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Diversity & Inclusion 2022: Paul N. Venker

Senior Counsel, Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice LLC

Paul N. VenkerAs the Chair of the Freedom Suits Memorial Steering Committee, Paul N. Venker says it has been a great honor to be able to make a difference in assisting with Judge David C. Mason’s work to recognize the contributions of Black Missourians who attempted to use the courts to gain their freedom.

Venker, who has taken dozens of trials to verdict in areas ranging from employment discrimination to product liability, began his legal career on the research staff of the state’s supreme court where he clerked for Chief Justice Robert Donnelly. He would end up arguing his first case before that court in 1985, the beginning of a long track record of appellate work. Three years later, he’d gain experience as an assistant litigation counsel with Monsanto Company dealing in toxic tort issues, personal injury matters and property damage.

Venker, a past president of the St. Louis Bar Association and former member of the state bar’s Board of Governors, was honored last year as a Missouri Lawyers Media ICON while also making its POWER LIST of appellate attorneys. BAMSL also recognized him with its Distinguished Lawyer Award.

Venker says that mentoring is an important part of his work to increase diversity and inclusion.

“I have offered this advice and guidance to any attorney, regardless of orientation, national origin, age or possible need for accommodation,” he said. “I believe all those who want to pull themselves up to utilize their potential to become the best lawyer they can are all equally deserving that opportunity.”

What makes you most proud of your law firm/legal practice?

My law firm has been and continues to be very active in diversity and inclusion efforts.  This runs from interviewing and recruiting to on-going efforts at the firm.  COVID has been a bit of a factor in our having in-person gatherings, but the outreach is still very much present.

What must Missouri’s legal community do to promote meaningful and long-term diversity within its legal/justice system?

I think we need to continue putting diverse people in judicial and prosecutor positions (at state and federal levels) and in positions of equity ownership in law firms.

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you:

Before law school, I had planned to be an ancient history professor and had taken a host of courses in history, art history, as well as Greek and Latin, to fully prepare for that career.

2022 Diversity & Inclusion Awards