Cleveland-Marshall College of Law student Brandon Brown has nearly a decade of experience in the legal field, a breadth of experience nearly unheard of for a 22-year old 3L student who will graduate in May.
Brown received his first taste of the legal field when he participated in the mock trial program, “Cleveland Early College High School” at John Hay, taught by local attorneys from Tucker Ellis LLP. He was already interested in pursuing a career in justice and was immediately drawn in by the experience. Later that year, Brown was accepted into the Tucker Ellis Pipeline Program, an initiative founded by Tucker Ellis Partner and C|M|LAW alumnus Carter E. Strang ’84 to encourage economically disadvantaged and minority students to learn about the law and pursue careers in the legal profession. Brown interned at the firm that summer at the age of 13.
Brown remembers being given modest tasks that first summer, but that everyone at the firm was welcoming and supportive, and encouraged him to pursue a career in the legal field. Exposure to a professional experience at a formative age set Brown on the path to his future career as an attorney.
“I didn’t know too many white-collar professionals besides my teachers, so to spend time with the lawyers on a daily basis and to see how they also give back to the community really sparked an interest for me,” said Brown.
Brown continued to gain experience working legal internships throughout high school. Once he enrolled at Oberlin College, there were no programs at the time for Cleveland students enrolled in college and looking to go into law. Brandon reached out to some of his mentors, including Strang, about the pipeline gap and the next year Strang, who was serving as president of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, helped launch the CMBA’s Louis Stokes Scholars Program – a pipeline diversity initiative for college students interested in legal careers. Brown applied and was accepted into the inaugural class of Stokes Scholars, working internships the following three summers at Tucker Ellis, the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas and the Eighth District Court of Appeals.
While participating in the Stokes Scholars program during college, Brown majored in his other passion – theatre. His background in the arts is thanks to his mom, who believed if she put him in enough programs, he would not have time to get in trouble or be on the streets. The plan worked as Brown was captured by the thrill of being on stage and performing in front of a crowd. His first performance, a rendition of Grease, took place at the Shore Cultural Centre.
Brown continues to use his theatre training for his courtroom presentations as a member of C|M|LAW’s moot court team. Last year, he was a part of the Cleveland-Marshall team that finished second nationally at the August A. Rendigs National Product Liability Moot Court Competition.
“In acting, there has to be a happy medium between preparation and going with the flow,” said Brown. “Moot court evokes those same qualities because there are hours of preparation but also the need to be able to adjust based on how the proceedings are going and where the judges are taking the argument.”
When Brown enrolled in law school, he believed he would need to take time off from performing to focus solely on his studies. However, last year the perfect opportunity arose to act in a show he had worked on at Oberlin during its pre-production stage, Detroit ’67. The show, set during the Detroit riots of 1967, ran at the historic Karamu House.
Brown plans to stay involved with local theatres while practicing law, both as an actor and at the board level. As far as plans for his legal career, his options are open. With so much experience in law firms, clinics, and multiple jurisdictions of prosecutor’s offices and courts, Brown knows there are several areas of law he would enjoy.
There is one requirement for Brown’s career that is non-negotiable – staying in Cleveland. Brown loves his hometown and wants to be a part of its growth, deciding during high school that this is where he will practice.
Brown has already started giving back to the local community by coaching the mock trial team at his high school and serving as a role model to the students and an example of a graduate of Cleveland Early College who has gone on to law school. He is also heavily involved with the Black Law Students Association’s mentoring program and serves as a mentor for current Stokes Scholar recipients.