With the James G. Phillipp Law Professorship Fund, James Phillipp, ’66, supports a subject that is of personal interest and shares his gratitude to Michigan Law for setting him on his path to a fulfilling career.
“I have always been interested in history of all kinds. Even more so now that I have retired to a spot where Ponce de León was quite possibly trooping through my yard some 500 years ago,” says Phillipp, who splits his time between Ormond Beach, Florida, and Pasadena, California.
He credits no small part of his success to the Law School, where he received the education and credentials to take advantage of the many opportunities that came his way—particularly those that led him to a 35-year commercial law practice at a prestigious firm on the West Coast.
“My gift is more of a repayment to the Law School for having given me the chance to make a success of my life rather than merely a donation to a great educational institution,” says Phillipp.
In celebration of his career and his 50th reunion, Phillipp has made a $2.5 million gift to establish the James G. Phillipp Law Professorship. He says he is especially cognizant of his obligation to give back to the Law School because he attended Michigan as an out-of-state student. “The concept of ‘repayment’ was particularly appealing in my case. My family lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and paid no Michigan taxes to support the University,” he says. “Even while I was in Ann Arbor, I was not entirely comfortable with the knowledge that [the taxpayers of the State of Michigan], especially those who worked on the assembly lines in Dearborn and Hamtramck, were putting me through law school.”
Phillipp launched his legal career with a two-year clerkship with the Hon. Ralph Freeman, ’26, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. He then travelled to Los Angeles to practice taxation law at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP—then a midsize regional firm—and quickly rose through the ranks to become partner.
While Phillipp’s professional experience lies mainly in tax law, he chose to pursue a completely different direction with his professorship. The James G. Phillipp Law Professorship will create a chair in legal history and comparative law. “Legal history easily lends itself to a lot more scholarly research than many other areas of the law,” Phillipp says. “I tend to think of an endowed chair as something of a reward for a career of peer-approved scholarly research.” —JP