The hallmark of an exemplary leader is how that person values effecting positive change for others, not only for themselves. Great leaders make their mark by managing people and organizations with integrity, advocating for justice and speaking up against injustices. Those qualities, and many more of a great leader, are embodied in Equality Ohio Executive Director Alana Jochum ’10, recipient of Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s first Leader on the Rise Award.
C|M|LAW Dean Lee Fisher established the Leader on the Rise Award to be given to a C|M|LAW graduate from the past 10 years who has demonstrated extraordinary community leadership and who has given back to Cleveland-Marshall with their time, talent, and/or treasure.
“No recent graduate within the past 10 years has made more of a positive impact on our city, region, and state than Alana Jochum,” said Fisher. “Her superb leadership of Equality Ohio and her continued high level of engagement with our law school make her uniquely qualified to be the first recipient of this important award. She is, without doubt, a future member of our Hall of Fame.”
“It is a great honor to be recognized with this award,” said Jochum. “My experience with C|M|LAW is tied to my personal and professional growth with so many others—people I rely on for advice and guidance, for which I am so grateful. In receiving this award, I cannot help but feel I am accepting both an honor and a charge to live the values that have been tempered in me by C|M|LAW.”
Jochum’s dedication to fighting for just causes predates her arrival at C|M|LAW. After college, she traveled to Mumbai, India to volunteer with the Humsafar Trust, a nongovernmental organization working to advance LGBTQ equality in India. After returning home, she worked at United Way of Greater Cleveland and continued her LGBTQ volunteer work through the Human Rights Campaign.
Jochum decided to attend law school knowing that a legal education would give a skill set that would be beneficial in serving others and fighting for civil rights. She did not know if law school would make her a better leader, but quickly found that to be that case at C|M|LAW.
“The skills and problem solving recognition that law school teaches, the confidence the school gave me to navigate conflict, and the community I became part of have all empowered me as a leader,” explained Jochum. “On the first day of class, a professor said, ‘Look to your left. Look to your right. These are your professional colleagues for life.’ That advice taught me to learn and lead from a place of compassion for others.”
Jochum, who received the inaugural Dean’s Learn Law. Live Justice. Award at graduation, became an Associate at Squire Patton Boggs, LLP where she focused her legal practice on complex civil litigation, international law, product liability disputes and other commercial litigation. She also represented clients in habeas proceedings before the Sixth Circuit and at the District Court level. During that time, she was involved with Equality Ohio, an organization that advocates for the rights of LGBTQ Ohioans. In 2014, she took the opportunity to join the cause full time and was later named the organization’s Executive Director.
“Each day, no matter how challenging it is, my team and I can look back and say, we moved the ball forward a single inch, or prevented it from slipping backwards, for LGBTQ Ohioans,” said Jochum. “It is amazing to see someone come to understand they can have an impact, that they can push the world just a little bit, and come to a place of understanding, love and compassion for someone different than themselves. I am proud that we help to bring visibility, legal redress, lived equality, and voice to those who feel marginalized.”
She is most proud of her team’s work to promote and ensure the granting of marriage for all in Ohio. Equality Ohio worked with Ohio judges far in advance of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges so that marriage licenses could be granted smoothly and right away when that ruling did occur in 2015.
Taking C|M|LAW’s motto of “Learn Law. Live Justice.” to heart, Jochum is constantly seeking justice in a variety of ways in our communities and criminal justice system. She is particularly frustrated by a habeas case she worked on for a man who is innocent of murder he was convicted for, yet he remains incarcerated due to structural deficiencies within the criminal justice system.
It is because of her law school’s commitment to its motto that Jochum stayed remarkably involved with C|M|LAW, along with her numerous other volunteer commitments in the community. She is a member of the C|M|LAW Board of Visitors, participates in the C|M|LAW Mentor Program and along with Equality Ohio has worked closely with C|M|LAW’s Legal Clinics on several cases. Jochum wants to be part of the law school that is training the next generation of thoughtful leaders committed to improving people’s lives.
The Leader on the Rise Award will be presented to Jochum at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on October 26, 2018. Among this year’s Hall of Fame inductees is C|M|LAW Professor Emerita Susan Becker, a former instructor of Jochum’s who she now works side-by-side with on the front lines of the struggle toward LGBTQ equality.
Why do you stand up against injustice?
I feel hope that we can actually manifest the best world we’ve envisioned. I feel thankful for the people who stand up, despite others telling them to sit. I feel profoundly humbled by the concept of we—that together, we are something strong, that we can create, we can care for one another, and we can, even if it’s just bit by bit, raise the scaffolding of a world that’s a little more just. - Alana Jochum ’10