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L.A. Divorce Lawyer to Join Big Law: Her Cybersecurity Worries and More

June 28, 2016, 8:05 PM

Big Law firms are often depicted as the weak link when it comes to cybersecurity. But to sole practitioners, they must look like a refuge from an unfriendly world.

That’s what Stacy Phillips said drove her to join Blank Rome. As a divorce lawyer to Hollywood stars, Phillips said she had a trove of secrets on celebrities and guarding it against a cyber attack was becoming too removed from the law.

“I don’t want to worry about that at the level that I have been,” she said. “Other people know and understand it better than I do. I am grateful that others will take care of it.”

We covered the news earlier today.

This afternoon, we caught up with Phillips and Blank Rome’s chairman Alan Hoffman, who spoke extensively about Phillips’s hire. We’ve outlined the conversations below in a consolidated Q&A. It has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Big Law Business: Why did you decide to join Blank Rome after 26 years on your own?

Phillips: The first decision was that I wanted to be part of a larger institution. I made that decision as the world gets far more complicated. I wasn’t sleeping at night because I was worried about cybersecurity. I wanted to practice law and develop business. Running the business isn’t my interest and isn’t my strength.

Big Law Business: What were your concerns about cybersecurity?

Phillips: Divorce is a contentious process and people do bad things and people in other cases can be resentful and make efforts to hack into our computers. And what we have of our clients is extremely personal. It’s everything from their emotions, to their finances, and their kids. It’s very scary. The law firms can be hacked and infiltrated. It’s not a question of “if,” it’s a question of “when?” Each law firm and many law firms are going to be hit. [Blank Rome is] a bigger platform and you don’t have to worry about things like that. I don’t want to worry about that at the level that I have been. Other people know and understand it better than I do. I am grateful that others will take care of it. For me, to learn how to do all the computer stuff is a challenge. My son is an engineer and I didn’t get that brain chip.

[caption id="attachment_20238" align="alignleft” width="238"][Image “Stacy Phillips” (src=https://bol.bna.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Stacy-Phillips-e1467140072500.jpg)]Celebrity divorce lawyer Stacy Phillips[/caption]

Big Law Business: So why Blank Rome?

Phillips: In September of last year I made this decision to explore being part of a larger institution and spoke with five firms, BR being one of them. Jon Loeb [vice chair of Blank Rome’s corporate litigation practice group] called Marc Lerner [of Phillips Lerner]. Jon called Marc and said, ‘You have to talk to Stace.’ Our lease was coming up so we didn’t have much time. My father passed away in October and I was supposed to have meetings the day he died. Once I got my wits about me again, the only thing I could do was work. From a human standpoint, I had never told my dad what I was doing. I didn’t know how he would feel about it. A couple of months ago I had a discussion with my mom and my mom said he would be so proud of you and pleased with you.

Big Law Business: Your statement seemed to indicate that you’d be doing a lot of pro bono work for BR?

[caption id="attachment_20243" align="alignright” width="222"][Image “Alan Hoffman” (src=https://bol.bna.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Alan-Hoffman-e1467140147508.jpg)]Blank Rome chairman Alan Hoffman[/caption]

Phillips: The firm does do a lot of pro bono work. My goal is to enhance it out here and bring it to the other offices. I’m multi-faceted. I’m not a lawyer who is going to run the pro bono practice, but it’s a huge part of who I am and what I do. BR is a little newer out here and in some circles not as well-known as some of the other firms. It is my personal goal to make it, as best as I can help, more well-known. It will shortly be the firm that rolls off people’s tongue for great work in the community.

Big Law Business: How many lawyers are in the Los Angeles office at this point?

Phillips: 50 or 60.

Big Law Business: Alan, how did you come across Stacy?

Hoffman: The discussions actually began in 2009 when we first went into Los Angeles because Stacy was well-known to our matrimonial lawyers on the East Coast. Sheila Riesel is one of our top matrimonial lawyers in New York and she was at the Phillips Nizer law firm, which was founded by Stacy’s grandfather. And so, when we first began thinking of opening in L.A., Stacy was someone we talked to. The timing wasn’t right for us at the time to expand our matrimonial practice to the West Coast and it wasn’t right for her to join a larger firm. But we continued to remain in contact.

Big Law Business: You don’t often see divorce practices at a big law firm. How is that going to work, and how much of this is a play by Blank Rome to strengthen its brand in Los Angeles?

Hoffman: It’s a major consideration in bringing Stacy onboard: Her activities in the community, her profile in the community, and her commitment to pro bono. We in recent years really increased our lawyers participation in pro bono activities. Now every lawyer is mandated to perform 25 hours at a minimum. I noticed this morning that The American Lawyer came out with their pro bono rankings and we went from ranking No. 98 to No. 38 in one year. So, we are really proud of that and Stacy is very, very active in the Los Angeles community and pro bono activities.

This [matrimonial law] practice for our firm has been very profitable and they represent high net worth individuals at our normal rates, which are your normal big firm rates. The practice is a lot more than what I would say is divorce. It involves custody issues, same sex-marriage issues that we have been at the forefront of by the way. Prenuptial agreements, paternity. It involves other practice groups in the law firms so that our tax lawyers are involved, trust and estates lawyers are involved.

Big Law Business: Stacy, what kinds of matters are you bringing with you to the firm?

Phillips: The ones you would find the most interesting are not of public record yet. But it goes from same-sex couples, to celebrities, to wealthy business people, as well as some domestic violence cases.

Big Law Business: Last thing is a standard question, Stacy. Your age?

Phillips: One of my doctors recently told me my age, and I said he was wrong. I’m 57.

[Image “BLB Newsletter image (LARGE)” (src=https://bol.bna.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/BLB-Newsletter-image.png)]

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