The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s Louis Stokes Scholars Program, launched in the summer of 2012 by Tucker Ellis LLP Partner and then-CMBA President Carter Strang (C|M|LAW ’84), has become an important resource for Cleveland students looking to pursue a career in the legal profession. The initiative has already had an impact at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and is poised to continue providing future generations of quality students.
The Stokes Scholars Program is a pipeline diversity initiative that introduces undergraduate students to the legal profession. The program, created with the motto “Changing Lives One Student At a Time,” is open to graduates of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the East Cleveland Municipal School District who are enrolled in undergraduate studies. Nearing its sixth year, the Stokes Scholars Program has won national, state, and local awards, including the Ohio State Bar Foundation Outstanding Program Award.
“The legal profession regularly ranks at or near the bottom of the professions in diversity numbers,” said Strang. “The best way to change that fact is through pipeline diversity programs which involve working with urban public school students as they move to and through high school, college, and then on to law school.”
Stokes Scholars are matched with a summer internship at a Cleveland area law firm, corporation, legal nonprofit or court. In addition, scholars participate in group enrichment and networking activities throughout the summer, including field trips to the courts and local law schools, public speaking and writing seminars and lunch-and-learn programs with legal community leaders.
C|M|LAW has been a proponent of the Stokes Scholars Program since its inception and recently committed to an even greater role in supporting the scholars. The law school will host a Stokes Scholars event this summer and offer support for LSAT preparation efforts. C|M|LAW Clinical Professor Pamela A Daiker-Middaugh will serve on the Stokes Scholars Committee.
“As a law school, we value the Stokes Scholars Program and recognize the program’s tremendous benefit to our law school and the greater legal community,” said Cleveland-Marshall Interim Dean Lee Fisher. “Stokes Scholars enter law school having proven their commitment to the legal profession and we welcome the opportunity to educate these special students as they pursue their dreams.”
Currently four graduates for the Stokes Scholars Program attend C|M|LAW, more than any other law school, and that number is expected to increase as several current scholars have already applied for admission to C|M|LAW this fall. There is a natural connection for the scholars to want to return home to “Cleveland’s Law School” and to pursue legal studies in the city where they already have legal experience and are likely to ultimately practice.
“There is a natural connection – through Stokes Scholars – for Cleveland Metropolitan and East Cleveland Shaw graduates to attend law school at Cleveland-Marshall,” said Strang.
“A goal of the program was to help stop what was at the time the “brain drain” of talent from Cleveland to other cities. Stokes Scholars Program is a reason to stay connected with Cleveland while in college and then consider coming back to attended Cleveland-Marshall, the law school that gave Louis Stokes the opportunity to become an attorney,” Strang continued.
The program’s namesake, 1953 C|M|LAW graduate Louis Stokes, was active in talking to the scholars until his death in 2015. In addition to Strang and Stokes, several Cleveland-Marshall alumni are involved in the program as mentors and hosts of summer internships. Stokes Scholars are provided a mentor at their internship site who ensures that the internship experience is valuable and continues to engage the student as a mentor when they return to college.
A key figure for current and future Stokes Scholars is current C|M|LAW 3L student Brandon Brown. Brown, who Strang considers to be the “model” for the success and involvement Stokes Scholars should strive to achieve in law school, is scheduled to become the first Stokes Scholar to graduate from law school this May. Brown is already mentoring current Stokes Scholars and teaching the next generation of potential Stokes Scholars as coach of the mock trial team at Cleveland Early College High School.
During his three years as a Stokes Scholar, Brown interned at Tucker Ellis, the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, and the 8th District Court of Appeals. He believes the internships, along with other legal experiences, gave him an advantage when arriving at law school. As an example, Brown felt his time reading attorney briefs at the Court of Appeals helped with his legal writing course by giving him an understanding of what worked in real-life legal writing.