CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law alumna and Assistant United States Attorney Margaret Sweeney ’10 recalls being taught the benefits of attending law school at a young age. There was always an expectation that she would attend law school, Sweeney recalls from her office, where a Jello-stained bib from her infancy hangs on the wall that reads, “Future Lawyer.”
Margaret's retired mother, Emily Sweeney '81, is also an alumna, and her recently deceased father, Hon. Patrick A. Sweeney, was an Executive-in-Residence at the Levin College of Urban Affairs. Patrick served in the Ohio House of Representatives for 30 years and in the Ohio Senate for two years. Emily served as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio for 10 years.
“I always knew I’d have a career in public service because I saw how much it meant to my parents when their work made a difference in our community,” said Margaret. “My parents are the embodiment of the adage, ‘Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’ They absolutely loved their work—I never once heard them complain about their jobs—and I knew I wanted that for myself too.”
While Margaret wanted to work in public service, she was not sure that meant a career as an attorney. Still, the Miami University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History knew how versatile a law degree can be and was set on going to law school. Margaret was open-minded when deciding which law school to attend, and it was a visit to Professor Heidi Gorovitz Robertson’s Property Class on a snow-covered April day that convinced her that CSU C|MLAW was the place for her. She found that the students at CSU Cleveland-Marshall were most collegial, and that was the kind of environment in which she would thrive. Margaret indeed thrived at CSU C|M|LAW, graduating Summa Cum Laude while serving as Executive Editor of Cleveland State Law Review, carrying on her mother’s legacy at the law school.
“It’s very special to have gone to the same law school as my mom,” explained Margaret, recalling that they even had some of the same professors. “I often think that not a long time ago in our country’s history, women couldn’t even attend law school, much less expect to see their daughters attending the same school. For me, that’s what makes the legacy so special.”
Law school was not the last time Margaret would follow her mother’s footsteps. When Margaret went to law school, she thought she wanted to work on policy and legislation instead of practicing law in a courtroom. However, after an externship through Cleveland-Marshall at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she knew she wanted to spend her career in that office.
Margaret was hired in 2012 as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Criminal Division, Major & Cyber Crimes Unit. The next year, she shifted to the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Unit and current serves as the Lead Strike Force Attorney on the Cleveland OCDETF Strike Force. In that role, Sweeney is an integral participant in complex drug trafficking investigations that often span several years and involve global actors.
Last year, Margaret was recognized as one of Crain’s Cleveland Business’ 40 Under 40. In 2019, she was named the Northern District of Ohio’s Assistant U.S. Attorney of the Year.
“My colleagues nominated me for the (U.S. Attorney of the Year) award, and that is what means the most to me,” explained Margaret. “Working in a mission-driven organization, the work is never about one person. You always need a team of people who can work together for the greater good of the mission, and our office is very collegial in that sense.”
At the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Margaret mentors new Assistant U.S. Attorneys and serves as Chair of Summer Law Clerk Program. She also serves on the Board of Directors at her high school, Saint Joseph Academy, which she feels is a true jewel in Cleveland as a training ground for developing future female leaders. Margaret believes she had great mentors throughout her schooling and in her early days at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and wants to continue to pay that forward.
Margaret has also worked as an Adjunct Professor at CSU C|M|LAW for the past eight years teaching Scholarly Writing. During law school, Margaret’s scholarly writing course was taught by an adjunct professor who is now one of her colleagues in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Margaret enjoys that her course is one of the first opportunities students get to write argumentatively, a skill she finds to be important throughout the legal profession.
“I try to make my class more than just about writing,” explained Margaret. “Although Scholarly Writing can seem like a narrow course, the skills you can learn in this class can translate to so many aspects of a future career in law. Not everyone will be writing scholarly articles for their careers, but every lawyer will need to advocate, write concisely and be professional, and those are things I use every day at work and weave into my course.”