Phillip Agee, an entering 1L at UC Hastings Law this fall, is a finalist in BARBRI Law Preview’s “One Lawyer Can Change the World” scholarship contest. Agee is one of just 10 finalists selected from more than 2,200 incoming J.D. students across the United States.
Since 2015, the scholarship has honored entering law students who seek to use their law degrees to advance racial equality and serve the public good. “We offer this scholarship not only to help a handful of socially conscious incoming 1Ls fund their educations, but also to raise awareness for the impact that good lawyers have on society,” said Don Macaulay, president and founder of BARBRI for Pre-Law. “Lawyers fight injustice by challenging unfair laws, fixing broken systems or, in Phillip’s case, by seeking to hold powerful people accountable to the rule of law.”
The general public is invited to select a winner from the finalists on the contest site. First- and second-place winners, who will be announced July 16, will receive $10,000 or $5,000, respectively, toward their tuition and expenses. The eight runners-up will receive $1,000 each.
In his scholarship essay, Agee writes about how his mother modeled the concept of holding power to account. He recalls that his then-teenage brother was racially profiled repeatedly while driving in their predominantly-white Connecticut town—until their mother placed a strongly worded call to the chief of police. The profiling stopped.
“My mom didn’t have a bunch of money or power in the community,” Agee says. “But she had that mama-bear type attitude. She was going to protect her family. I want to take that same attitude and the knowledge I’ll gain in law school to help people who need protection.”
After earning his undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Agee worked as an applications engineer, specializing in nano-scale mechanical measurement. He then went on to start a real estate investing business and to work as a realtor. All the while, he served as an active community volunteer, working to prepare and distribute meals to people in need. Agee hadn’t considered law until several years ago, when he got to talking to the person sitting next to him on a plane.
His seatmate, a lawyer, said that if Agee combined his wealth of experience with a legal education, there was no telling what he might accomplish. As Agee continued to observe powerful people skirt and abuse the law, his mind would return to that serendipitous conversation.
“Regular citizens get put into jail for far less than those in power,” Agee says. “If people in Congress abuse the law, they might get some of their duties taken away — meaning that they’ll have less responsibility but make the same amount of money.” Finally, he decided it was time to put his talents to work in the legal arena.
Agee, a longtime San Francisco resident, says UC Hastings was a natural choice because of the school’s collaborative community, abundance of clinical opportunities, and emphasis on impactful non-profit and pro bono work.
“We are tremendously excited to welcome Phillip to campus,” says Bryan Zerbe, UC Hastings’ admissions director. “With his broad background in aerospace engineering, real estate, and causes related to social justice, Phillip brings a plethora of life experiences to the UC Hastings Class of 2024.”
Agee says winning the BARBRI contest would help him focus on bringing justice to underserved communities and graduate with less debt.
In addition to pledging $23,000 for its scholarship recipients, BARBRI hopes to augment its support with gifts made through a GoFundMe site for people interested in providing direct contributions to the finalists.
Members of the public are invited to vote for Phillip Agee here.