Growing up on Chicago’s south side, McKinney never planned on a law career. He had his eyes on a career in the ministry. But after a year of student pastoral work, McKinney concluded that he wasn’t destined to be a man of the cloth.
“The thing that initially drew me to graduate school and church work was an interest in social justice, and that led me to law school,” says McKinney, who found plenty of like-minded future J.D.s at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
McKinney moved to Minnesota at the urging of his wife, Christine, a Wayzata native who succumbed to the tug of her home state after the birth of the couple’s daughter. Landing at the St. Paul firm of Larson King, McKinney spent three and a half years as a commercial litigator.
He switched practice focus with a move to employment law behemoth Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart. While he still litigates, McKinney prefers the “preventative” aspects of his practice which, he says, helps keep clients out of court and their workers on the job.
McKinney is active with Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to boosting the numbers of attorneys of color at metro area law firms. “It often seems like it’s been one step forward, two steps back,” he observes. “We’re better at recruiting than when I started — the recruiting classes are more diverse — but retention is still more of a challenge.”
In keeping with interest in social justice, McKinney put in a couple of years as a volunteer attorney at the Harriet Tubman Center, where he helped low income women secure restraining orders. He is also a board member of the Minnesota Children’s Museum.