Wisdom from the 2014 Women’s Justice Award Winners

By Allison Spence

WJA cover 2014Women attorneys from all four corners of the state gathered in St. Louis on April 24 for the annual Women’s Justice Awards, hosted by Missouri Lawyers Media. The event, now in its 16th year, honored 43 professionals from across Missouri — it was the largest class ever.

Read Missouri Lawyers Weekly’s WJA special section (subscription only) for interviews with all the winners. A gallery of photos from the evening is open to all.

In the video below, 2013 Woman of the Year award winner Laura Denvir Stith introduced her judicial colleague Mary Russell, the recipient of the 2014 Woman of the Year honor.

“Some of us wondered if there would be a single ‘women’s’ spot on the court, but we didn’t have to wonder for long,” Stith said. “Just three years later … Mary Russell was appointed to the court. Now, with Judge Patty Breckenridge, here we are with three members of the court. That speaks volumes about how far we’ve come.”

Said Stith, “The smiling, caring friendly face you see so often at events around the state is the real Mary Russell, the person we’re lucky enough to work with every day.”

In her remarks, Russell stressed the responsibility of attorneys to use their talents and resources to help provide access to justice to all members of our communities.

“We should also be interested in helping people who because of limited financial needs, language differences or another barriers, are unable to access legal services,” she said. “The effort you exert is small in comparison to the huge impact you may have on someone else’s life.”

On the topic of mentoring, Russell said, “There’s always someone right behind us, coming up in the ranks, perhaps in whose heels we once walked. Passing on the lessons we’ve learned … can benefit those who will someday take our seats in our corner office, in our board room, and on the bench.

“Perhaps it’s easy to go through life without helping others, but I think that would be a very unfulfilled adventure.”

Allison Spence is the Communications Manager at Thompson Coburn LLP. A former award-winning journalist, she leads internal and external communications, including social media strategy, for a 375-attorney firm.