Stephen Phelps, who retired in 2009 after 30 years of law practice, is the original founder of Phelps LaClair. As a young attorney back in the early 1980’s, Stephen had the courage to “hang out his shingle” and, as he puts it, sit around and wait for the phone to ring… and ring it did! Over his 30 years of practice, Stephen helped thousands of clients plan for the future. Stephen was preparing Living Trusts for his clients at a time when hardly anyone knew what a Living Trust was. Today, those trusts have withstood the test of time and have served his clients and their families well.
Stephen is loved by his clients. They appreciated his experience, practical wisdom and sense of humor as he counseled them – not just as their attorney but as their close friend.
Stephen’s son, James, and all of us at Phelps LaClair are grateful for his foresight because we now have the privilege of working with the families who he counseled, and we see their estate plans work in real life… and they really do work!
James Phelps is a partner at Phelps LaClair. Born and raised in Arizona, James has strong ties to the state where his family has resided for several generations. He developed a passion for the practice of law at a young age when he worked alongside his father, who is also an estate planning attorney, for many years before attending law school. James has been practicing law since 1999 and devotes his law practice exclusively to estate planning and trust administration and enjoys helping clients achieve peace of mind by preventing “fires” instead of having to put them out.
James has counseled thousands of clients who have benefited from trusts and estate plans that protect wealth, minimize estate taxes and avoid probate. His clients come from all walks of life and have both modest and wealthy estates. James has the unique experience of having handled hundreds of trusts and estates after people have passed away and knows what works and doesn’t when the time comes. James truly enjoys educating others on the importance of estate planning and presents dozens of estate planning seminars each year to organizations, clients and the public.
James graduated summa cum laude in accounting from Arizona State University in 1996, after which he attended law school at J. Reuben Clark Law School and graduated cum laude in 1999. He is a longstanding member of the State Bar of Arizona Probate and Trust Section, WealthCounsel, the Maricopa County Bar Association and the J. Reuben Clark Law Society.
James and his wife, Jolene, have three very active children. He is passionate about living a healthy and balanced life and loves to coach and play competitive tennis. James shares his love of sports with kids as a volunteer coach, and on weekends he enjoys backpacking, camping, paddle boarding and other high adventure activities.
Jeffrey LaClair is a partner at Phelps LaClair and an experienced estate planning and tax attorney. Jeffrey focuses his practice in the areas of estate planning, taxation, wealth preservation planning and business succession planning. Jeffrey designs customized plans using trusts and business entities to help clients preserve their assets, minimize taxes and avoid probate.
Jeffrey received his Masters of Laws degree in Taxation with a specialization in Estate Planning from New York University, the top tax program in the country. Jeffrey graduated valedictorian of his law school class and holds a law degree, summa cum laude, from St. Thomas University School of Law (Miami, Florida). Jeffrey received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western Michigan University, Haworth College of Business, with a major in personal finance.
Starting off in the finance industry, Jeffrey has always enjoyed helping families plan for the future. In his early years as a lawyer, Jeffrey combined his passion of helping others with his understanding of the tax laws by focusing on tax planning and tax controversy work. Now, after having seen first-hand the financial and emotional stress that comes with family fights and IRS disputes, Jeff focuses his practice on comprehensive estate planning that integrates tax planning and business succession planning to proactively avoid family and IRS disputes from happening down the road.
Jeffrey has a particular interest in helping families with special needs children. Starting in high school, Jeffrey had the opportunity to teach students with developmental disabilities and coach Special Olympics. During his career, Jeffrey has continued to work with various organizations devoted to assisting individuals with disabilities including Sharing Down Syndrome and the Special Olympics.
Jeffrey is admitted to practice in the states of Arizona, New York and Florida. Prior to joining Phelps LaClair, Jeffrey was an attorney with Mazur Carp & Rubin (now Schiff Hardin, LLP) in Manhattan, New York and Nason, Yeager, Gerson, White & Lioce, P.A., in West Palm Beach, Florida. Jeffrey is a member of Wealth Counsel.
