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By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – After almost two decades operating as a sole attorney, Tommy Defer has added a new attorney to his practice. Will Phillips joined Defer in April after graduating from the Mississippi College School of Law.
“I always said if I brought someone in, it would have to be the right person at the right time. He is the right person, and we are at the right time,” Defer explained. “Someone I feel like I knew, could trust and depend on. Will fits in every category.”
Phillips received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi, and after taking off a few semesters he decided to attend law school following the same career path as his father. He grew up in Columbia, Miss. but explained he has strong connections to north Mississippi as his family are avid Ole Miss sports fans and his mom and is from Batesville.
“I wanted to be back around the area, I always said I would like to come back this way,” Phillis added.
Phillips first worked for Defer as a law clerk before he took the bar exam.
“He did an excellent job, I was impressed with his work,” Defer added.
Ironically Defer’s father, the late Lloyd Defer, and Phillips’ grandfather, the late David Bryan, served as sheriffs at the same time in the neighboring counties.
“They were best of friends. That was our family connection that we never knew about,” Defer explained.
A Great Decision
For Phillips the decision to join Defer’s firm was easy one.
“He called me and said, ‘look I would like for you to join me,’” Phillips said. “I immediately said ‘yes.’”
Part of the lure for Phillips is the active criminal defense practice Defer has established during the law two decades. Almost 75 percent of his work involves criminal defense. Defer is typically in a courtroom every week with Phillips accompanying him. Phillips has already been appointed to serve as one of the public defenders in Yalobusha and Tallahatchie counties. The attorneys also do personal injury, family law such as child custody cases, no-fault divorces, child support modifications, bankruptcies and wills.
“It is a new experience every day. I enjoy learning. I want to be the best attorney I can be. I have learned more here in the past six weeks than I did in three years of law school. They don’t teach you these real life situations. Having Tommy as a mentor has helped with the transition,” Phillips added about the hands-on work from his first day with Defer.
As a young lawyer, Defer explained he learned the ropes working with a veteran public defender in Panola County, the late David Walker.
“David told me what to do, how to do it. How to manage your time and how the process works. That is what I am trying to do with Will,” Defer added.
“I am learning something new every day, I am excited to come to work every morning. We make decisions, we bounce things off of each other,” Phillips explained.
Phillips is also enjoying his transition to the Water Valley community.
“I am living on Main Street, right above the B.T.C. I am making myself a Water Valley citizen, I am committed to it. The community is very close-knit, everybody knows each other.”