Cleveland-Marshall Law Alumni Association Alumni of the Year recipient Ann Aber’s career path to becoming one of the most prominent corporate lawyers in the area as Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer & Secretary of JOANN Inc. started by eliminating several career possibilities along the way. She was originally interested in the medical field in college before switching to law. Her time as Executive Editor of the Cleveland State Law Review, where she wrote her article on the Family Medical Leave Act, was ultimately instructive in learning that a career in scholarly writing was not for her. And early in her legal practice, Aber ’03 decided to move away from a litigation focus.
“While I love to argue – just ask my husband – I didn’t like the adversarial nature of that practice,” quipped Aber. “In corporate law, and Mergers & Acquisitions specifically, at the end of the deal people are generally pretty happy on both sides of the matter.”
Aber’s interest in corporate law first took hold after taking Professor Chris Sagers’ Corporations class during his first year as a CSU Cleveland-Marshall College of Law professor. That course, along with Real Property and other courses she took taught by Professor Stephen Lazarus, stand out to Aber as among the most influential courses during her time at CSU C|M|LAW.
In her first decade of practice, Aber worked at Hahn Loeser + Parks LLP as a Business Practice Area Associate, Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff LLP as a Corporate Practice Group Associate, and Jones Day as a Private Equity Practice Group Associate.
In 2012, Aber joined the in-house counsel at Eaton Corporation, first as Senior Attorney, Mergers and Acquisitions and later Senior Attorney, Electrical Sector and Counsel, Electrical Sector. After a stint as Vice President, General Counsel & Director of Human Resources at More Than Gourmet, she took a position at JOANN Inc. in 2019.
At JOANN, Aber’s responsibilities include legal, corporate governance and classification and compliance. She was tasked with overseeing the return of JOANN to the publicly traded market with the company’s IPO last March.
Leading the legal team of a public company retailer, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, has been challenging but rewarding for Aber. The lifelong Northeast Ohioan credits her CSU ClM|LAW education for preparing her to meet the challenge.
“The education that I received at Cleveland-Marshall is second to none,” said Aber. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with and be around many lawyers, from all walks of life and all types of schools. I would put the education that I received at C|M|LAW up against any law school education available. The approach is so practical and grounded in reality – not legal theory – and that has prepared me so well.”
Aber received the Max Ratner Scholarship when she attended CSU C|M|LAW and wants the next generation of law students to benefit from the same opportunities she has experienced.
“I have enjoyed much success in my career and I want to ensure that others have the opportunities that I was provided,” said Aber. “I was fortunate to have a full-tuition scholarship to C|M|LAW and I want to continue to give back and work with the Alumni Association to provide additional scholarship funds.”
Aber also gives back at the law school by serving as a CMLAA Mentor. In addition, she has served board member for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank for the past 10 years and is deeply involved in their mission and vision.
“I am passionate about giving back to my community and I truly believe ‘to whom much is given, much will be required’,” said Aber.
What does being named CMLAA Alumni of the Year mean to you?
“This is really such an honor. I am so proud to be a C|M|LAW alum and receiving this recognition allows me to shine the spotlight back on C|M|LAW and the great education that I received there. There are so many distinguished alumni, and I am humbled to be among them.”