When he looks around, Kevin Kohei-Uchida Peek sees a lack of representation of Asian attorneys among his peers. That helps to drive the Sandberg Phoenix & von Gontard medical malpractice attorney.
“A goal that remains unfulfilled for me is increasing the diversity in the legal field,” he said. “I have a unique perspective in that I’m half-Japanese and half-white. And so I’ve seen both sides of the coin, not just in the legal field, but in the world in general. I do believe that the legal field can have a greater range of diversity in terms of race, gender, all kinds of aspects.”
Peek started out in life as a concert cellist, playing since age 4. He has been an associate with three different St. Louis firms since 2014, earning an honor as a 2016 Missouri Bar Pro Bono Wall of Fame member and serving as a board member of the Missouri Asian American Bar Association.
What motivates you most in your work as an attorney and as an advocate for Diversity & Inclusion?
As an advocate for diversity and inclusion, the legal field has the room and ability to make great strides in such areas. I am motivated by this fact and the willingness for growth in diversity and inclusion by many leaders in the legal field today. The Asian community is grossly underrepresented in the practice of law. In my nearly six years of practice, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve encountered attorneys of Asian descent in litigation.
Who has most inspired you in your work for Diversity & Inclusion, and why?
My inspiration comes from co-workers, attorneys I meet in my work and the leaders of local and national affinity bar associations. In addition to promoting the needs of their own members, they do not shy away from supporting fellow organizations. This increases visibility of marginalized groups in the legal field. From co-workers to individuals I encounter through normal means, their open minds and willingness to support efforts for diversity and inclusion fill me with hope for the continued improvement of these areas in the legal profession.
What goal remains unfulfilled for you as an attorney and advocate for Diversity & Inclusion?
Representation of Asians in the legal field is minimal. On my path to practicing law and even after the start of my career, I’ve experienced comments and questions as to the reason I entered the legal field, especially because the math and science fields are “more Asian.” Such comments are unacceptable and are the result of the belief in negative stereotypes. There is plenty of work to still be done.
What must Missouri’s legal community do to promote meaningful and long-term diversity within its legal/justice system?
The recent requirement for those practicing law in Missouri to obtain one hour of CLE credit devoted to cultural competency, diversity, inclusion and implicit bias was an incredible step forward. With that said, the resulting backlash from a large number of attorneys was disheartening and emphasizes how far behind the legal field is from other professions with diversity and inclusion. In order to catch up to the higher standards in our country and world, we in the legal community need to take significant and accelerated steps on a regular basis. We need to be mindful of the journey required of our diverse co-workers to get to where they are today, as all journeys are different.