When a young Theresa L.F. Levings would tell her neighbors what she planned to do for a living, they’d react as you might expect.
“I’d say, ‘oh, I want to be a lawyer,” said the now 68-year-old Levings who grew up in Putnam County near the Iowa state line. “People would just laugh. I didn’t realize until I was much older that they were laughing because, in that period, the idea of a little girl being a lawyer was absurd.”
No one’s laughing these days. Levings didn’t just become a lawyer. She served as president of the state bar in 2001. She’s also been on the Young Lawyers Council and the Board of Governors and has been part of the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates. She said working with the Bar has been a big part of her life.
“It ended up being very important for me which I appreciated more and more as I got into it,” she said. “But it is an opportunity to serve the profession which does have a long and noble history despite some woes now and then. I not only appreciated that, but I got to meet lawyers from all over the state, many of whom I was never going to cross paths with in practice and make truly lifelong friends.”
After graduating from UMKC, Levings clerked for Missouri Supreme Court Justice J.P. Morgan before practicing law for a Kansas City firm doing insurance defense work. Later, she’d move on to business litigation and commercial disputes.
In 1994, she hung out her own shingle with Elizabeth Dixon Badger after the pair had become the first female equity partners at Morrison Hecker, their previous firm.
Levings, who was president of the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City in the mid-1980s, said her most important achievements during her time in leadership at the bar were her contributions advocating for the non-partisan court plan and rallying support for Legal Services which has honored her with awards from both sides of the state. The bar would eventually give her its President’s Award in 1990.
Levings, who was honored as dean of the trial bar for the KCMBA, has also been part of the Missouri Supreme Court Committee on Civic Education and the court’s joint committee with the state bar focusing on gender and justice. In 2017, the UMKC Law Foundation recognized her with its Lifetime Achievement Award, the same year Missouri Lawyers Weekly gave her an Up and Coming Mentor Award.
Levings also has numerous civic involvements serving on the boards of Children’s Center Campus, Ability KC and the Junior League of Kansas City, among others.