldwide executive committee in 2013, the firm announced Sunday.
Phillips, who has been managing partner in the firm's 275-lawyer Washington office for 17 years, will succeed Thomas Cole, who turns 65 next year. Cole and Phillips will serve as co-chairs of the firm for a one-year transitional period. The executive committee exercises general authority over the policies and business of the firm, which has approximately 1,700 lawyers nationwide. Sidley is based in Chicago.
In a firm statement issued Sunday, Phillips said he intended to remain in D.C. and "continue to maintain an acitve practice." Phillips said he was honored to be appointed to the new role, and credited Cole and management committee chair Chuck Douglas for transforming Sidley into "a law firm with a powerful global footprint while retaining a collaborative and supportive culture that is the envy of most professional organizations."
In an interview this morning, Phillips, 59, said it is not that unusual for a law firm to be headed by a partner who is not based in its hometown. "'Headquarters' means less than it used to," said Phillips, adding that "it's much easier with technology" to lead a firm from elsewhere. A few steps away from his office on K Street N.W., camera technology is available that enables him to videoconference with Sidley offices around the world. "For better or worse, the sun never sets on Sidley," Phillips said. Phillips also owns a condo in Chicago and travels there not only for firm business but to teach at Northwestern University Law School's Supreme Court clinic.
Phillips reached a personal milestone on March 19 when he argued his 75th case before the Supreme Court (followed closely by his 76th in April.) Phillips also moved the admission of his daughter Jessica Phillips to the Supreme Court bar. She is an associate at Latham & Watkins. Carter Phillips has argued more cases at the Supreme Court than any other lawyer currently in private practice.
Today, Phillips said he expects to continue his current pace of Supreme Court arguments, which usually works out to four or more cases per term. Phillips' new duties might mean fewer arguments at the appeals court level, he said, but he does not anticipate major changes in his practice, in part because he has already been on the management committee for years. "I guess I've figured out how to juggle."