Executive Summary: Lawyers - Leaders for this time
Vol. 76, No. 4 / July - August 2020
Mischa Buford Epps
Mischa Buford Epps is executive director of The Missouri Bar.
As a kid in Sunday school, I learned the scriptures and the important role lawyers have played in securing the rights of people who looked like me.
Without the genius of Charles Hamilton Houston or the tireless efforts of Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley, George L. Vaughn, Margaret Bush Wilson, and so many others, I would not have had the opportunity to live in the neighborhoods where I grew up, attend the University of Texas School of Law, practice law at a big firm in Kansas City, or serve in my current role at the bar. As advocates and advisers, lawyers have been essential in helping our country move closer to that more perfect union that values and empowers all its people.
The senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and unnamed others have illuminated legacies of our country’s tortured racial past, allowing us to confront and better understand who we once were as a country, contextualize the present moment, and inspire hope for our future. This summer, thousands of Americans from all walks of life have taken to the streets to protest, calling for police reform, greater accountability, and an end to systemic injustice. As lawyers, we can assist in the healing process by actively listening to the perspectives being shared at this time and helping to reform the law and our justice system as needed. The preamble to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 4 admonishes that we, as lawyers, play a critical part in rebuilding the public trust and confidence in the legal institutions on which our constitutional democracy depends.
Across the state, in our cities, small towns and rural communities, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to examine and evaluate how our everyday actions impact our friends and neighbors. We have become acutely aware of our interconnected reality, which affects our livelihood and well-being. That same interconnected reality exists in the necessity of addressing systemic inequities, seeking justice, and strengthening the rule of law.
Providing for, promoting, and protecting justice for all are at the heart of The Missouri Bar’s mission. Our state bar exists to improve the law and the administration of justice by working daily to protect the public and support Missouri lawyers. As lawyers, we are problem solvers and must use our unique legal training, talent, skill sets, and positions of leadership and influence for the betterment of society and to ensure that the rule of law is fairly and equitably applied.
This time is not just about adopting woke symbols or hosting feel-good webinars and returning to the pre-COVID status quo. We have to roll up our sleeves, sit down at the table, and do the hard work of having uncomfortable conversations and coming up with real-life solutions to address racial disparities, rethink how our police departments function and interact with the communities they serve, combat a virulent coronavirus adversary, and equip lawyers and others to navigate the economic challenges ahead. Individual and collective action is needed. The Missouri Bar remains committed to do our part to encourage, assist, and support lawyers in working towards the fair and impartial administration of justice. Here are ways you can help:
- Volunteer your legal services to those in need through the Missouri Free Legal Answers program at Missouri.FreeLegalAnswers.org
- Take part in ongoing efforts to address access to justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession by joining the bar’s Access to Justice Committee or Committee on Diversity
- Learn more or share information regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession at the bar’s new Diversity & Inclusion Resources page on mobar.org
- Share your suggestions and ideas about additional actions lawyers can take by emailing ListenNow@MoBar.org
There is much work to be done. Please join in the effort to engage, listen, learn, and then act to deliver on the promise of equal justice for all.