Looking back at the nearly 20 years since she left law school, Teresa Young sees a fair amount of progress in the number of women and minorities rising through the ranks at law firms.
She’s a big reason why Brown & James is among those firms. As chair of its hiring committee, Young has played an influential role recruiting diverse lawyer candidates, as well as offering them mentoring and training.
“I had interest in diversity and inclusion before [becoming chair of the hiring committee], but that gave me an avenue to pursue the goal of diversity,” Young said. “One of the things I really like is meeting young attorneys and seeing the changing field of candidates over the past five years.”
Young said her interest in diversity and inclusion began when she started noticing how few women had high positions in many law firms.
“When I came out of law school back in 2001, women were still breaking into the upper echelon of law firms, and I saw firsthand the strides women were making at that point,” she said. “My hope now is to see the same thing with broader diversity.”
Young — named an influential appellate advocate by Missouri Lawyers Media in 2017 for her work that led to a state Supreme Court opinion that redefined co-employee liability for workplace injury — manages to carve time from her role as principal at her firm to help further diversity and inclusion. Not that she minds.
“There’s always definitely more things to do than we have time to do, but diversity is just a goal that’s worth taking the time for,” she said. “I want to have a team around me that’s diverse. It helps me in my practice individually, and it helps the firm in general. For that better goal, it’s worth taking the time for.”
Brown & James Managing Principal T. Michael Ward noted that Young’s efforts largely helped the firm see double the number of applications from diverse candidates than in the previous year.
Ward also cited Young’s work in the firm’s recruiting and hiring program leading to females making up one-third of the firm’s employees and half of its junior associates.
“Every hour spent on diversity matters has meant an hour away from her legal work and the business side of our profession,” Ward said. “Yet, Teresa has gladly made this sacrifice to promote the goals of diversity.”
Young points to helping the firm become more involved in the St. Louis Diversity Job Fair, as well as building and strengthening relationships with area law schools as key to recruiting more women and minority candidates. Those initiatives help her and other firm representatives gain insights into what and how potential candidates are thinking, she said.
While the firm had relationships with area schools before Young began her work on the hiring committee, she said taking the time to get to know candidates and faculty at more schools has made a significant difference.
“Currently, we have enough women in our firm that if we lose some, we’d still have a strong presence in the firm,” Young said. “I would like to see broader diversity get to the same place.”