Additional seats created to expand diversity on Young Lawyers’ Section Council
Christa Moss answers the phone with energy, excited to talk about the expansion of diversity seats for the Young Lawyers’ Section Council of The Missouri Bar. As a current member of the YLS Council and the Southern District diversity seat representative on the state bar’s Board of Governors, she’s been using that energy to highlight opportunities for new lawyers and identify ways to increase diversity and inclusion in the profession.
Moss said the YLS Council created a diversity seat several years ago through a pilot project and, based on the success of that position, voted earlier this year to update its bylaws to make that seat permanent as well as add two more diversity seats. Moss noted the original seat was designed to rotate between the eastern, western and southern appellate districts. By increasing the number of permanent diversity seats, each appellate district will now have a diversity seat representative and mirror the format of The Missouri Bar Board of Governors. Moss presented the YLS bylaws changes at the Board of Governors May 8, 2020, at which the board approved the proposed changes to the YLS Council structure.
Some may ask why it’s important to increase the number of permanent diversity seats on the YLS Council? Moss said beyond the obvious reason of increasing inclusion and retention of minority lawyers, YLS sponsors a variety of activities annually. Until this year, most activities meant to promote diversity were limited to regional social gatherings to bring young lawyers of different backgrounds together. Moss indicated that while networking was a fine goal, she was interested in finding ways to achieve greater impact.
As an example of the type of program Moss hopes the expanded diversity seats will promote, she helped put together an elimination of bias training utilizing the Milly Project* along with a panel of legal experts, including Chief Justice George W. Draper III and Judge Patricia Breckenridge of the Supreme Court of Missouri, as part of her tenure on the YLS Council. The program was successfully held in Springfield and St. Louis in partnership with several local bar associations, and other community and educational organizations. An additional program was scheduled for Kansas City but was canceled due to the pandemic.
With additional permanent diversity seats, Moss is certain that bigger and brighter ideas will be generated.
“I felt motivated to fulfill my responsibility to the YLS Council in this position by doing something more significant and impactful than just bringing people together for a social event,” Moss said. “I thought utilizing this dramatic performance and hosting a guided panel discussion afterward to allow people to process that information would help bring about greater understanding. With more people in these positions on the YLS Council, we will be able to produce more ideas which can have a much greater impact.”
The two additional diversity seats are not anticipated to require any additional funding. Nominations for the Eastern District diversity seat are being accepted through June 22, 2020, with an August election scheduled. The two additional seats will be initially filled through appointments to the council. A call for nominations for these new seats will be publicized in the coming weeks.
*The Milly Project is a play based on the life of Milly Sawyers, who successfully sued for her freedom in court in Springfield, Mo., in 1834. Willard High School students and faculty created a play which has become a tool to start community discussions about the elimination of bias.