Six lawyers appointed to the Joint Commission on Women in the Profession
The Missouri Bar Board of Governors appointed six lawyers in March to serve on the Joint Commission on Women in the Profession. Lynne Bratcher, Mollie G. Mohan, Christa B. Moss, Thomas K. Neill, Dawn M. Parsons, and Kristen Paulsmeyer will serve on the commission, which is charged with assessing the status of women in the profession, identifying barriers to their advancement, combating bias in the justice system and in the legal profession, and with securing full and equal participation of women in the legal profession.
Lynne Bratcher, a lawyer with Bratcher Gockel Law LC in Independence, has been practicing for 37 years. She says that when she began there were few female trial lawyers, especially in the plaintiffs’ bar. Bratcher says she has always been interested in making the profession of law more inviting to women.
“I had to figure out how to raise two kids, maintain my marriage to a non-lawyer, while keeping up with male colleagues trying cases who had fewer domestic responsibilities,” Bratcher said. “I want to make it easier for the public to have the great benefit of women working in the profession.”
Bratcher notes that she is most excited about the commission inspiring women, not only to aspire to judgeships and partnerships, but also to creating their own law firms.
“Entrepreneurship fosters creativity and can change aspects of the practice of law for the better.”
Mollie Mohan believes that we all benefit when we increase our perspectives beyond our own personal experience. Mohan is a shareholder in the St. Louis firm Tueth Keeney, where she also serves as chair of its diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. While Mohan says she is fortunate to be a shareholder in a majority-women-owned law firm, she recognizes that not all women have the same experience.
“[…] women only make up 24% of partnership at law firms – but women are graduating law school at a rate of 52%,” Mohan said. “There is clearly a disconnect that exists between the number of women attorneys and the opportunities women attorneys receive for advancement.”
Mohan notes she is excited to learn more about the barriers women face and craft creative solutions to help promote the development and advancement of women lawyers.
Christa Moss has also joined the commission. Moss, a member of The Missouri Bar Board of Governors representing the Southern District, lives in Springfield, where she serves as a civil assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri. Moss is an alumna of The Missouri Bar Leadership program and is actively involved in regional bars and organizations.
Thomas K. Neill, who practices with Gray, Ritter & Graham P.C. in St. Louis, has served on the commission since its 2013 founding. Neill notes every lawyer has an interest in ensuring that all lawyers are treated equally, and he says he enjoys that the commission is task-oriented.
“The commission is charged with addressing weighty issues, including combating bias and securing equal participation for women in our profession,” Neill said. “The members of the commission don’t simply debate those issues, but instead tackle them, often with considerable success.”
Dawn Parsons, shareholder in Shaffer Lombardo Shurin PC in Kansas City, has also witnessed the various barriers women in the profession face. She says she hopes that, during her time on the commission, she can contribute to developing actionable steps to recruit, retain, and promote women in the profession.
“Women have been graduating at the same rate or in greater rates than men for more than 25 years, but women are woefully underrepresented as first chair trial attorneys, equity partners, and in law firm management,” Parsons said. “I have personally seen extremely talented women attorneys leave the profession at significantly higher rates than their male colleagues. I want to remove the structural and institutional barriers that seem to push women out of the profession.”
Kristen Paulsmeyer, chief counsel to the Missouri Department of Commerce and Insurance, says she is most excited to collaborate with other members of the commission and advance the legal profession.
“This past year highlighted how many working parents struggled to work remotely and simultaneously facilitate remote learning for children. As new challenges arise, it’s critical for the commission to stay informed of emerging issues and their impact on the legal profession,” Paulsmeyer said. “My goals for the commission include continuing to serve as a forum to consider the unique challenges still faced by Missouri women in the legal profession and striving to address those challenges through systemic change and education of fellow Missouri Bar members and the public at large.”
Click here to learn more about the work of the Joint Commission on Women in the Profession.