Law Firm Leaders
As the chief diversity officer as well as an officer at Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, Chris Pickett understands this alignment of leadership roles is more often the exception than the rule.
“Equity and inclusion work needs to be integrated throughout the firm. It can’t be a side business,” said Pickett, who also is a member of Greensfelder’s board of directors. “When you have a lawyer as chief diversity officer, it sends a message to everybody that this is something we care about.”
Like most of his fellow Law Firm Leader honorees, Pickett spent the past year grappling with the myriad challenges of guiding his colleagues and clients through the sustained disruption of a global pandemic — all while continuing to maintain an active litigation practice. He serves as leader of the firm’s securities and financial services group and co-leader of its trade secrets/restrictive covenants group.
With the move to a virtual workplace, Pickett “rose to the occasion by doubling down on efforts to remove obstacles for members of the legal community who were typically underrepresented, especially in leadership positions,” his nominator wrote.
Among those adaptations: To keep equity and inclusion education a priority during the shift to remote work, he reworked his CLE courses into virtual sessions. To address the rise in questions about how to contribute to dismantling systemic racism, he developed sessions focusing on key issues faced by Black Americans.
In partnership with The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, he collaborated with other law firms to volunteer for and contribute to the Urban League on a $100,000 emergency relief project.
Pickett’s 2020 accomplishments also include the firm’s new partnership with Homethrive, an elder care concierge service coordinator, to add family caregiver service benefits for all firm employees. The effort specifically aimed to address burdens on working women because they often shoulder a disproportionate share of caring for aging relatives and other family members.
As part of its compensation process, Greensfelder now evaluates each of its officer’s contributions toward advancing the firm’s diversity and inclusion goals. Pickett has helped to overhaul its mentorship program for associates while expanding its campus recruitment and outreach efforts to include schools with more diverse populations, his colleagues said.
Pickett earned both his undergraduate and law degrees at Saint Louis University — but unlike some, he didn’t have childhood visions of being an attorney.
“This wasn’t a lifelong dream of mine. I wasn’t one of those kids who knew at the age of 7 they wanted to be a lawyer,” he said, recounting the two years he spent working at a retail computer outlet after graduating from SLU with a bachelor’s degree in history.
“I decided I should do more than sell software,” he said.
Struggling in class and uncertain if he would even finish law school, Pickett found his footing at a Jessup International Moot Court competition in Des Moines, Iowa as a 2L.
After graduation, he cut his teeth working as a public defender for two years in the southwest Missouri town of Nevada — a community he said (with only slight exaggeration) is “1,000 miles away from anything like St. Louis or Kansas City. It was a wonderful place to learn how to be a lawyer.”
After stints back home with the public defender’s office in St. Louis and a small Creve Coeur firm, he joined Greensfelder in 2012. He was named the firm’s first chief diversity officer four years later.
Outside of work, Pickett and his wife, a high school science teacher, parent a blended family of five kids, ages 10 to 14.