14:36 PM

Special Committee on Lawyers of Color report recommendations adopted

The Missouri Bar is committed to diversity and inclusion in the profession of law in Missouri. The bar’s strategic direction includes a specific goal to increase the retention of diverse lawyers and promote greater participation in bar leadership roles, but the ongoing question has been, how? 

“We know that lawyers of color are more likely to quit practicing law, especially if they are also women,” noted John Gunn, 2020-21 Missouri Bar President. 

As racial and social injustices have received heightened awareness in the past year, Gunn said The Missouri Bar recognized that, as an organization, it is imperative we do more. In 2020, then Missouri Bar President Tom Bender created the Special Committee on Lawyers of Color to research and propose concrete solutions to the challenges of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession in Missouri. 

The special committee was chaired by Pamela Meanes with Thompson Coburn LLP in St. Louis and Assistant Dean Emeritus Bob Bailey with the University of Missouri School of Law. Working diligently, the group identified national best practices in the legal profession and compiled that information into a report presented to the Board of Governors at its March 4 meeting. The report is available online here. 

The special committee presented six new initiatives for board consideration. The board approved all of the committee’s program recommendations, which include: 

  • Create a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Pledge Program for law firms and legal employers  

  • Establish Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Awards for individuals and large, legal employers, and, once established, expand to mid-sized, and solo and small firms  

  • Create a Statewide Judicial Clerkship Program, in coordination with existing clerkship programs, for law students and lawyers who are in their first four years of practice  

  • Establish the Midwest Bar Diversity Collaborative to share diversity efforts, successes, and challenges in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in their respective bar associations  

  • Develop and implement The Missouri Bar Life Path to Success Program to increase the pipeline of potential lawyers of color in the state as well as encourage representations of lawyers of color to communities throughout the state  

  • Create The Missouri Bar Law Student Mentorship Pilot Program, which will pair law students of color with Missouri lawyers for the purpose of providing meaningful one-on-one mentoring to maximize students’ potential 

I am inspired by the passion these special committee members brought to their charge,” Gunn said. “We will begin implementing these programs in short order, laying a deeper foundation for diversity and inclusion efforts in our bar.