MCB VLP Spotlight

April 2009 Spotlight
Karen Philippin

Our April spotlight is on Karen Philippin.  Karen is an associate in the finance and real estate group of Dechert LLP. Due to the slowdown in the real estate and finance world, Karen has been participating in a six month pro bono secondment at the Council for Children's Rights (CFCR).  CFCR is a Charlotte based organization that focuses on children receiving basic human rights such as education, proper health care and mental health treatment as well as a qualified defense attorney when needed. Karen sheds some light on her work with the CFCR below.

Current Employer: 

I have been with Dechert LLP for a little over 2 years.


Area of Practice/Expertise: 

Finance and Real Estate.



 J.D., 2004 , New York University School of Law, 1998, Georgetown University, B.S.

Tell us a little about your pro bono work:  

I wanted to dedicate my pro bono time to helping children and after some research about community organizations, I discovered the CFCR.  


What is a typical case/issue like: 

There is no typical case!  I volunteer in three different programs at the CFCR; the Individual Best Interest Advocacy Program, the Student Defense Project, and the Custody Advocacy Program (CAP).  The constant, however, in all cases, is that there is a child who needs an advocate; whether to help him or her get needed services, defend him or her against disciplinary action in school, or advocate for his or her best interest in a high conflict custody dispute. 


How many of these type of pro bono cases / issues do you typically handle at one time? 

I am currently volunteering full time at the CFCR.  Since my real estate and finance practice has slowed significantly over the past year, Dechert LLP has allowed me to participate in a six month pro bono secondment at the CFCR (which ends with my return Dechert LLP in May).


Did you participate in any particular training so that you could handle these cases/issues?   

Student Defense Training was on March 20th from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.  CAP volunteer  training sessions are held semi-annually with video training available on request for groups of 10 or more. 


What is your hope for the future with regard to these cases/issue? 

There are a lot of kids out there who need someone in their corner.  Even when my pro bono secondment ends, I intend to remain actively involved with some of the programs at the CFCR. 


How can the Mecklenburg County legal community help with similar cases/this issue?

Please contact Angela Yoo with the CFCR at 704-372-7961.  A couple of volunteer opportunities are as follows:

The Student Defense Project is designed to address alarming rates of exclusionary disciplinary actions against minority and low-income students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. The Program does this by recruiting, training and providing ongoing support for a group of lawyers to provide these children with pro-bono/low-cost representation, in order to ensure that these children are afforded their due process rights and granted educational equity.

The Custody Advocacy Program (CAP) is a Guardian Ad Litem (friend in court) program that has earned a reputation as a one of a kind service to protect the welfare and best interests of children who are caught in the middle of high conflict custody cases. It is the court system's last hope for ensuring that children do not continue to be torn apart by adults' insistence on putting children in the middle of their battle with one another and for protecting these children from further psychological, emotional, or physical damage. The CAP team for most cases consists of a staff attorney, a volunteer attorney, and a volunteer custody advocate. 


What is the best advice you've received during your legal career? 

Seek out a role model and learn as much as you can from that person.


What advice would you give others? 

Do not compromise yourself or your goals. Sometimes the easiest path isn't necessarily the best one. 


What is the most challenging part of your career? 

Balancing work and family.  I have three young children at home (ages 6, 2, and 1) and it is difficult at times to balance the demands of the legal profession with the demands of motherhood.