Craig Kaiser, B.A. ’83, J.D. ’86, is a founding partner of Houston business law firm Phillips Kaiser, which recently launched The Legacy Project, a diversity initiative aimed at making the legal profession more diverse.
Kaiser began practicing law with a Houston firm that is now called Bracewell, where he gained practical experience that prepared him for the field. He worked in-house for Compaq, where he learned how a lawyer can help a business succeed, before joining Phillips & Reiter PLLC. In 2017, Kaiser and his longtime law partner Greg Phillips founded Phillips Kaiser, a firm that primarily provides general counsel for small and mid-sized companies.
With more than 30 years of experience under his belt, Kaiser realized that he wanted to create something that can have a lasting impact on the legal profession. He also saw a need for creative, innovative and intentional efforts aimed at increasing diversity in business law. With Phillips’ help, The Legacy Project was born.
“We can really create opportunity where there hasn’t been opportunity and where there should be,” Kaiser said. “And maybe we can create some structure that lives on beyond my own practice.”
The Legacy Project, which started about a year ago, is a program in which minority lawyers join Phillips Kaiser and participate in unique training aimed at tangible skills as well as the kind of capabilities Kaiser has developed over his three decades as a lawyer. For example, Kaiser teaches how to cultivate a relationship in which the lawyer is seen as a strategic partner in addition to teaching traditional legal communication . The program goes beyond hiring diverse lawyers and is centered around helping minority lawyers develop specific skills.
“We don’t want our firm to only be a landing spot for a few lawyers but a launching pad,” Kaiser said. “We want to develop them, not simply create a few jobs for lawyers in our firm.”
Two lawyers are currently in the program, and Phillips Kaiser is in the process of recruiting a third. They hope to launch training in June and continue implementing significant training on a quarterly basis. Additionally, two large clients and a potential third are engaged in the program, giving it momentum. Phillips Kaiser looks to develop a strategic partnership with a major client or company that shares their vision of growing diversity.
“In all of society, we need to recognize there are lots of different types of people and lots of different backgrounds — and experiences and skills and weaknesses,” Kaiser said. “We’re better as a group. We’re better with everyone’s voice being heard.”