Inclusion & Diversity Initiatives

The CMBA is committed to promote inclusion and diversity within the legal profession, justice system, and in the community. To assist in its mission, the CMBA has created an officer position, the Vice-President of Inclusion & Diversity, who also serves as chair of the CMBA's Inclusion & Diversity Committee.

Cleveland Legal Inclusion 2020

Inclusion & Diversity Benchmarking Survey & Racial Equity Tool Kit

In late 2015, the CMBA launched a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive survey that could be used to benchmark the then-current state of diversification across the legal profession in greater Cleveland. (The 2016 Diversity & Inclusion Benchmarking Survey Report is available here.) In 2020, we’re taking a deeper dive into the make-up of our local bar  legal community on issues related to diversity and inclusion in the legal practice in greater Cleveland with the 2020 Inclusion & Diversity Benchmarking Survey.

The 2016 survey results demonstrate that diversification in the legal practice in the greater Cleveland legal community has been slow, but also demonstrate progress has been made and that more can be made. A set of meetings was held among law firms, corporate law offices, courts, and other governmental entities, who agreed that a "Commitment to Collective Action" was the best approach to work towards improving diversity and inclusion in the legal practice. From the Commitment to Collective Action, Cleveland Legal Inclusion 2020 was formed to take a collective and stronger approach to diversify the workforce, the leadership and create a more inclusive environment in the greater Cleveland workforce, with the greater Cleveland legal community serving as a leader and a role model for collective action.

Much has happened in our community in the intervening five years, so it is time to look again at what the demographic information tells us about where our legal community stands today. But it’s not just a numbers game – real change means structural support for advancement and retention, not just getting more diverse people in the door. The CMBA sent requests to law firms, courts, corporate offices, and other legal employers with requests to complete Section 1 of the updated Survey no later than November 20, 2020; and Section II no later than December 18, 2020. If you are a local legal employer, please take this survey by clicking here. For inquiries related to the survey for your firm, court, or other legal employer, please contact Jessica Paine at the CMBA.

Knowing where we stand is only the first step on our path to a more equitable and inclusive legal profession, which is why the CMBA is simultaneously rolling out an Inclusion & Diversity Toolkit. This online toolkit, available only to CMBA members and those who commit to completing the 2020 survey, offers a range of practical resources and template policies to creating a more equitable and inclusive professional environment. From leave policies to strategic plans, recruitment to compensation, we’ve got you covered.

Inclusion & Diversity Career Fair

The CMBA and the Midwest Region of the National Black Law Student Association partnered again to host the 2019 Midwest Diversity Career Fair last summer. With COVID, the I&D Committee is hard at work at planning for the next fair in 2020 and beyond - keep watch here for more news and related projects. The Career Fair took place at the CMBA Conference Center on Friday, August 16, 2019, offering eligible job seekers from the midwest region an introduction and opportunity to interact and interview with many Cleveland and regional legal employers. The CMBA and its partners are committed to promoting and encouraging an inclusive and diverse legal community.  The Career Fair was open to 2L and 3L students, law school graduates, and lawyers seeking to transition.

Diversity Pipeline Programs

The CMBA has a number of pipeline programs aimed at providing opportunity and experience to minority students interested in pursuing careers in the law.  Starting in high school with The 3Rs: Rights, Responsibilities, Realities, Cleveland Mock Trial program, and the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Summer Legal Academy (described below), our pipeline programs connect students to mentors, resources and experiences to help them succeed in achieving their education and career goals. The pipeline continues through college for students selected for internships in the Louis Stokes Scholars Program. For law students, our pipeline programs include the Minority Clerkship Program and Diversity Career Fairs.    

Stephanie Tubbs Jones Summer Legal Academy (For Rising High School Seniors)

This summer program is designed to introduce promising minority students to the legal profession through hands-on experience. Through a competitive application process, area high school seniors from Cuyahoga County are selected to participate in a two-week part-time intensive and interactive law institute at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in June. The faculty for the law institute includes volunteer judges and lawyers who introduce participants to legal issues and career opportunities.  Students will learn how to prepare for trial and participate in mock trials under the supervision of lawyers and judges. Students will have the opportunity to earn a one month internship and a stipend and the top students in the program will have the opportunity to earn modest scholarships. There is no fee for participation in this program, which is co-sponsored the CMBA, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and the Norman S. Minor Bar Association. 

Louis Stokes Scholars Program (For College Students)

“Changing Lives, One Student at a Time”
The Louis Stokes Scholars Program is a pipeline diversity program through which college students engage in paid summer legal internships of eight-week duration at Cleveland law firms, courts and legal nonprofits. Participating students, known as Louis Stokes Scholars, must be graduates of high schools in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District or Shaw High School in East Cleveland and enrolled in college or scheduled to begin college in the fall following the summer program. At each internship site, students are matched with an attorney-mentor. Mentors help introduce Scholars to the legal profession, provide career counseling, and continue to serve as a resource during their college years. In addition to the work done by interns at their sites, group enrichment experiences are also provided to increase exposure to careers in the law. Examples of group experiences include field trips to the courts to meet judges and other court personnel and to observe courtroom proceedings, lunch and learn programs with speakers from all types of legal practices, visits to law schools to learn about admissions and financial aid, writing and public speaking seminars, social and networking opportunities.  

The internships require 20 hours per week, start in early June and run for eight weeks through July.

Minority Clerkship Program (For First Year Law Students)

This program provides qualified law students the opportunity to work as full time law clerks or summer associates in a law firm, legal department or government agency at the end of their first year of law school. The experience better prepares the students to compete for permanent legal positions in the future, while providing employers with the opportunity to meet and work with well-qualified minority law students. In addition to their clerking positions, students participate in summer lunch and learn sessions to socialize and meet leaders of the legal community. The timeline for the program begins each year in the fall, with informational sessions at Cleveland's law schools. Applications are made available on the CMBA website starting in early November and are due by mid-January. Interviews are conducted in February and offers extended by mid-March. Clerkships typically begin in May and end in early August.

Learn More