In the often divisive, sometimes violent and destructive aftermath of the police shooting and subsequent civil unrest that swept Ferguson, Mo., in late 2014, “there seemed to be a sense of helplessness in the community,” says Kendra Howard, then-president of the Mound City Bar Association, the black bar association in St. Louis. “So many people felt like things were falling apart.”
That’s when seven bar associations, including The Missouri Bar, joined forces.
“We needed to find a role to play that didn’t put everyone at odds,” says Howard, now secretary of the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, which is a member of the bar coalition. “We were all working together to serve the community.”
Among their joint projects: an instructive video series that focused on educating citizens about the legal system.
In an era of tension, conflict, demonstrations, and acts of violence—often intensified (on either side of a particular issue or event) by social media and television—the struggle for the community to understand and interpret the intricacies of laws, courts and the rules of the legal profession is sometimes profound. In many places, bars are stepping into the breach, working both publicly and behind the scenes—often with little advance notice—to help communities make sense of what is happening and to bring them together. It is a role that many bars are willing to take to help preserve and promote the rule of law—and their communities.