Carissa Phelps


Leveraging her education, life experiences, and challenges she successfully built and launched a platform for survivors of all forms of human trafficking to create policies and educate policymakers and first responders about the impacts of human trafficking. Phelps is a sought-after speaker and ally to local communities, non-profit agencies and individuals. She has helped to bring national and local attention to human trafficking and has been part of significant changes in related legislation, policies, and procedures.

Phelps is the subject an award-winning documentary about her life, CARISSA, which premiered in 2008. The film, along with her 2012 memoir Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets One Helping Hand at a Time (Viking), are used across the country as teaching tools for child welfare professionals, human trafficking survivors, and advocates of justice reform.

What began as a journey to tell one story spurred on a movement for victims and survivors who were being ignored and/or being blamed for their victimization. Phelps founded Runaway Girl, FPC, a first-of-its-kind social purpose corporation, to help communities respond to human trafficking and inspire individuals who have survived human trafficking to embrace freedom and pursue their dreams.

A fierce advocate for victims’ rights and the provision of impactful and life-changing services for survivors, Phelps mentors survivor leaders. She also works with service providers to increase access to vital services for victims of human trafficking in local communities.

In addition to her law degree and Masters of Business Administration, Phelps earned a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics, summa cum laude, from California State University, Fresno. She has also received several honors and awards, including UCLA Anderson’s Top 100 Inspirational Alumni (2010) and Fresno State University’s Outstanding Alumni Award (2013).

Year Joined the Firm

  • 2019

Areas of Practice

Bar Admissions

  • California


  • Juris Doctorate, UCLA School of Law
  • Masters of Business Administration, UCLA Anderson
    Honors: Among first to participate in NET IMPACT student-led organization
    Toigo Fellow in Finance
  • Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, Fresno State University
    Honors: Summa Cum Laude
    4.0 GPA and Downing Scholar

Notable Honors and Recognition

  • UCLA Anderson’s Top 100 Inspirational Alumni (2010)
  • Fresno State University’s Outstanding Alumni Award (2013)
  • Award, Champion for Children, (ICAN) Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (2011)
  • Recognition and Honor, Los Angeles County Probation Department, Inspiring Hope Through Survivor Leadership (2012)
  • Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, by U.S. Congress (2013)

Media Appearances

  • Featured in major media outlets including, CNN, BBC News, ABC/Good Morning America, USA Today, Dallas Morning News, and more

Speaking Appearances

  • Law Enforcement and First Responder Trainings (2015-Present)
  • Institute on Violence Abuse & Trauma Conferences (2013, 2019)
  • Galas and Speaking Series at Conferences and Schools throughout the United States (2007-present)

Board Service

  • Empower Her Network (2019 – Present)
  • Board Member, California Against Slavery (CAS) (2014 – 2017)


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