Cleveland State University College of Law (CSU|LAW) has a rich tradition of leadership in legal education. The College’s foundation dates back to 1897 when it formed as Cleveland Law School at Baldwin University. The Cleveland Law School merged in 1946 with the John Marshall School of Law (founded in 1916) to become Cleveland–Marshall Law School. In 1969, the Law School joined Cleveland’s new public university as Cleveland- Marshall College of Law, its sixth College. In November 2022, the Cleveland State University Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the law school to Cleveland State University College of Law (“CSU College of Law”).
Because egalitarianism was a motivating principle of the law school’s founders, the school’s early student population was remarkable for its diversity. CSU College of Law was one of the first law schools in the nation to admit women and African Americans. Many of the students were immigrants or the children of immigrants, many were older students and minorities, and most worked throughout the day while studying law at night.
A number of the law school’s earliest graduates had notable careers, including the only five-time Governor of Ohio, the Honorable Frank Lausche ’21; the Honorable Genevieve Cline ’21, the first woman in America appointed to the federal bench; the Honorable Mary Grossman ’12, the first woman in America elected to a municipal court bench; the Honorable Carl B. Stokes ’56, the first African American mayor of a major American city; the Honorable Louis Stokes ’53, Ohio’s first African American Congressman; Tim Russert ‘76, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press; the Honorable Frank Jackson ’83, the longest serving Mayor of Cleveland; the Honorable Maureen O’Connor ’80, the first woman to serve as Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court; the Honorable Melody Stewart ‘88, the first African American woman elected to the Ohio Supreme Court; the Honorable Benita Pearson ’95, the first African American woman Federal Judge in Ohio; and the Honorable Marcia Fudge ‘83, the first CSU|LAW graduate to serve in a Presidential Cabinet (U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development). They — along with many other graduates — laid the foundation of the legal practice in Northeast Ohio.
Today, CSU|LAW remains a law school of “firsts” at the forefront of legal education excellence and innovation.
• CSU|LAW is one of the first law schools in the country to launch an online part-time Juris Doctor program.
• CSU|LAW’s Centers for Cybersecurity and Privacy Protection, Health Law and Policy, Criminal Justice, and Global Space Law – the first academic center in the country devoted solely to the study of outer space law - provide professional leadership while preparing students to enter positions in these expanding, critical fields through innovative courses, programming and practical research.
• The P. Kelly Tompkins Leadership and Law program is one of the first programs in the country that provides leadership education, skills training, and mentoring to law students, and a Leadership Certificate for students who choose to concentrate in leadership.
• CSU|LAW is one of the first law schools nationally to offer strategic support for entrepreneurial students through the Solo Practice incubator
• CSU|LAW offered the region’s first Master of Legal Studies program, giving working professionals the opportunity to study concentrated areas of the law and to apply the knowledge to their own professions