Attorney Kim Phillips Raises the Bar for Growth & Leadership in Family Law
Juris Doctor '05
Founding Partner of Phillips & Peters, PLLC
Kimberly Phillips (J.D. ’05) always wanted to go to law school, but being a military spouse meant waiting longer than she had planned.
After years of traveling around the world with her husband she was finally able to start earning her law degree in 2002 at the age of 35 – and it was her accumulation of experiences that drove her to practice family law.
“Having the opportunity to move around with a military spouse means you become a family very quickly with strangers out of necessity,” Kim says. “With family law, you see families at their lowest and if you have the experience of living a life where your family is not just your father and mother, that you have been loved and helped by others and vice versa, then you can be compassionate when people are at their worst.”
Now as the founding partner of Phillips & Peters, it is her goal to get better every year, both as an attorney and a business leader.
“It’s not for everybody,” she says, “but I love what we do.”
Answering the Call
Despite being an older student, a military spouse, and a mother of two small children, Kim was determined to answer the call and go to law school.
During their time at an assignment in Fort Hood, Texas, in the early 2000s, Kim felt anxious to do something of her own. She told her husband that she knew she had to go to law school. With two small babies at home and her husband being active duty she knew she would have to find the perfect place – one that offered a great program and the support she needed to finish her degree.
The answer was back home in Hampton Roads. Kim had grown up in Norfolk and attended Old Dominion University for her undergraduate degree in 1988. She had seen the birth of Regent University, then CBN University, and knew that they offered a law school. With her mother and sister close by it was the perfect option.
Everything fell into place. Kim was accepted into the law program at Regent, she also received the William J. Dooner Scholarship which covered half of her tuition, and her husband was assigned to Hampton Roads.
“I chose Regent because it was close to my family, and I had young children and knew I needed my family’s support to get me through school,” Kim says. “But it brought so much more than that. Regent really brought me a better understanding of different faith views and opened my eyes. … I am very thankful. My faith is really what has gotten me through, and Regent was a special part of that. It got me where I am today.”
In describing her transition to law school, Kim notes, “It was a shift where the previous 15 years I was heavily supporting what he was doing and was focused on his career and making sure that was the primary focus. We were blessed with his assignment in Hampton Roads because he could be the primary parent and it freed me up to focus on my law school studies.
“Law school is not easy,” Kim continues, “but it’s really not easy when you have two small children at home and other responsibilities.”
Kim made sure she had an internship every summer and semester so she could fill the gaps in her resume after being out of the workforce for such a long time. During her third year, she got a position at a full-service law firm in Chesapeake that had a family law division.
“I found that family law married up my life experiences together with the practice of law, and I knew I didn’t want to be at a desk all day,” Kim says. “I wanted to be in the courtroom.”
After she graduated in 2005, Kim put all her attention on passing the bar. Her goal was to only take it one time and pass. While her husband was away on an assignment in Colorado, Kim had help from her sister with her children. She hunkered down and spent every waking moment preparing for the bar exam – she passed on the first try.
Kim was then hired by the Bowman Green Hampton & Kelly, PLLC firm in Chesapeake and worked there for five years in family law. It was there that she met her future business partner, Corrynn Peters.
“… No one is immune … The most educated, well-to-do people in the world still have family dynamics that can break down and need assistance.”
A Respect for Family
Kim’s passion for family law first begins with respect for family. As the mother of two adopted children and having grown up as the daughter of a military parent and then married to a military spouse, Kim knows family means many things to many people.
She began to see that within family law, there was little respect for the types of cases she was representing.
“This is a practice area that needs the most help because no one is immune from it,” Kim says. “The most educated, well-to-do people in the world still have family dynamics that can break down and need assistance.”
“You have to wear many, many hats as a family law attorney,” Kim continues. “It can wear you down, but it is needed.”
It was the like-mindedness centered around family law that laid the foundation for Kim and Peters to start their own firm in 2010. Phillips & Peters, PLLC was established with the mission of bringing ethics to family law and building a firm that felt like a family.
Growing the Business
In 2020 Kim won the Leadership Award from the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. While it came as a surprise to Kim, it was the result of an intentional shift within their firm to spend more time in the business community.
“We want to use our money, our resources, to create jobs for people in law and outside of the law community too,” Kim says. “We started attending business conferences and I started reading more business and leadership and personal development resources to grow in that direction.”
Because of their efforts, they were able to think forward and stay ahead of the curve. Before the COVID pandemic forced businesses to change their tactics, Phillips & Peters already had the technology in place so that their staff and attorneys could work from anywhere. “My goal is to grow my team and my people so that they are better,” Kim says. “I want to build something that I know will keep going when I’m not here.”