Representing the sixth generation of her family to practice law in Carter County, Laura Jane Phelps is now part of the team at Wilhoit Law Office in Grayson.
“Let’s just say I would have been the first person in the family not to pass the bar,” Phelps said, quickly adding her family never pushed her into law, and clearly encouraged her to pursue other interests.
Even as a child, however, Phelps said she never had any question about following the family tradition.
Born and raised in Versailles, Kentucky Phelps was a member of the Woodford County High School Class of 2013. She passed the bar exam in July, following completion of her studies (including German language) at the University of Kentucky. She was sworn in by judicial officials early, allowing her to get to work in Grayson.
“I wanted to get started in law work at Wilhoit Law Office with my uncle, Will Wilhoit,” she said.
Laura Jane Phelps is the daughter of retired German teacher Wes Phelps, of South Shore, and District Judge Mary Jane Phelps of Grayson.
Carter County has always been a welcoming place, she said.
“I was here for every holiday and always came into town for the Memory Days parade every year.”
The initial decision to relocate and practice law in Grayson was daunting, although Phelps knew she had outstanding support here.
“I was nervous at first because I don’t have any friends here, but I knew I had my family. We have grown so much closer in the past few months and that and that helped me with the decision to come back and practice here,” she said.
At Wilhoit Law Office, Phelps said the staff are essentially ready to help with “whatever walks in the front door,” from personal injury cases to estates and domestic matters.
“I love my job and I love our staff. We have the best staff here – two of them with more than 20 years of experience each. We really work together and I could not do it without them.”
Her new boss has also proven to be an excellent mentor, she said.
“A lot of bosses at large firms don’t have time to walk you through and hold your hand, but Will Wilhoit has been great in taking the time to answer my questions and help me learn.”
Phelps does have a specific area of law she finds fascinating.
“I am passionate about civil litigation. I know it sounds boring, but I have always been drawn to … civil trials and how that process works.”
As the new girl in the office, Phelps has helped implement a few changes in procedure in addition to providing personality. She laughs as she explains team members have gotten used to the fact she wears fuzzy slippers instead of heels when she is working behind the desk or in the law library.
“You can ask the staff. I always have on my pink, unicorn slippers when I’m not wearing my high heels.”
The family’s weekly after-work session with Uncles Will and District Judge Rupert Wilhoit, along with grandfather Judge Henry Wilhoit, were also subject to amendment with Phelps in the circle.
“It used to be called ‘Boys Night Out’ but I demanded it be changed to something gender neutral … to some eye rolls. We agreed to call it The Wilhoit Bar Association.”
An unapologetic fan of the Dallas Cowboys, Phelps has a personal program to help disconnect from her daily work.
“I watch Netflix with my cat. His name is Astro. We like reality TV,” she said, laughing as she added “I won’t say which shows because I don’t want to be judged!”
With an office featuring cherry wood cut from the Wilhoit family farm in Pactolus around 75 years ago, Phelps said life in Grayson has been exceptional. She was able to show her Canadian boyfriend, Ryan, a little about the place when he visited in October.
“He loved it,” she said, explaining they visited Keeneland and attended and SEC game before getting a taste of local flavor.
“Of course I brought him to Bayso’s!”
With a slight giggle, Phelps notes she often gets outstanding entertainment from the nearby sports pub when she is working late hours.
“I always appreciate the karaoke singers. It makes it … interesting.”
Wilhoit Law Office is located on Hord Street in Grayson. For more information visit wilhoitlaw.com or call (606) 474-8833.
Members of the Wilhoit family began practicing law in Grayson in 1867.
E.B. Wilhoit (1842-1919)
C.B. Wilhoit (1888-1958)
H.R. “Dutch” Wilhoit (1912-1967)
Judge Henry R. Wilhoit, Jr.
Judge Mary Jane Phelps
Judge Rupert Wilhoit
William H. Wilhoit
Andrew H. Wilhoit
Laura Jane Phelps
Kathryn L. Wilhoit will graduate from Notre Dame Law School in May.
Story and Photos by TIM PRESTON
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