Diversity & Inclusion Q&A
How has your background shaped your perspective on diversity and gender equality in the workplace?
I think that to understand diversity, you have to live it. I am fortunate to have had experiences that exposed me to diverse ways of life and thinking. This was particularly true as a young adult in the U. S. Air Force. I was raised by blue-collar parents in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and in the military, I worked alongside men and women from virtually everywhere—the deep South, the streets of Los Angeles, Indiana farm country, and beyond. Thus, not only did I physically live in diverse locales for the seven years that I served (Texas, Mississippi, Maine, and Portugal), but daily I had to find ways to benefit from, rather than be burdened by, differences to accomplish a common mission. In the Air Force, I learned to be more curious about others' perspectives and learned that there is often more than one way to get a job done.
Knowing the value of being surrounded by people having different experiences from my own, I now advocate for diversity in the legal profession. The lawyers with whom I work closely at Lewis Rice often have very different upbringings from me and have different ways of viewing the legal problems brought to us by our clients. We challenge each other, encourage each other, and ultimately better serve our clients when we are exposed to a wide variety of perspectives and ideas.
You are currently serving as President of the Women Lawyer Association of Greater St. Louis (WLA). What does this role mean to you?
I am the WLA's 41st president and take very seriously that I am joining a group of amazing women who served in this role before me. This position signifies the importance of acting as a mentor, sponsor, supporter, and friend to other women lawyers in St. Louis. It also is a huge responsibility because we have over 300 men and women members, all of whom are counting on me to keep the WLA relevant and continue to make a difference in women's legal careers. I see a need to encourage qualified women to be the best lawyers they can be, despite the barriers they face. This role as President of the WLA is an important vehicle by which I can try to inspire women attorneys to succeed.
How does Lewis Rice demonstrate its commitment to gender equality in the legal profession?
Lewis Rice does this by recognizing and supporting the incredible contributions that women are making to legal services through our Lewis Rice Women to Women Forum, as well as through more non-traditional ways. At Lewis Rice, we know that our clients are best served when our attorneys are supported and able to flourish in their own individual way. Sometimes, this requires flexible or reduced-hours schedules for women raising families while also developing business and growing as attorneys. In fact, I personally have benefited from Lewis Rice's flexibility around scheduling and billable hours. Combining that flexibility with my intense desire to be a successful trial attorney put me where I am today, the most senior woman litigator in the Firm, and hopefully a role model to the women coming up behind me.
What do you love most and least about practicing law?
I love being a lawyer. I am amazed every day at how my career has developed and the opportunities I have been given at Lewis Rice and in the legal community. Mostly, I love knowing that my judgment is valued by individuals and companies that are making decisions for the future of their businesses. Practicing law as a litigator is also a great challenge because the uncertainty about the outcome can overwhelm the entire team. So, although the level of stress we experience is my least favorite aspect of practicing law, I am developing ways to manage it and minimize its impact on other aspects of my life, including my physical health and my family.