Proyecto ACCESO lost a fine lawyer and a great friend.

Proyecto ACCESO just lost one of its earliest supporters, Arizona attorney Phil Robbins, who passed peacefully at home on March 20, 2018, at age 85. Professor James Cooper asked me to say something about our dear friend, and I am happy and honored to do so.

Phil was, to paraphrase Sonora attorney Juan Francisco Moreno, Arizona's first "international lawyer." I believe (although I was only 7 years old at the time) that Phil was involved in the 1959 founding of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, a cross-border, cross-cultural body he worked with for decades thereafter, for a time as its President.  

I met Phil many years ago, on opposite sides of a case I scarcely remember. Years passed and, in 1999, Phil and I went to Chile together. Invited by Professor Cooper, we represented Cal Western’s Proyecto ACCESO – meaning,  as you know, ‘Abogados Creativos Colaborando para Encontrar Soluciones Óptimas.’ We gave a few speeches about arbitration and mediation, attended several meetings, met a lot of people, traveled to several cities and began to get to know each other.

The Chile trip started an association that included ACCESO trips to Costa Rica to train lawyers and judges, to Mexico to see clients, working together on the Board of Directors of the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade (which Phil chaired for many years) and co-counseling on a few hefty, cross-border litigation matters. I watched Phil work hard to revive and grow the U.S.-Mexico Bar Association, serving as its U.S. Chair for a couple of years. Also a longtime member of the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, Phil’s profile as a truly international lawyer is unmatched.
Deeply respected as an advocate, Phil was inducted into the Maricopa County Bar Association Hall of Fame in 2010.

In the years leading up to his 2017 retirement, Phil sought mediation and arbitration opportunities, keeping it international whenever possible. In a difficult US-Mexico produce dispute, opposing counsel and I convinced Phil to take a stab at mediating a solution. Despite his keen eye for details and gentle insistence, we could not resolve the case, but working with Phil was, as usual, a pleasure. 

From circulating at high levels in the international legal community, to acting as an overseas election monitor with Jimmy Carter, to serving on the NAFTA 2022 Committee, to attending University of Arizona basketball games (Phil remained a lifelong Arizona Wildcat fan despite spending his legal career too close to Tempe Normal. Now known as Arizona State), Phil always exhibited precisely what all of us saw: quiet, humble wisdom, good humor, common sense and insight. 

The international bar and Proyecto ACCESO lost a fine lawyer and a great friend. I extend my condolences to his wife Carolyn and the rest of his family.

Michael Mandig