Missouri Bar creates Special Committee on Lawyers of Color
The Missouri Bar’s strategic direction has a specific goal to ensure that Missouri lawyers reflect the diverse constituencies of our state and that all members view the bar as an inclusive organization where they belong. Yet, lawyers of color are more likely to quit practicing law, especially if they are also women. A recent report by the American Bar Association found seventy percent of female minority lawyers report leaving or consider leaving the legal profession.
The Missouri Bar recently formed a new committee to concentrate on efforts to increase the retention, promotion and advancement of minority lawyers. The Special Committee on Lawyers of Color is a direct and specific response to the heightened awareness Missouri, as well as the rest of the country at large, is experiencing regarding racial and social injustice.
The committee is co-chaired by Pamela Meanes, a partner with Thompson Coburn LLP, and Assistant Dean Bob Bailey with the University of Missouri School of Law.
This group’s task is to research national best practices within the legal profession and identify initiatives and programs that demonstrate a proven record of success in increasing retention, advancement, and promotion of lawyers of color.
The Special Committee on Lawyers of Color has four key areas of exploration:
- Law firms (solo & small, medium, and large law firms)
- Corporate/in-house, government and judiciary
- Bar associations
- Law schools
In January 2021, the committee is scheduled to submit a comprehensive report to the Board of Governors to include specific recommendations for programs or initiatives that can be implemented in Missouri within the next 12 to 24 months that will significantly impact retention, advancement and promotion of lawyers of color within the state.
“Part of the charge of this special committee is to shift our emphasis to listening,” emphasizes John Gunn, 2020-21 president of The Missouri Bar. “It is important that each constituency and individual member of the bar has an opportunity to be heard. The Missouri Bar is listening and will continue to seek out the active participation of members who might otherwise be less inclined to be involved.”
Gunn said the changes that must be made to ensure that the profession of law is inclusive and diverse are not to be undertaken frivolously. Rather, they must be made with thoughtful care and deliberate consideration for the impact such change will have in the future.
The Missouri Bar is committed to the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion and invites members with ideas or comments to reach out to contact the committee’s chairs with suggestions.