CARTER PHILLIPS is one of the most experienced Supreme Court and appellate lawyers in the country. Since joining Sidley, Carter has argued 80 cases before the Supreme Court, more than any other lawyer in private practice. Prior to joining Sidley, Carter served as an Assistant to the Solicitor General and in that position he argued nine cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of the United States government. He thus currently has a total of 89 oral arguments before the Supreme Court. He also has argued 150 times before the United States Courts of Appeals, including at least one argument in every circuit and 40 cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. He also has been a co-director of Northwestern University School of Law’s Supreme Court Clinic and an adjunct professor at the law school for more than 15 years. At the outset of his career, Carter clerked for Judge Robert Sprecher on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and for Chief Justice Warren E. Burger on the United States Supreme Court.
Carter’s advocacy on behalf of clients has earned him acknowledgement in numerous publications. An academic study of Supreme Court briefs from 1946 to 2013 found Carter to be one of the most successful lawyers to argue in front of the Supreme Court. The analysis, “Who Wins in the Supreme Court? An Examination of Attorney and Law Firm Influence,” led the author to conclude that “not only is Phillips a seasoned Supreme Court litigator, but he is also one of the most successful Supreme Court brief-writers.”
In recognition of Carter’s litigation success, he has been ranked among the nation’s top lawyers by Chambers USA, The Legal 500 United States, Benchmark Litigation, The Best Lawyers in America, Who’s Who Legal, and the National Law Journal. He consistently is recognized by Chambers USA as being in the nation’s top tier of appellate lawyers and regularly receives the directory’s highest level “Star” ranking. That publication said that Carter is “one of the leading lights of the appellate Bar, described as ‘a truly unique talent’ whose incredible expertise sees him appear frequently before the Supreme Court.” Over the years, sources have told Chambers that he is “in a league of his own” with “a CV that stretches from the U.S. to London,” noting especially that he “enjoys a lot of credibility with the Supreme Court and has an amazing track record,” and that “there’s nobody quite like him on an appellate issue.” Benchmark Litigation also named Carter a “Litigation Star,” calling him “a household name” in the appellate world (2022–2023).
In August 2022, Carter was honored by The American Lawyer with the “Lifetime Achievement Award.” The prestigious award honors “an esteemed group of seasoned lawyers, recognizing the indelible mark they’ve left on the legal profession.” In May 2020, Law.com named Carter a “Litigator of the Week” for his contribution in the historic win in the Detroit Public School literacy case that he argued in the Sixth Circuit. In 2015, Carter was named to The National Law Journal’s list of Litigation Trailblazers. In The Legal 500, he is recommended as a “Leading Lawyer,” and in 2017 was added to its “Hall of Fame.” Carter was named to the 2013 National Law Journal list of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.” Most recently he was named one of the 2022 "Lawyers of the Year" by Best Lawyers for work in: Litigation – First Amendment in Washington, DC. He was also named one of the 2020 “Lawyers of the Year” in the area of Litigation – Regulatory Enforcement (SEC, Telecom, Energy), one of the 2019 “Lawyers of the Year” in the area of Media Law and one of the 2012 “Lawyers of the Year” in the area of Litigation - Regulatory Enforcement by Best Lawyers. Carter is currently recognized by Best Lawyers for work in Appellate, Bet-The-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, First Amendment Litigation, Patent Litigation, Media Law and Regulatory Enforcement Litigation (SEC, Telecom, Energy). Every year since 2013, Washingtonian magazine has recognized Carter to its list of Washington’s “Best Lawyers” as one of the region’s “best legal minds” for his Supreme Court practice, and he was named to its “Top Lawyers Hall of Fame” (2022). He has been listed in the top 10 among Super Lawyers magazine’s Top 100 lawyers in Washington, from 2007–2022, based on a vote of peers. Carter was honored as one of “The Decade’s Most Influential Lawyers” in 2010 by The National Law Journal. Recognized as one of the lawyers who has “defined a decade” with “a reputation as the point man for high-level appellate cases.” Carter was noted in the Journal for his successful representation of clients in the Supreme Court, and his pro bono and other appellate representations. A year earlier, he was named one of the “90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years” by the Legal Times.
Carter’s practice has been featured in articles in Forbes, the American Lawyer, Business Week, Legal Times, The National Law Journal, USA Today, and Legal Business (a publication in England). He frequently speaks at conferences, law schools and before industry groups regarding his experience before the Supreme Court.