Jeffrey enjoys spending time with his family and friends, playing sports, hiking, mountain biking and exploring the Arizona outdoors.
Ryan Downs is a partner at Phelps LaClair and an experienced estate planning attorney practicing since 2015. Prior to relocating to the State of Arizona, he practiced in the State of Georgia with particular focus in the areas of estate planning, probate, and real estate law. Ryan obtained his law degree from the University of Tulsa College of Law and received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith.
Having practiced many different areas of law, Ryan values the proactive nature of estate planning and the benefits it provides to his clients. Ryan has witnessed firsthand the stress and uncertainty heirs experience when a loved one passes away without an appropriately planned estate. He enjoys working with clients to ensure peace of mind for both them and their loved ones.
Originally hailing from Oklahoma, Ryan enjoys taking advantage of Arizona’s year-round warm weather with his wife and daughter. The Downs family enjoys playing and watching sports, hiking, and spending time with friends and family. Ryan’s favorite time of the year is fall during which he roots for his Oklahoma Sooners on Saturdays and his Tennessee Titans on Sundays (with the occasional Thursday and Monday).
Leighten is an attorney at Phelps LaClair and has focused her practice exclusively on estate planning. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona and her law degree from University of Illinois Chicago. The thing Leighten enjoys most about being an estate planning attorney is the ability to assist individuals and families in protecting the people and things they care most about and helping clients create their lasting legacy. One of the most rewarding aspects of Leighten’s career is getting to know her clients well and establishing a close relationship with them as their trusted advisor.
Leighten grew up on a cattle ranch northeast of Tucson, along the San Pedro River. Leighten is married and has two young boys. She cheers for all Arizona sports teams, with the exception of ASU. Her husband’s family is from Pittsburgh so she also roots for the Pirates and Penguins, and as unfortunate as it is for a Cardinals fan, that also includes the Steelers. In her spare time Leighten likes to spend time with her big extended family and close friends.
Chelsea Alisoglu is an experienced paralegal who joined the Phelps LaClair team in 2017. Her in-depth knowledge of estate planning allows her to effectively communicate with clients and assist them with understanding their estate plans and navigating the probate process.
Chelsea received her Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Political Science and English at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Before becoming an estate planning paralegal, Chelsea worked in corporate and civil litigation during and after pursuing her education and in family law after relocating to Arizona. Having previously worked in contentious areas of law, Chelsea truly appreciates the selfless and compassionate nature of estate planning.
As a Michigan native, Chelsea enjoys taking advantage of Arizona’s weather and diverse landscape, traveling, reading, cooking, and spending time with her family and dog, Freya.
Emily has been a valued member of the Phelps LaClair team since February 2019. As a nationally certified Paralegal and Notary for the State of Arizona, Emily excels at assisting clients with the details needed to make an estate plan run smoothly.
After graduating from Phoenix College in 2015 with a degree in Applied Science in Paralegal Studies with high distinction, Emily worked for a disability law firm in Scottsdale helping those in need apply and receive disability benefits. Having grown up in Mesa, Emily eagerly accepted a position with Phelps LaClair, where she continues to enjoy helping others as they put their plans in place to protect and provide for their businesses, families, and loved ones.
In addition to working at Phelps LaClair, Emily enjoys spending time with her four children, dog Romeo, and her family and friends.
Tia Hammack is the firm’s office manager. Tia has worked in the legal field for over 20 years as a Legal Secretary, Paralegal, Legal Assistant and Office Manager. As a Montana native, Tia is enjoying the sunshine and not having to shovel snow. She enjoys camping, hiking, boating and entertaining friends and family who come to visit.
Heather Sorrentino is a legal assistant with the firm. She has over 20 years of experience as an administrator and title clerk. She enjoys spending time with family, especially her daughter, going to the movies, and visiting the aquarium.