Storyteller: Holmen, Phyllis
Interviewer: Houseman, Alan
Date of interview: 2014-11-13
Topics: Civil legal aid: General
Geo, US: GA
NEJL I.D.: NEJL-009.084
Georgetown status: Video upon request
Link to NEJL page: http://aspace.ll.georgetown.edu/public/repositories/2/archival_objects/355
NEJL AV link:
Transcript link: Transcript
Transcript notes: NCRF
Consortium status: Gtn info copied
Abstract: The interview was conducted at the National Legal Aid & Defender Association meeting in Arlington, Virginia.
Phyllis Holmen retires after 43 years of public service with Georgia Legal Services Program —
Georgia Legal Services Program Executive Director Phyllis J. Holmen is retiring after 43 years of public service.
“I went to law school with a vision of making a difference in the world,” says Holmen. “I am grateful to have enjoyed a wonderful career doing exactly what I wanted to do.” Holmen’s career with GLSP began after she completed law school at the University of Illinois in 1974, and relocated to Georgia for a job with GLSP. Holmen rose through the ranks of GLSP, eventually becoming GLSP’s third executive director in 1990.
GLSP is Georgia’s top-notch nonprofit law firm in the State dedicated to serving the most vulnerable who have no other place to turn for legal services. GLSP’s mission is to provide civil legal services for persons with low incomes, creating equal access to justice and opportunities out of poverty. Members from the former Younger Lawyers Section of the State Bar of Georgia founded GLSP in 1971. These founders, including J. Ben Shapiro, Jr., William “Bill” Ide, A. James Elliott, and the late Phil Heiner and Betsey Neely, to name a few, studied the need for lawyers for the poor and found a distressing disproportion between the need for legal services by the poor and the availability of legal services for them.
GLSP has a central office in Atlanta and 10 regional offices that serve 154 of Georgia’s 159 counties outside metro Atlanta. In 2016, GLSP closed nearly 10,000 cases and handled 107,000 calls from its statewide intake program.
GLSP Board President Shalamar Parham is working on an executive search committee with former GLSP Board President Patrick Flinn and a diverse group of board members and staff attorneys with a goal to have an executive director hired by early spring 2018. “Phyllis’s extraordinary leadership during good times and difficult times, and her passion for the importance of civil legal aid in the fight against poverty have set the bar high for her successor,” says Parham. “We are optimistic that we will identify the right candidate who will be able to carry on the legacy Phyllis has left for GLSP and lead the organization successfully.”
Holmen has served on the State Bar of Georgia Board of Governors for 25 years and nearly 20 years on the State Bar of Georgia Executive Committee. She served on the Georgia Supreme Court Indigent Defense Commission and helped to draft legislation that resulted in a completely new statewide system of appointed counsel for indigent defendants. For many years, Holmen served on Governor Roy Barnes’ Judicial Nominating Commission, helping to select judges for Georgia’s appellate courts. Holmen has served on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, and on the board of directors, and held leadership positions with the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the National Senior Citizens Law Center, the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, the American Bar Association President’s Task Force on Access to Civil Justice, and the Judicial Council of Georgia’s Pro Se Litigants Committee. Holmen co-founded the Women’s Policy Group, which advocated for progressive policies for Georgia’s women for more than 20 years. She has been recognized by Georgia Trend magazine as one of Georgia’s “Legal Elite,” and by the Atlanta Business Chronicle among Atlanta’s “Who’s Who in Law and Accounting.”
Holmen’s awards and recognitions include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the ALM publication of the Daily Report (2016); Commitment to Equality Award to GLSP from the State Bar of Georgia Committee to Promote Inclusion in the Profession (2015); prestigious Hodson Award to GLSP for Outstanding Public Service from the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association (2014); R.E. Thomas Civil Rights Award to GLSP from the Gate City Bar Association (2014); GABWA’s Zenith Award to GLSP for Service to the Community (2013); Milner Ball Working in the Public Interest Student Achievement Award from WIPI Law Conference of the University of Georgia School of Law (2008); the Elbert P. Tuttle Jurisprudence Award from the Anti-Defamation League (2008); EPIC Inspiration Lifetime Commitment to Public Service Award from Emory Public Interest Committee, Emory University School of Law (2007); Distinguished Alumna Award from the University of Illinois College of Law (2006), the first legal aid lawyer to be honored; Lifetime Achievement Award from the Atlanta Bar Association 2005; Traditions of Excellence Award from the State Bar of Georgia’s General Practice and Trial Section of the State Bar of Georgia (2005); Kathleen Kessler Award from the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers (2002); and the CHRIStal Vision Award from CHRIS Homes (2002).