Sarah Carlson recognizes the platform that Dentons has awarded her as a partner in its consumer products representation & services and litigation & dispute resolution practice groups, as well as a leader of pro bono efforts in its St. Louis office.
To that end, she strives to increase diversity within the firm, the profession and the community. She promotes an inclusive culture through pro bono efforts, support of diversity networking groups and mentorship of young and diverse lawyers.
What motivates you most in your work as an attorney and as an advocate for Diversity & Inclusion?
My passion for diversity and inclusion — and my decision to become a lawyer — were originally influenced by my grandparents. My grandparents were Holocaust concentration camp survivors. They were beaten, tortured and starved simply because they were Jewish. That they survived Auschwitz and Mauthausen was, quite frankly, a miracle. As destitute orphans after liberation, they met one another. . . . And to this day I remember the lessons I learned from them: Diversity is to be celebrated; life is a gift; freedom cannot be taken for granted; health and safety are far more important than money; and I am strong because I come from survivors.
And so today, I speak out for the oppressed. Even when it is uncomfortable, and even when it is hard. Because I wish someone had spoken out for my grandparents. And I need someone to speak out for my beautiful children. As I get older, my voice gets louder. We each only have so much time on this Earth, and I do not want my children to inherit the same social justice battles that we are currently fighting. I want this America to be the America that my grandparents dreamed about — and to get there, we have so much more work to do.
Who has most inspired you in your work for Diversity & Inclusion, and why?
This goes back to my grandparents. And then I look at my children. And I wonder how will they fare? Will history repeat itself? Will they be persecuted for their religion; what if it is something else? And so I see it as my job to do whatever I can to eradicate all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny and other prejudices. We cannot just say “Never again.” We have to work for it.
What must Missouri’s legal community do to promote meaningful and long-term diversity within its legal/justice system?
More and more, companies are starting to see that diversity is important — that diversity makes us stronger. And we are also seeing that our clients want diversity reflected on their legal teams. But in order to promote meaningful and long-term diversity, we still have to work on inclusion. And that means allowing those who are “diverse” to be themselves, bringing all of our differences proudly to the table. And it certainly means adopting a mind frame of cultural humility. Listening. And owning our part in the narrative and how we move forward. And it means thinking beyond ourselves. I do not just stand for Jewish women — even though those are my particular minority groups. I am an ally wherever allyship is necessary. Hillel, a Jewish scholar and rabbi, said: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Now is as good a time as any.