Some people have complex stories about why they got into law.
Not Sheena Hamilton.
“I just don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else,” said Hamilton, an associate at Dowd Bennett who became her firm’s first African American female attorney in 2015.
Her practice focuses on employment law, and she counsels and trains human resources professionals. In that role, she’s particularly cognizant of nurturing and expanding diversity and inclusion.
“Inclusion is something that can really only be accomplished through leadership. In my view, that is something that trickles down,” she said.
“People who are the most powerful in your professional organization or your company or law firm, that’s where inclusion starts,” she added. “When those folks begin to look at diversity, put diversity in positions of leadership and support those people in a way that enables them to succeed and excel in the organization, that’s when inclusion happens.”
A graduate of Saint Louis University School of Law, Hamilton was named a Leader of Tomorrow by Missouri Lawyers Media in 2010, one year after she won first place in a moot court competition and received the American College of Trial Lawyers’ Medal for Excellence in Appellate Advocacy. In 2011, as a SLU adjunct professor, she coached the school’s Frederick Douglass Moot Court Team to its first national championship.
Named an outstanding young lawyer by the St. Louis County Bar Association, Hamilton again was honored by Missouri Lawyers Media in 2017 with a Women’s Justice Award for her role as a litigation practitioner. Earlier this year, The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with its John C. Shepherd Professionalism Award.
Hamilton is active with the Mound City Bar Association, where she helps to coordinate the Legal Legends Awards ceremony highlighting the careers of African American leaders in the field. She is also on the board of governors for the American Bar Association.
“Her leadership role in the ABA will undoubtably open the door for other young diverse attorneys,” her nominator wrote.
The native of Springfield, Illinois, has been working with lawyers since age 17. Even before graduating, she held internship roles in venues ranging from a Tennessee state representative’s office to the chambers of the chief judge of the Missouri Court of Appeals. A one-time paralegal for American Airlines, she also did a legal internship for Macy’s Inc. before clerking for Chief Judge Catherine D. Perry in U.S. District Court, an experience she feels was valuable.
“I got to see all of those perspectives and how all of those judges handled litigation,” she said. “It certainly informed my consideration of issues, and I got to see a diverse group of lawyers come through that courtroom as well.”
Hamilton said she loves to mentor others and give them the same opportunities that were provided to her.
“It is a community where you are not just viewed as a number,” she said of the St. Louis legal world. “If you want to be involved in advancing the legal profession, it is a community where people really seek to mentor you. It is a community where people want to see you do well.”