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In my own words...

I will begin by talking about why I decided to become a lawyer — and a solo practitioner, at that.

When I was in 8th grade, someone — the local school district, the school itself, not sure who exactly — decided to change the social studies curriculum to something more focused on American history facts and figures. We were to be the last class taught on the old curriculum, which included an overview of the U.S. Constitution. Up to that point, I was convinced that I would be involved in sciences of some kind, but my first exposure to the nation’s governing documents gave me pause. It was not much more than a basic civics class, complete with a class trip to Washington, D.C., but I found myself with an idea about what I want to do with the rest of my life. I decided right then I would work toward a career in the legal profession, and my coursework in high school and college reflected that, with an emphasis on American history and political science.

I eventually was admitted into George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia.  There, instead of searching for the fastest route to a big DC firm I decided to take a different approach to my career.  I took internships in the public interest area and worked for a solo practitioner, getting some courtroom exposure and first-hand experience in law firm management.  I learned early on that there was much more out there in the legal profession than the "Big Law" experience.  And because I selected a public law school with very reasonable tuition, I graduated free of enormous and oppressive student loans to pay back, and thus felt little pressure to follow the big money.

My first exposure to family law was through one of those internships, a summer and a semester at Legal Services of Northern Virginia in Alexandria, Virginia. I did some client intake and performed law clerk duties, which meant drafting court pleadings and client letters, but also included arguing motions in court under attorney supervision.  Cases ranged from people seeking divorces to child or spousal support to emergency domestic violence hearings, all done pro bono.  I saw a very different world from the popular view of the legal profession.  There were no glass walls or giant corner offices or secretaries in central cubicles.  I shared a small closet of an office with the other interns and dealt with clients who had trouble feeding themselves and their children -- people chronically underrepresented in the legal profession.  The attorneys were (and still are) overworked and underpaid, but were happy to be doing good for the community, filling a need for people that society seemed to have left behind.

I decided at that time that I want to make a difference with my law degree and license, and that I wanted to do it by opening my own practice in family law offering a client-centered approach to legal services at rates that are accessible to the broader community.  I hope to do well for myself and my family, of course, but also to reflect some of the philosophy of those heroic Legal Aid attorneys. And, for me, that means giving clients the best representation that I can give.  Family law is not for everyone — emotions often run high when dealing with people in the most stressful times of their lives, whether it be ending a marriage gone wrong when or struggling to do what’s best for their children.  For me, it is the ultimate opportunity to give back by helping to show a path through that turmoil.  I am confident that I am up to the task.

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Philip R. Yabut, Esq., is licensed to practice law in Virginia and the District of Columbia.  He earned a B.A. (1995) from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and his J.D. (2000) from George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia, where he competed in moot court and client counseling competitions.  He has worked at Legal Services of Northern Virginia in Alexandria, where he assisted in representation in family law cases.

Member of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association-DC.


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