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Carter Phillips on his mentor Rex Lee

Carter Phillips on his mentor Rex Lee

Super Lawyers recently had the pleasure of talking with Carter Phillips, the managing partner of Sidley Austin in Washington, D.C. Phillips holds the record for the most arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court with an astounding 71, including five this term. He talked with us about his days clerking for Chief Justice Warren Burger, his friend Justice Samuel Alito, what he does to prep for an appearance, and his batting average before the Supremes, all of which will be detailed in the Super Lawyers section of the Washington Post Magazine on May 1.

Phillips had this to say about his mentor Rex Lee, former Solicitor General and partner at Sidley:

“Rex taught me a lot about how to be a lawyer to begin with because I worked under him for three-plus years at the Solicitor General’s office. But what he really taught me was how to be a partner in a law firm and practice law privately. Collaboration with other lawyers was a trait that Rex reflected better than almost anybody I know, I mean he loved talking to other lawyers. He really enjoyed that process of trying to mold arguments by convincing his colleagues the best way to present a pitch to a particular court in a particular way. He had a huge storehouse of prominence and respect. When Rex said I think the right way to go is X, you almost never saw anybody say anything other than, yes, let’s do what Rex wants to do. I would sit there for hours trying to convince these people to go in the same direction and Rex would walk in two hours later and say, I think we ought to do X, which is what I had been arguing for two hours and suddenly they all said, “Yeah, that’s a brilliant idea.” (Laughs). I always said I wanted to swing it to the point where I could walk in the room and tell them this is the way it’s going to happen and it happens that way. (Laughs). Watching him do it was just masterful. He was a great lawyer and a wonderful colleague and an unbelievable mentor.”

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