A little more than a year after joining her firm, Patricia Llanos knew she had to address a tough situation.
After hearing from other colleagues of color about what she called “less than desirable” issues, Llanos sought to form a diversity and inclusion committee to bring a discussion about those issues and possible solutions to a larger audience at the firm.
“It’s a difficult discussion to have, and even more difficult at the time, because here I am having been here only a year and a couple of months, and I’m bringing a touchy subject to the partners of an established firm,” Llanos said.
As it turned out, that was the perfect springboard to forming a committee that drew about 40 people at its first meeting and interested so many people that subcommittees had to be formed.
“Fortunately, the partners were immediately on board with having the committee and to make sure that whatever was happening would not continue. It made me feel good that they did that — though that’s not to say they weren’t addressing it before, but it’s just more intentional now.”
Llanos, previously honored by Missouri Lawyers Media with an Up & Coming award in 2018, draws praise for taking a stand “so that all persons, no matter their job title or background, are heard and considered,” her nominator wrote.
After leading the way to its formation, Llanos unanimously was named the first chair of the diversity and inclusion committee at Brown & Crouppen.
As part of her advocacy, she helps with volunteer work in diverse communities, works with human resources to help create a strategy to recruit and retain diverse candidates for lawyer and staff positions, and brings topics related to diversity and inclusion to the entire firm. She also helps to raise awareness of other cultures within the firm with regular events that celebrate cultural holidays from around the world.
“My favorite thing about that is that I do learn something every time we have one of those events,” Llanos said. “I hope — and I do get a lot of feedback — that others learn something about other people, too. Sometimes it’s someone you’ve been working next to for a long time, but you might not have known about an important part of their culture, orientation or religion.”
Llanos said her decision to enter the legal field as part of her larger advocacy for diversity and inclusion began when she was working in New York City.
As a public health educator and advisor, she said, she noticed a definite difference in the treatment afforded to white people compared to everyone else. While addressing those disparities, Llanos said she started to notice how policy shifts could do much more to help close the gap than anything she could do in her job. That led her to law school and the legal system, where she noticed disparities as well — mainly in how minorities outnumber other races in the prison system, but also in other aspects.
“That’s what kept my drive to be a part of diversity and inclusion,” Llanos said. “I want to make sure wherever I work, I feel like I have to at least try to address diversity and inclusion. I can only imagine places where it’s not addressed, and it can’t be a good place to be.”