Sengheiser ('03) Earns National Award

February 25, 2014

Jason Sengheiser (’03) didn’t think much of it when he gave his blessing for a friend to nominate him for the American Bar Association’s National Outstanding Young Lawyer Award.

“I didn’t really expect to win or anything,” Sengheiser said. “I wouldn’t say I’m a slouch, but there are a lot of impressive people that go to these meetings."

Much to his surprise, Sengheiser found out in January that he won the award, given annually to a lawyer who exhibits professional excellence, service to the profession and the bar, service to the community, and who has a reputation for the advancement of legal ethics and professional responsibility. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, though, considering Sengheiser’s considerable involvement in helping advance the ABA Young Lawyers Division’s mission over the past six years.

Sengheiser first became interested in studying law during his undergraduate tenure at Saint Louis University. A double major in environmental science and German, Sengheiser became involved in Amnesty International, an organization that works to protect human rights.
“I took a lot of philosophy classes and became really interested in human rights issues,” Sengheiser said. “It was from that I decided the best way to pursue this interest and to hopefully work to guarantee human rights would be to go into law. That’s really what led me to law school.”
Sengheiser elected to stay in his hometown for law school, attending SLU LAW and graduating with his juris doctorate in 2003. Upon graduating, he accepted a clerkship in the Missouri Court of Appeals under Judge Gary M. Gaertner Sr. After two years in that position, he decided to revisit his interest in human rights issues by pursuing his LL.M. in International and Comparative Law at Columbia Law School in New York.
After finishing his LL.M., Sengheiser returned home to St. Louis and accepted another clerkship in the Missouri Court of Appeals, this time with Judge Robert Dowd Jr., under whom he continues to work.
Shortly after coming back to St. Louis, Sengheiser decided to become more involved in the local bar. He was accepted into the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division Scholar Program, which paid for him to attend the four conferences held that year by the YLD.
“That’s really how I got my feet wet in the ABA,” Sengheiser said. “You go to these meetings, and you meet people. That’s the way to get involved.”
The scholar program paved the way for Sengheiser’s heavy involvement in the YLD both locally and nationally. He was elected to the Missouri Bar’s Young Lawyers Section Counsel to represent St. Louis in 2008. He’s the Missouri Bar liaison for the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis. He served as chair of the YLD’s Rights and Responsibilities Committee and the Government, Military and Public Sector Committee.
Sengheiser said an important milestone was when he became the YLD’s district representative for Missouri and Kansas in 2011. In this role, he not only served as liaison between bar associations in Kansas and Missouri and the ABA, but he got the opportunity to help push the ABA’s public service program for the year.
Sengheiser began his two-year term as district representative just after a tornado hit Joplin, Mo. Part of his duties as the district representative were to act as a point person in helping organize legal services in the event any part of his district was declared a disaster area. He was involved in coordinating disaster legal service for residents of Joplin, as well as some flood victims elsewhere in the district during his two-year tenure.
Another YLD initiative Sengheiser is proud to have been involved in is the Truth in Law School Education Committee.
“This committee has been a real powerful force in getting this reform done, so that law schools are transparent about what you can expect your starting salary to be when you graduate from law school and how much law school is actually going to cost,” Sengheiser said.
Sengheiser said his involvement in various YLD committees and initiatives all relate back to some of the Jesuit lessons he learned while at SLU.
“The ethos of what the Jesuits preach is they are training you to become men and women for others,” Sengheiser said. “I really believe in that, and I believe that our role as lawyers is to serve society and build up communities. If we build up the community, it creates a fertile ground for the flourishing of the rule of law.”
Sengheiser accepted his ABA National Outstanding Lawyer Award on February 8 at the ABA’s midyear meeting in Chicago. During his acceptance speech, he encouraged his colleagues to similarly become involved in building up their communities to help the law flourish. He also touted the YLD’s new anti-bullying initiative.
“Essentially, bullying is labeling someone as the other and using that label to exclude them from the community. Thus, if we target bullying, we are defending the community and one's inclusion in it. And we must work for the creation of communities that include all,” he said. “In doing so we strengthen the social fabric and reinforce our connection to one another, creating a more robust sense of community.
Sengheiser hopes his role in helping build the St. Louis community someday puts him in the judge’s chair.
“I’ve worked for judges since I finished law school. I have a real respect and admiration for what they do,” he said. “I think it is something that I would be good at and would like to do.”

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