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Prof. Margaret Phillips

Fulbright Scholar

Margaret L. Phillips, J.D., is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Paralegal Studies program at Daemen University in Buffalo, New York, United States.  Margaret started as the Director of the program in 2011 and the program achieved American Bar Association approval in 2017.  Daemen’s Paralegal Studies program has both a B.S. program and a 21 credit Certificate program and has been ranked #17 in the nation.  The program has a 95% placement rate of its graduates into the legal profession and law school.

Prior to working at Daemen, Margaret was a Lecturer at the University of Buffalo Law School, where she taught Legal Research and Writing to first year law students.  While at the law school, she initiated two clinical courses to assist student in developing legal skills and to promote access to justice: Hurricane Katrina Service Project and the Volunteer Writing Project.   Both courses partnered with organizations that collaborated with Phillips on training and preparing the students for practical legal work supervised by an organization attorney.

She has experience in civil litigation at the trial and appellate level, and handled cases in negligence, medical malpractice, discrimination, and civil rights.  She served as a litigation associate at Connors & Vilardo and Phillips Lytle, and as an Appellate Court Attorney for the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division, Fourth Department.  Margaret earned her J.D. cum laude, from the University at Buffalo Law School, where she served as the Executive Editor of the Buffalo Law Review and was awarded the Philip Halpern Award for Excellence in Writing.  She earned her B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University.

At Daemen Margaret teaches Law for Society (introduction to law), Legal Research and Writing, Advanced Legal Research and Writing, Paralegal Internship, Paralegal Senior Project, and Paralegal Clinic.  She has also collaborated with local community organizations to create one-day clinics, such as the marijuana conviction expungement clinics.  She has published articles on paralegals and ethics, trends in legal education, a regular column called “Spotlight on Paralegals” in the local Bar Association of Erie County Bulletin and authored a textbook on legal reasoning skills entitled “A Practical Guide to Legal Research and Analysis for Paralegal Studies” (October 2019, West Academic Publishing).

Interview

Prof. Phillips, you are the chair of Paralegal studies Program at Daemen University, New York and have had several years of experience as a litigator. Talk us through your journey as a law practitioner and an academician.

I enjoyed practicing law full time as a civil litigator and working on cases ranging from employment rights, civil rights, negligence, to medical malpractice. I was offered a Lecturer position to teach a mandatory law school course at University at Buffalo Law School, Legal Research and Writing, a one year course where first year law students learn legal analysis by researching and writing legal memos and drafting a persuasive brief.  In the classroom, I found my passion for creativity, serving  the students, and contributing to positive social change.  I was lucky to then be offered the position as Director of an undergraduate paralegal studies program, where I have even greater opportunity to develop curriculum, explore and develop pedagogy on developing legal skills, and work on increasing access to justice by creating a variety of legal clinics.

What drove you to apply for the Fulbright scholarship?

For me, COVID opened my small world in Buffalo, New York, a mid-size city in western New York, to the entire world.  It started with an online conference with like-minded justice educators at  the Global Alliance of Justice Educators (GAJE) in June of 2020.  From the relationships I built there, I realized I wanted to be more of a global citizen and explore how other countries were dealing with the universal problem of  access to justice.  I had the opportunity right before the pandemic to work with law students from Jamia Millia Islamia, who started a journal called the South Asian Journal of Law, Policy and Research (available on SSRN).  From these students, my (small) role on the journal, and the colleagues I met at the GAJE conference, I became fascinated in India and pursued the Fulbright opportunity.

What will your prime areas of focus be during your time here at NLU Delhi?

I will be teaching legal skills and assisting in building capacity for the teaching of legal skills. I have the pleasure of representing NLU at conferences on legal clinics.  I also hope to teach a course on research and ethics, interact with the students and the faculty, and assist in presenting a seminar on Fulbright opportunities for Indian citizens.  Finally, the Human Rights Law Network, who is also sponsoring me, has asked me to assist in collaborations between NLU and themselves and to facilitate opportunities for students.

How important are clinics in legal academic curriculum? How does a law student benefit from it?

Most of us learn by doing, and now more than ever many lawstudents long to do “real” work.  I am still learning about how legal clinics operate at NLU, but in the U.S. legal clinics provide an opportunity for law students to practice their legal skills, under the supervision of an attorney, in a real case that has consequences for the client.  Supervised legal practice for students provides not only an opportunity to sharpen their legal skills – through client interviewing, drafting, researching and presenting – but introduces them to the professional and cultural world of being a lawyer.

We are glad that you chose NLU Delhi as your Fulbright Host Institution, tell us how and why you opted for NLU Delhi?

I was attracted to NLU Delhi because of its strong record in working on access to justice matters (legal aid, legal clinics, pro bono club, involvement in paralegal training) as well as its international reputation and its experience in hosting international guests and Fulbright scholars.  The scholars and leaders I met at NLU were very welcoming and collaborative, and I could see that with the breadth of collaborations and justice work that NLU is engaged in, I would learn a lot from NLU faculty here.

Area of Interest.

Margaret’s areas of interest are access to justice, legal literacy, legal methods, legal writing, legal ethics, and women’s rights.   She has presented locally, state-wide and nationally to paralegal groups on legal ethics, and recently did a TedXBuffalo talk entitled: “If the Constitution Could Talk, What Would It Say?” She was awarded the Fulbright-Nehru Scholar award for Spring 2023 to work at National Law University Delhi and the Human Rights Law Network.