As an in-house attorney for the University of Missouri system since 2013, Lana Knedlik says her day-to-day work often focuses on intellectual property issues. But she is committed to the university’s mission to advance opportunities for success and well-being for all faculty and students — and diversity and inclusion are integral parts of achieving that mission.
Knedlik’s work to support Diversity and Inclusion began in the early 2000s, when she became co-chair of the ACLU’s GLBT task force. During that period, she co-authored “The Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered People in Missouri and Kansas” handbook for the ACLU and approached the Kansas Bar Association about sponsoring a CLE on LGBT legal issues.
In 2008, that work led her to form KC LEGAL — the Kansas City Lesbian Gay and Allied Lawyers — and to serve as its president for five years before her move to Columbia and the university counsel’s office.
Academic institutions like those in the University of Missouri system understand that diversity of thought and experiences are critical to creating a robust marketplace of ideas in the classroom and in research and scholarly works. Knedlik said. She enjoys her work there because she’s attracted to and motivated by the contributions of academic institutions to the diversity and inclusion conversation.
What makes you most proud of your legal practice?
I am always amazed that our office is able to handle (with only a few exceptions) the variety of legal issues that arise on the four campuses. Our office has 16 full-time attorneys who serve institutions with 70,000+ students, 5,000+ faculty and 17,000+ staff, and also operate a hospital.
Who has most inspired you in your work for Diversity & Inclusion, and why?
The first person I thought of was Dick Kurtenbach, the former executive director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. I had gotten involved in the ACLU in the early 2000s primarily to focus on LGBT legal-education issues, but my experiences with the ACLU really broadened my thinking about how the interests of people of color and other minorities were aligned — especially in the workplace.
What goal remains unfulfilled for you as an attorney and advocate for Diversity & Inclusion?
Until the legal workplace (at every level, especially management and boards) reflects the diversity of the general population, there will always be work to do and goals to achieve.
What must Missouri’s legal community do to promote meaningful and long-term diversity within its legal/justice system?
I’ve always believed that formalized education on the topic does wonders. I think that the new Missouri CLE requirement for explicit or implicit bias, diversity, inclusion or cultural competency is a good first step. I would encourage managing partners at firms to have diversity and inclusion efforts be tied to their evaluations and/or compensation. For example, many firms (and the university) help to promote diversity and inclusion through wellness programs. Employees can earn wellness points by doing something as simple as reading a book on another culture or attending a Gay Pride event. In general, I think attorneys are goal-oriented and respond to action items like that. The more we give attorneys real, tangible ways to learn about diversity and inclusion, the better off we will be.