& Myers L.L.P.,
New York City
Phillip Isom enjoyed the complexities of law from an early age, always seeking the how and why of legal issues. A graduate of Columbia University School of Law and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, he found his calling in business law.
Today, he is a partner in the New York City office of O’Melveny & Myers L.L.P., where he specializes in the formation of private investment funds.
“I like the challenges that come along with being a lawyer in an area that is constantly changing,” he says. “It is also an area where anything is possible.”
He’s at the top of his profession. On his way up, however, he took note of the relative few number of African-American partners in major law firms and the small number of minorities in the pipeline.
While the numbers are not as grim as when he began practicing, there is room for improvement, Isom says. “The lack of diversity has been one of my biggest frustrations,” he says.
“There are various areas where that trend can be reversed. It may be at the time young students are choosing the careers in which they are interested. By exposing them to finance and law at an early age they may see the opportunity to practice business law.”
Isom stresses the importance of relationships — with his law professors and various African-American attorneys and partners who reached out to him and took the time to mentor him at the beginning of his career. Connections count, he insists.
“I’m hopeful that as professional and school networks become more diverse, the people in the positions to hire new lawyers will have more connections and relations with attorneys of color,” he says.
“The networks across color lines are now greater and the captains of industry are more likely to hire people that they know. The expertise has always been there, it’s a matter of using these greater connections to create more opportunities to work together.”