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DC Pro Bono Week 2021 Profiles: Phillip Dehoux – Helping Clients With Few Legal Resources Find Solutions

By Lindsay Ayers

Phillip Dehoux moved to New York City from Haiti as a toddler. His family initially settled in Brooklyn and became a part of the strong Haitian community there. Phillip lived in almost every part of New York City and, like many in his environment, grew up receiving public assistance.

“I didn’t really think there was anything out-of-the-ordinary about my childhood because everyone I knew was in the same boat.” Having learned to make do with less, Phillip developed resourcefulness and determination to excel that served him well throughout his education and professional career.

Despite adversity, Phillip went on to complete college, obtain a few more degrees including his JD from the University of North Dakota School of Law, and focus on a career in cybersecurity and privacy policy. Although Phillip enjoyed being a part of an innovative and growing field as a solo practitioner, he felt there was something missing. While in law school he had served on the board of the Public Interest Law Students Association, led the student Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, and represented clients in the Housing and Employment Discrimination Clinic. Phillip wanted to give back to the community and sought out opportunities in Maryland and DC to provide legal services. Always up for a challenge, Phillip sought training and volunteer opportunities in areas of the law in which he had no prior experience like immigration, estate planning, and probate.

Understanding all too well the struggles of people with few resources and language barriers, Phillip jumped at the chance to help out in any way he could with Christian Legal Aid of the District of Columbia. “I’ve worked on a few estate planning and probate cases, helped out on an SSDI case, and worked on guardianship matters. It’s been very rewarding work in that I not only feel fulfilled, but I also get to help people who had nowhere else to turn because they couldn’t afford a private attorney.” In addition to the sense of accomplishment, Phillip touts how pro bono work provides a means to assert himself and lessen the feeling of imposter syndrome. “At first I was terrified of volunteering because I kept thinking ‘what if I don’t know the answers, what if I can’t help?’ But I found that many attorneys feel the same way and we are all continuously learning. And that’s what makes us more confident and better attorneys.”

Christian Legal Aid of DC Director of Legal Services, Lindsay Ayers, noted Phillip’s commitment to pro bono service, “In the midst of the pandemic, we were eager to have volunteers who were able and willing to serve remotely. We were so fortunate to have Phil join the team and jump right in at the beginning of the year. He speaks to our clients with respect and compassion and is always thinking ahead to prevent and plan for roadblocks. He strives to work from a place of integrity, cultural awareness, and with strong legal skills for every case he handles no matter the size. Our team is stronger and our services are better because of his hard work. As we search for and invite attorneys to join our pro bono team, we hope they all embody the zeal and diligence that Phillip has demonstrated.”

Lindsay Ayers is the Director of Legal Services at Christian Legal Aid of DC.

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