Phillips Black is founded upon a commitment to preparing future attorneys and specialists in the demanding area of capital defense and post-conviction advocacy. Education is at the heart of the practice. Mobilizing clinical opportunities is indispensable to effective representation in this labor-intensive field. Perennially, students contribute greatly while they gain experience assisting in the range of intensive activities that go into representing an individual facing or under a sentence of death. 


Law students are a vital part of our practice.  Those interested in volunteering with our practice, whether for a summer or a semester, should send a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to  Successful applicants will have a demonstrated commitment to criminal justice issues, strong research and writing skills, and a desire to provide the highestlevel of representation to those facing the severest penalties under law.  For earliest consideration, summer applicants should submit their materials no later than February 1.  Opportunities are available in New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. 


In Fall 2014, Phillips Black initiated the death penalty clinical program at the Saint Louis University (SLU) School of Law. A few weeks into that school year, the Missouri Supreme Court entered an execution warrant for Mr. Mark Christeson, setting his execution for October 29 at 12:01 a.m. Due to a serious series of unexpected events, Phillips Black principal attorneys had become Mr. Christeson’s pro bono attorneys months earlier in spring 2014, litigating the denial of his federal statutory right to conflict-free counsel. Thus, the SLU clinic students were thrust into warrant litigation, wherein they performed a wide range of activities.

These included assisting in the interviewing and preparing of declarations sworn to by fellow inmates of Mr. Christeson having first-hand observations of crucial factors concerning his entitlement to conflict-free counsel. Ultimately, Phillips Black petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari after finally extricating the case from a procedural bog in Missouri’s federal courts, just days before his scheduled execution. About twelve hours before his execution was to commence, Justice Alito entered an unprecedented order calling for supplemental briefing – within just a couple of hours – on the matter of Mr. Christeson’s authorization of his pro bono counsel to represent him. Phillips Black relied extensively on the aforementioned declarations resulting from the interviews conducted with the assistance of the SLU students.

Phillips Black also established in 2014/15 an intensive clinical placement relationship with the University of California, Berkeley’s Law School. Perennially, Berkeley Law places several students with our practice.

Beginning the Fall 2015 term, Phillips Black established an externship relationship with the Washington University School of Law, permitting students to join the SLU Law clinical program for capital matters in Missouri.

Each winter, Phillips Black anticipates hosting externships from Harvard Law School, where several second-year students may spend most of in January working intensively with Phillips Black’s practice in Missouri. The HLS externs will then continue their Missouri work through their spring term. 

In 2016, Phillips Black began partnering with University of California, Hastings College of Law.  Those students are involved in our death penalty cases at every stage of litigation.