St. Louis attorney Reuben Shelton, senior litigation counsel for Monsanto Corporation, was sworn in as the 2014-15 president of The Missouri Bar at the opening luncheon of the 133rd Annual Meeting of The Missouri Bar held September 11, 2014, at the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel at Crown Center located in Kansas City, Missouri. Shelton is the second African-American president of The Missouri Bar. He succeeds Kansas City attorney P. John (Jack) Brady, a shareholder at Polsinelli, as president of the 30,000-member organization. The theme of Shelton’s presidency is “Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges.” “A foundation of integrity, transparency and respect will help further create an environment for an all-inclusive Missouri Bar,” Shelton said. “We want to make sure that every member understands the organization belongs to them by highlighting how, within our vast array of programs, services and benefits, there is something that appeals to and can aid every member.”As part of this effort, Shelton will lead a diversity summit in May of 2015 as well as host corporate summits across the state to better connect members to the resources they would find the most useful to their practice area. In addition, Shelton is spurring collaboration with other organizations to promote relevant projects. One example is a partnership between the bar’s Constitution Day project and the National Bar Association where the bar’s civic education programming as well as pocket-sized Constitutions will reach thousands of students informing them about the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the protections afforded to citizens today as a result of the act. Under Shelton’s leadership, The Missouri Bar will continue to promote equal access to justice for all as well as strive to share all relevant information to help educate the public and enhance citizens’ understanding of the legal profession. “A large part of The Missouri Bar’s mission is to improve the administration of justice for all Missourians,” Shelton said. “It is important for the bar to have an ongoing dialogue with the public, not only providing ready access to information that helps citizens better understand how the law impacts our daily lives, but also having input from citizens to help us better do our job to advance justice for everyone.”To that end, Shelton will create a Community Advisory Panel composed of non-lawyers to provide input to the bar regarding its efforts to educate the public on the legal system. Shelton also plans to continue to expand the Mini Law School for the Public program where judges, law professors and lawyers provide insight to participants about the law, making it easier for them to make good decisions about their life, family and finances. Plus, the bar will launch an “Unsung Heroes” project featuring attorneys who go above and beyond in service to others and their communities.Shelton noted he will continue work on several key initiatives already underway, including protecting the Missouri Non-Partisan Court Plan, implementing a new substantive law committee structure to better fit the needs of the bar’s members, advocating for pro bono and limited scope representation to help even more low-income Missourians who face civil matters gain legal representation, and building participation in Amicus Lex, a program which connects lawyers with their legislators in order to provide legislators with a trusted, local voice when it comes to the bar’s position on key issues.Shelton will serve a one-year term as president. The election for his successor will be held at The Missouri Bar’s Annual Meeting in October 2015 in St. Louis.Personal and Professional BackgroundA member of the Board of Governors since 2008, Shelton spent the past year serving as president-elect and chairing several committees and projects. Shelton coordinated the bar’s second annual Advocacy Day at the Missouri State Capitol to urge the passage of legislation to comprehensively revise Missouri’s Criminal Code. He also was co-chair of the Task Force on Relevancy, leading the Public Subcommittee which spearheaded efforts to create a new website for the public (www.MissouriLawyersHelp.org) and expand the popular Mini Law School for the Public program beyond St. Louis to include Kansas City and Columbia this fall. In addition to his duties with the bar, Shelton has served in many civic and professional organizations. He is past president of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis (BAMSL) and the St. Louis Bar Foundation. Shelton was the first African-American elected to serve in those positions. He is past president of the Mound City Bar Association and past regional director of the National Bar Association. He has served as a Missouri Bar delegate to the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates and as a member of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. Shelton also served on the governing boards of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, NAACP, Missouri Lottery Commission, Bi-State Development Agency, Children’s Hospital, St. Louis University Board of Regents, University City School Board and was president of the Lincoln University Board of Curators. He also was chair of the Community Advisory Committee of the Missouri Foundation for Health and is past president of the Legal Services of Eastern Missouri Board of Directors. He currently serves as vice chairman of the Missouri Development Finance Board. Shelton received his legal education at Saint Louis University School of Law. He earned an MBA from Washington University and his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas where he was captain of the basketball team and became a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. As senior litigation counsel for Monsanto Corporation, Shelton handles antitrust/intellectual property litigation, international business litigation and global policy matters. He also serves as general counsel of the Monsanto Citizenship Fund.
The Missouri Bar has a longstanding commitment to diversity in the legal profession that dates back to the mid-1980s. In 1985, Missouri Bar President (and later Judge) Robert M. Clayton formed the Committee on Women and Minorities in the Profession and named yours truly as its first chair. During the intervening years, that committee has morphed into separate groups to better focus on the unique issues that face women and people of color in the law.
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