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A lawyer's lawyer: divorce specialist Phil Dixon gives profession a good name, associates say.

MAURICE MITCHELL HAS known Philip Dixon since Dixon's first job as a lawyer in the late 1950s.

"If all lawyers were like Phil Dixon, we would have a better standing as far as the public is concerned," says Mitchell of the Little Rock law firm Mitchell Williams Selig Gates & Woodyard. "His integrity is beyond reproach."

It is not just Dixon's friends who say this.

His sincerity is his strength in the courtroom. Chancellors, juries and even other attorneys believe him.

Professionally, the 60-year-old Little Rock lawyer in the Dover & Dixon firm has come a long way from his first job.

Legal assistance in the south Arkansas town of Warren was not in large demand then, and Dixon says he practically starved while trying to work and feed his family.

But, in addition to establishing a reputation as a gentleman above everything else, Dixon has become known as a top divorce lawyer, in part because of some of the prominent people he's represented.

For instance, in 1991 alone he represented Mary Anne Stephens (vs. Jack Stephens), Darlene Bell (vs. Melvyn Bell) and Nancy Roy (vs. Dr. Hamp Roy).

While Dixon spends half his time on divorce cases, he does other defense and trial work for such Little Rock clients as St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center and First Commercial Corp.

Dixon says the divorce work is emotional and draining and he could not do it if he didn't have a stable marriage himself. He and his wife, Susan, will have been married 39 years this June.

Sometimes Dixon substitutes as a chancellor in divorce cases.

"Sitting on the other side of the bench is very helpful," he says.

If he had it to do over again, though, Dixon says he would have chosen to specialize in tax law.

He says, "People who have tax problems are people who have money."

But Dixon is good with divorce cases.

For reasons Dixon finds inexplicable, he usually represents the female in a divorce case.

Ed Dillon, a former senior partner in House Holmes Butler & Jewell -- the firm Dixon joined when he moved to Little Rock in 1960 -- says the only enemies Dixon probably has made are the husbands whose wives chose Dixon to represent them in their divorce cases.

The House firm, which had 52 lawyers, eventually split into different firms. In 1990, Dover & Dixon was formed.

Dixon says he has no intentions of retiring soon.

He is active in the Arkansas Bar Association, most recently in helping foster a program for assisting minorities and women in the law.

"He gave it the same gusto I used to remember him giving in the courtroom," says Jack Holt Jr., chief justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Dixon, though, appreciates some new found free time he has with just 15 lawyers at the Dover & Dixon firm. He says, "I'm enjoying watching 'LA Law' again."

He also grows roses and has found a new love of cooking.

To relieve stress, Dixon walks on a treadmill and uses a speed punching bag, which he says is particularly helpful "if you put a name on it every once in a while."

Dixon's friends might be surprised to hear that.

"He's the perfect gentleman," says William "Buddy" Sutton of the Friday Eldredge & Clark firm. Sutton and Dixon went to law school together. And Sutton echoes what Maurice Mitchell has to say.

"I just wish all lawyers were like Phil Dixon."
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Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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