When Patricia Konopka began practicing law, she saw few people of color in big law firms, and even fewer women of color. Since then, she has worked to create and increase opportunities for women and people of color in the practice of law, both at Stinson and in the Kansas City community.
At Stinson, she’s led the Diversity and Inclusion committee since 2004, and she pushed the firm to create a chief diversity and inclusion officer position to advance its strategic plan. She works closely with Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Ann Jenrette-Thomas and meets regularly with practice leaders to discuss diversity and mentorship efforts. She also advises on recruitment, retention and advancement, participates in recruiting minority fellowship and 1L candidates, reviews sponsorships with affinity and community organizations, and encourages firm participation in D&I events.
Konopka’s nominator said her work has been critical to securing the firm’s top score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for the past two years, and she helped the firm to obtain gold standard certification from the Women In Law Empowerment Forum every year since 2011. She’s also an active member of Stinson’s allies network, which works to advance understanding and communication around unconscious bias, and she mentors early career attorneys to ensure their access to tools they need to succeed personally and professionally.
Konopka is a long-time member of the Asian American Bar Association of Kansas City, which in in 2018 honored her with its Vanguard Award for her work to further opportunities for Asian Americans in the legal community. She also is a founder of the Heartland Diversity Legal Job Fair in Kansas City, which aims to increase the participation of underrepresented groups in law.
What motivates you most in your work as an attorney and as an advocate for Diversity & Inclusion?
I really like being a lawyer at my firm. But I know our profession hasn’t always allowed all people to thrive, and that has made me frustrated, and at times angry. That has motivated me to do what I can.
What makes you most proud of your law firm/legal practice?
I have been with the same firm for almost 25 years, and I am proud of its immense progress. We’ve moved from simply being non-discriminatory to actively pursuing a more diverse workforce to being leaders in diversity and inclusion efforts. As the co-chair of Stinson’s diversity committee, I am proud of the role our committee played in integrating diversity and inclusion as an integral part of the firm’s strategic plan. I’m especially proud that we’re one of the first midwestern firms to adopt a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer role.
What goal remains unfulfilled for you as an attorney and advocate for Diversity & Inclusion?
I look at this work as an ongoing process. Our goals should be to continue to bring more diverse people into the profession and ensure that they have the support and freedom to be as successful as they can be. But more than that, our profession should lead our country’s efforts to combat systemic biases and racism that continue to plague our society.
What must Missouri’s legal community do to promote meaningful and long-term diversity within its legal/justice system?
We need to continue to look at our organizations to identify and correct systemic barriers to diverse individuals. As individuals, we all should look at ourselves to identify and correct our own assumptions and unconscious bias.
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you:
I make a great sangria. It’s simple but delicious in the summer.