Like any attorney fresh out of law school, Chris Phillips didn’t know quite what to expect when he joined Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis in 2003. What he did know was that the Nashville-based firm was pairing him with a more senior attorney and he would be working in an industry with tremendous potential for growth.
Phillips, now a partner and one of five attorneys in the firm’s Austin office, has made the most of both opportunities. A quick study, he learned a lot from the more senior attorney before the attorney went in-house with a client. And over the last decade, he has become one of the nation’s leading experts on the legal side of the payments industry, where he assists clients that facilitate financial transactions between the buyer and seller.
Question: Tell us a little bit about your practice area?
Answer: I work primarily for companies in the payments industry. I represent national and international buyers and sellers in the acquisition, disposition, financing, and operation of payment processing and financial technology companies. I also help them with securities, operational, and compliance issues as well as key vendor and technology agreements.
Historically, most of the clients that I work for have been in the payment card and credit card processing industry of the merchant/acceptance side of things. In the simplest terms, when one swipes the card at the restaurant, we work for those who process those transactions.
Q: Why did you move from the Nashville office to the Austin office?
A: Some of it was driven by family and finding the right schools for my kids. The firm was happy to have me here, since I had worked in the Nashville office, and many of the other attorneys in Austin had just joined the firm. At the time that I moved here, the idea was maybe we could expand my practice to a bigger technology practice. But the payments industry has kept me very busy. The way you get new business is you make clients happy. Then when they leave to go to a new company or start a new business, they call you. This scenario has played out a lot since I have been in Austin.
Q: What do you like most about being a lawyer, especially in the payments industry?
A: I like that I work with a lot of smart people, whether it is with my fellow attorneys at Waller, or those opposite me at other law firms, or my clients, who are typically really smart business people.
In a lot of ways, I am more technician, than lawyer. I like facing interesting questions. I like taking vague ideas and converting them into technical language that works.