Ohio State Bar Foundation names Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association recipient of Outstanding Program or Organization Award

October 14, 2020

The Ohio State Bar Foundation (OSBF) has awarded the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association (CMBA) with its 2020 Outstanding Program or Organization Award. This award is given each year to a program or organization that promotes education of, access to, and improvements in the Ohio justice system.

“The CMBA’s work in Cleveland helps attorneys and improves the lives of residents, while working to better the justice system,” said OSBF President Mark Kitrick. “The organization is committed to promote inclusion and diversity within the legal profession, the justice system, and the entire community. They do this through multiple initiatives, including surveys, best practice program research, diversity pipeline programs that work with students from high school through law school into the profession, host conferences and forums, and minority career fairs. Because of this and more, we found them worthy of receiving this year’s Award.”

The CMBA was formed in 2008 when the Cleveland Bar Association and the Cuyahoga County Bar Association combined their more than 135 years of history. Today, this voluntary membership organization has more than 5,000 legal professionals, including attorneys, judges, law students, paralegals, and other business professionals.

As a professional organization for lawyers, the CMBA promotes ethical and professional standards, while bringing together the talent and generosity of its members to serve the Greater Cleveland community. It is the home of the nationally recognized "Lawyers Giving Back" public outreach and pro bono legal service programs, which is funded by the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Foundation. This program assists more than 1,000 lawyers and legal professionals find and serve in volunteer opportunities in a CMBA pro bono or outreach program.

The CMBA has instituted a series of diversity pipeline programs designed to spark and support minority high school and college students' interest in the law. Starting in high school, programs include The 3Rs: Rights, Responsibilities, Realities, the Cleveland Mock Trial Program, and the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Summer Legal Academy. Each of these programs connects 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, which gives minority students who have just graduated high school or are attending college the opportunity to obtain paid internships with law firms, government agencies, and legal nonprofits. With guidance from mentors and support of the program’s alumni, scholars receive LSAT training, college prep, skill enhancement sessions for writing and public speaking, and countless more unique opportunities to develop leadership skills. Since 2012, the program has admitted 86 scholars, 93 percent of whom were first-generation college students. As of 2020, 94 percent of the scholars have earned their undergraduate degrees in five years or fewer, in a city where just 17 percent of young people have completed their bachelor’s degree or higher.

The college pipeline also includes the Minority Clerkship Program (MCP) and Diversity Career Fairs. The MCP was created to assist in improving diversity in Cleveland’s legal market. This program provides the opportunity for qualified minority law students to work as law clerks or summer associates in a firm, legal department, or government agency at the end of their first year of law school.

Through each of these pipeline programs, the CMBA has increased Cleveland students’ understanding of the law, encouraged under-served minorities to consider the practice of law, and supported a new generation of leaders in the community.

"Although I live and work in Columbus, the OSBF is a statewide organization, so I meet attorneys from all over Ohio,” said OSBF Executive Director, Lori Keating. “So many Cleveland-area lawyers, when asked, say they are a part of the CMBA’s 3Rs program, teaching students in inner-city high school classrooms about their rights, responsibilities, and realities under the law.  Lawyers enjoy giving back, and thanks to the CMBA's long-standing support and administration of their diversity programming, the Cleveland community is building bridges between diverse students and the legal profession.”

To watch the OSBF's celebration video featuring the CMBA, visit OSBF.org/2020Awards.

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