Working as an Armstrong Teasdale partner and chair of the firm’s inclusion committee provides Sarah Roe Sise with a front-row seat to its diversity and inclusion efforts. To paraphrase “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, it also puts her squarely in “the room where it happens.”
Those monthly meetings with Managing Partner David Braswell and the firm’s executive committee led to a series of 2020 milestones, notably the naming of the firm’s chief diversity officer and creation of a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Department, to be led by a new vice president.
“I’m so proud of the commitment from firm leadership to the development of all attorneys and staff within the organization, and the dedication to embedding diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of the firm and the communities we serve,” she says.
A former Bryan Cave partner who joined her current firm in 2015, Sise brings to the job more than 20 years of experience in employee benefits and executive compensation, working with public companies as well as tax-exempt organizations. A 1997 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, she earned an undergraduate degree in actuarial science from Maryville University.
What motivates you most in your work as an attorney and as an advocate for Diversity & Inclusion?
I want the road to a successful law practice to be a little less difficult for the women and diverse attorneys who come after me. Having had three children before making partner at my prior firm, I know the challenges that attorneys and women in particular face balancing between devoting enough time at home and building the expertise and relationships necessary to have a successful practice. As I’ve learned more about how the traditional law firm model impacts the ability of lawyers of color to advance, I want to use whatever influence and goodwill I’ve developed to bring attention to these issues and advocate for structural and meaningful change in hiring practices, advancement decisions and work allocation.
How do you give back to your community?
In December, I finished a six-year term on the board of Habitat for Humanity St. Louis. It’s a privilege to work with an organization that supports families in their efforts to buy a home, establish stability for their families and create opportunities for education and advancement. I’ve also had the opportunity to volunteer with local organizations such as the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and The Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, most recently at a community service event involving the distribution of food and other necessary items at Jamestown Mall. In addition, I welcome and seek out opportunities to assist nonprofit organizations on a pro bono basis with retirement, group health and other benefit plan issues in relation to my legal practice.
What must Missouri’s legal community do to promote meaningful and long-term diversity within its legal/justice system?
Acknowledging that bias exists within the current structures is critical. Without putting preconceived political or social judgments on the premise that bias exists, we as a collective must agree that there is room for improvement. I am proud of The Missouri Bar’s implementation of continuing legal education requirements focused on cultural competency, diversity and the elimination of bias. Programs focused on these issues have opened the door to allow honest and meaningful discussions.