LAWRENCEVILLE — It was standing-room-only Monday afternoon as friends and colleagues packed a courtroom to mourn Trey Phillips, an Army veteran and Lawrenceville defense attorney beloved by the local legal community.
Phillips, 43, died Friday after being struck by a car while riding his motorcycle. Chris McClurg, another local attorney who considered Phillips his best friend, said a Monday afternoon ceremony had to be moved after the original courtroom at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center couldn’t accommodate the large crowd of friends, family and colleagues.
A formal motion was filed in Phillip’s name and Judge Michael Clark issued an order recognizing the man McClurg called “the most zealous advocate for his clients.”
“He was so ferocious in the courtroom,” McClurg said, “but outside of the courtroom he was the nicest fella. He was the best of both worlds.”
Added attorney Bob Giannini: “He 100 percent put his clients’ interest first, and worried about where the chips would fall personally afterward.”
Phillips was killed just before 1:30 p.m. Friday while riding his motorcycle eastbound on Ga. Highway 316 near Sugarloaf Parkway, according to a police report.
The 18-year-old driver of a Chevrolet Cavalier, traveling west, failed to maintain her lane and struck a guardrail. The young woman overcorrected and crossed the grass median, spinning out and colliding with Phillips’ motorcycle, police said.
Both drivers sustained serious injuries and were transported to Gwinnett Medical Center, where Phillips passed away. Charges have not been filed as of Monday.
Giannini said he was planning to visit Phillips’ law firm on Duluth Highway during lunch Friday, but got called back to his own office at the last minute.
“I’ve seen attorneys pass away locally before,” Giannini said, “but I haven’t seen this level of shock before. He was in the prime of life.”
Before earning his law degree from the University of Georgia and beginning his practice in 2005, Phillips served eight years on active duty with the United State Army. A field medic, his decorated career included the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal and the Overseas Service Ribbon.
Phillips earned the Humanitarian Service Medal for his participation in medical rescue operations in southern Florida following Hurricane Andrew.
In his personal time, Phillips was in a motorcycle club and flew airplanes, McClurg said. He was fluent in German and Russian.
“He just loved life, loved everybody,” McClurg said. “He was just a great guy.”
Visitation is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Tom M. Wages Funeral Services' Lawrenceville chapel on Scenic Highway. Funeral services are scheduled for Thursday but an exact time has not be announced.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to Canine Pet Rescue, PO Box 248, Lawrenceville, Ga., 30046.
Giannini said members of the local bar would be coming together to take care of Phillips’ clients.