News and Information
August 25, 2021

Charlie Phillips Receives 2021 Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award

The 2021 Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award has been awarded to esteemed litigator Charles “Charlie” Phillips of Salem. Phillips was nominated for the award by Kathy L. Wright of Gentry Locke and seconded by John E. Whitfield and Robert J. Williams of Blue Ridge Legal Services

In her nomination, Wright wrote of Phillips, “Mr. Phillips has continued to provide top-quality legal services to the underserved poverty population in the Roanoke Valley, even during the difficult logistical problems caused by COVID 19.”

“Many of his cases require litigation; Mr. Phillips never hesitates to serve those clients. He has recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars in benefits for his clients… He is everything and more that clients could hope for in a lawyer: knowledgeable, experienced, honest, and kind,” Wright continued.

Blue Ridge Legal Services Executive Director John Whitfield wrote, “He has closed over 900 cases since he began volunteering in 2018, including over a hundred cases in litigation…He is, functionally, the most productive, effective attorney working at any of Blue Ridge Legal Services’ four offices – and he’s a retired lawyer volunteer!”

Phillips does his pro bono work via the Transition Into Emeritus Status (TIES) program approved by the Supreme Court of Virginia in 2017 to help close the justice gap that allows experienced emeritus attorneys to work with qualified legal services providers after retirement and to receive 12 free hours of CLE each year through VirginiaCLE.

Robert Williams was a relatively new lawyer when he started work at Blue Ridge Legal Services and sought out Phillips for career guidance and mentorship. Williams wrote in his letter of support that upon first meeting the renowned Phillips he told him simply, “I want you to teach me how to be a trial lawyer.” In the three years that have followed, Phillips has been both a mentor and a role model for Williams.

Wrote Williams, “Charlie Phillips is the best of us. He loves the law. He loves what a lawyer can accomplish…Our profession is better because of him. I am a better attorney because of him.”

Perhaps the most ringing endorsement for Phillips’s pro bono work comes from a client who wrote simply, “Charlie Phillips saved my life. Were it not for his brilliant, tireless efforts, I would have become homeless and in all likelihood, died as a result…I will be grateful to him, and he will remain in my prayers forever. He is a noble gentleman.”

The Powell Award was established by the Standing Committee on Access to Legal Services of the Virginia State Bar to honor attorneys and attorney groups that have made outstanding pro bono contributions. 

Updated: Aug 26, 2021