Strother Scores Victory in Virginia Supreme Court

For Philip Carter Strother (Fellows Class, 1997) in Richmond, Va., getting a law degree was a critical component in his plans for the future. “I wanted to have the tools, the education, and the training to make a difference,” he explained.

And what a difference he’s made already. Strother, 36, who grew up absorbing the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, recently scored a major land use victory before the Virginia Supreme Court. Representing a small group of homeowners — many of whose families had lived on the same property since at least the Civil War — Strother stopped the world’s largest brick-making company from moving in and making itself comfortable in the bucolic Piedmont crossroads of Barboursville, Va.

The trouble all started when the local governing body agreed to give the company a special use permit to move its mining operation into the area. The residents and local tourism-related businesses were appalled. It would mean the end of their community as they knew it.

For Strother, who grew up listening to his grandfather speak reverently about the land and the need for sound stewardship, the conflict resonated soundly. He took on the homeowners’ case — and the brick-making giant, General Shale. It was a logical fight for Strother to get involved in. With a lifelong grounding in the need to preserve both the natural and the economic resources of the area — tourism is big in this area — Strother set about in the 1990s getting the substantive
knowledge and practical skills he would need.

At Cooley, Strother honed his client skills at the Sixty Plus, Inc., Elderlaw Clinic. “It was hands-on training. You really work with people one-on-one. It quickens the speed where you have to develop your professional skills,” he recalled. “You step into the role of an attorney — that gets your adrenaline going! There is pressure to develop those skills.”

With those skills in hand, Strother headed immediately to George Washington Law School in Washington, D.C., where he earned an LL.M. in environmental law and land use. He spent the next two years in the environmental and land use litigation department at a large law firm in Richmond, Va., laboring on behalf of corporate clients. Learning quickly, as he diplomatically put it, “that this was not where I ultimately wanted to be,” Strother struck out on his own and opened his own law firm in Richmond in September 2000.

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