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WJA 2022: Sonette Magnus

Sonette MagnusThompson Coburn

“Every case is my favorite because new issues give me the opportunity to use my skill set in a new way,” says Sonette Magnus. “I’m managing high-level, serious issues, and I have the trust of my clients to guide them in their legal strategies.”

Magnus — daughter of Jamaican immigrants — was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. At age six, she decided to be a lawyer. “Clair Huxtable was the highest achieving person I could identify with on TV, so I aspired to be like her,” Magnus says. “When I learned what a lawyer actually does, I was even more inspired. I was willing to take on every opportunity to help me achieve my goal.”

Debate team. Moot court competitions. High school classes with a legal focus. Bachelor’s degrees in criminology and political science from the University of Toronto, St. George. JD from Emory University School of Law. Law clerk to the Chief Judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Missouri. Attorney at Lewis Rice LLC.

Today, Magnus is the only Black female partner in the St. Louis office of Thompson Coburn. Her practice focuses on business litigation, bankruptcy and intellectual property. A highly experienced litigator and business advisor, she counsels corporate clients on all phases of commercial litigation in state and federal courts across the U.S.

“I am contributing to the St. Louis community in ways I never have before,” Magnus says. “And I’m at a point in my career where I trust my gut instead of second guessing everything. What I’ve been working on for years is finally coming through.”

In 2020, Magnus was appointed as Canada’s Honorary Consul for the greater St. Louis area. “I’ve had a lot of great moments in my life,” she says. “This is one of the most distinguishable moments in my career so far.”

This is a three-year appointment from the U.S. Department of State and a five-year appointment from Global Affairs Canada. She works equally for both entities. In addition to helping St. Louis companies and Canadian companies connect and find resources for growing business, she also meets with diplomats and foreign visitors who come to St. Louis.

Since 2011, Magnus has been an adjunct associate professor at Webster University. As a volunteer, she currently serves on the board of directors for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. Working with the Federal Bar Association, she is helping to give legal guidance to Afghan refugees — especially minor children without parents — who have arrived in the U.S.

“Everyone deserves to be represented,” Magnus says. “I do my best to give everyone I represent a voice in whatever legal situation they are in. I am proud and blessed to do that.”

She adds, “I am grateful to Judge Kathy Surratt-States, chief bankruptcy judge, for giving me my first job in St. Louis. She took a chance on me. I am thankful to the Urban League for trusting me to do their legal work. Both changed my life.”

Women's Justice Awards 2022