Student Profile: Q&A with First-Year Student Nicole Phillips

Nicole Phillips

Nicole Phillips

Part-Time JD Student

Parkville, MO

University of Missouri-Columbia ’13 - Master's Degrees in Political Science and Public Affairs

Q: What brought you to law school?

A: I worked in governmental relations previously—I was a lobbyist for the University of Missouri. It really gave me an appreciation for the system and showed me some of the flaws. Nonprofit organizations really have an uphill battle. You don’t have a lot of money to put behind your cause. I’ve always wanted to go to law school. I do nonprofit consulting right now, so I get a lot of questions from people that they think are strategic planning or grant writing related, but are instead legal questions.  Realizing that I needed an understanding of that is what brought me here.

Q: You’re also the founder of a nonprofit—how did that come about?

A: It is called the Truman Leadership Project and it is a nonpartisan, nonprofit leadership development program for middle school students. It is held during the summer in Columbia, Missouri and focuses on civic involvement, public service, diversity, and college readiness.

I pitched the idea to the University of Missouri as a graduate student and they agreed. They gave me free reign to get it off the ground, which was a lot of work. On the side, I spent all of my time learning everything you needed to know about running an organization—nonprofit finances, building a website, hosting trainings, writing position descriptions, coming up with best practices—so it was a little bit of everything. That’s what makes working in the nonprofit sector so exciting. I had the opportunity to work with an amazing team during the creation of the Truman Leadership Project and I owe them a lot for giving me such an amazing experience.

One of the scariest things I had to do was hire a predecessor to take over the organization before I moved to Washington, D.C. I am involved still with the leadership in some capacity, but being 1,000 miles away has its limits.


A: I knew I wanted to move to Washington, D.C. I never visited campus, but I really liked the focus and mission of the school, and the fact that there is a strong interest in public interest areas.

Q: Any takeaways to share about your first month of law school?

A: Now that I am a few weeks in, it is a little easier to realize I shouldn’t be focusing on all of the nitty-gritty details but instead just developing an appreciation for the broader scope of law and where my place is in that.