Monday, December 18, 2017


Fred P. Phillips IV ’90

My name is Fred Phillips, and I graduated from Yale Law School in 1990 with a JD.

My first job was clerking for the Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. I then went to the Civil Appellate Office at the Justice Department, which was a Yale Law School hiring program. I think that I was the 9th or 10th the Yale Law School graduate in a row then who'd been hired into that program.

And then I left to take a Fulbright in the Philippines. And after the end of my Fulbright, for fear that the only path I had in front of me was private practice, I traveled through Central Asia. First, I bought seven camels and traveled the high deserts from Tibet to Kazakhstan. And then I sold the camels at a loss, got a bike, and cycled the Karakoram Highway through the Himalayas, from China to Central Pakistan.

After that, I spent my de rigueur six months in a large international law firm, which was the only time where I'd ever truly been sad for a sustained period of time. A client said, wow. You look sad for a sustained period of time. Perhaps you would like to do something else. And I said yes without hearing what the something else was.

But it was going to Argentina to help them sell what was then a NASDAQ traded company. And that's how I moved into finance. And then ABN AMRO, a large Dutch bank with international operations, hired me to be one of those people who ran their global private equity fund. And then the Carlyle Group, a large global US-based private equity fund, hired me to be a partner to invest in their financial services companies.

And I then set up with others a company which-- off of a sheet of paper-- which we developed to a sales to Lloyd's TSB. And we now developed a new financial technology company, which we commercialized. And we'll be going live in January.

When I went to law school, I really viewed it not so much as a law school so much as a "teaching me how to think and express myself better" school. And so what I thought were the skill sets that I would learn, would be to listen attentively and respectfully, to think about how I could better craft answers to defend what was my view, to have the integrity to examine my view to see if I really thought it was right in the body of information that I was receiving and the views that were being expressed to me-- and those skills sets, even though they are generic, are crucial, I think, in any meaningful calling in life, whatever it may be.

Even though I don't actively practice law now, I feel very strongly a member of the Yale community. And something I'm acutely aware of is the fact that had it not been for the tremendous kindness of Yale faculty members and Yale alumni before me, that my life would be different, and frankly, worse. So whether it's simple opportunities, a faculty saying, oh, if you're going to be traveling abroad, I have a former student who teaches here, or has a company there. And you should meet. And if the worst that comes out of it is a thoughtful conversation, that's a wonderful way to spend time. And frequently, great things have come out of it far beyond thoughtful conversation.

I think that now when I look at students today, I'm amazed. I think that their skill sets are comparable to those of my classmates 25 years ago. What I think is notably different is the impact that they're making on their community. And I think that that's largely a consequence of the school deciding that our clinicals aren't only for our local community, but for a national community-- at times, a truly global community.

And so when you see how clincals are playing a leadership role, not only among law schools, but also in teaching lawyers, providing them scripts of how it is to help, and the most meaningful issues of our time-- DACA, travel bans, a variety of constitutional issues, protecting veterans rights-- it's tremendously important. And I think that many alumni must feel what I feel, which is not only tremendous pride in today's students, but also a great desire to give them the same opportunities that the people before us provided to us. 

Fred Phillips discusses his career path from law school to starting his own company. Part of the Many Paths Initiative.