“I’ve always wanted to become a lawyer,” said Reese, now assistant vice president and senior legal counsel for AT&T in St. Louis. “I remember back in 10th grade — and maybe even earlier — always having the desire to be a lawyer, always wanting to help people.”
As part of the Legal Department Diversity Committee at her company and regional coordinator of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, she’s been able to do just that. Reese remains at the forefront of efforts to increase sponsorships, promote supplier diversity and encourage attorney engagement.
But Reese’s biggest impact may be in pipeline-to-career programs in which she spearheaded funding for two new initiatives — “Street Law,” an effort geared toward high school students, and a summer diversity internship, both in cooperation with the St. Louis Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel. Last year was her second as co-chair of AT&T’s diversity initiative at Saint Louis University School of Law, where she moderated a judicial clerkships panel and presented networking and interviewing workshops.
A University of Kansas graduate, Reese earned her MBA from Lindenwood University and her law degree from the University of Missouri. After school came a clerkship in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals with the late U.S. Circuit Judge Theodore McMillian and a stint at Lashly & Baer before she joined CPI Corp. as an assistant general counsel. She came to AT&T in 2000.
Her other endeavors include work with the Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club where she’s been involved for three decades. She also has been recognized for her work with the Veteran’s Consortium Pro Bono Program, and she is a recipient of both the President’s Volunteer Service Award and a Missouri Lawyers Media’s Women’s Justice Award.
Earlier this year, Reese launched another pipeline program for students at St. Louis Community College, which included empowerment discussions involving judges, attorneys and paralegals.
“If we can help to make their path a little smoother where we can help them navigate, I just believe that we’ve made a difference,” said Reese. “That’s what’s important to me.”
Her own path wasn’t always so smooth. Her family was among the first to integrate their suburban St. Louis neighborhood and school district. That situation was sometimes uncomfortable, but her father believed it was important to put his children in circumstances where they could excel and succeed, even in difficult conditions, she said.
“I think about the stories of my parents and my grandparents who instilled the value in me of doing my very best to rise above adversity,” said Reese, whose grandmother nourished her on stories about the successes of legendary civil-rights attorney Frankie Muse Freeman. “They instilled confidence in me and just that mentality to succeed.”