December 4, 2022

A recent survey of 36 municipalities ranked Cleveland last in diversity among lawyers at firms. “Despite all the efforts by law firms and legal organizations to increase diversity, we still have dismal numbers,” said Professor Bryan Adamson.
CLEVELAND, Ohio—As Cleveland law firms struggle with low diversity rates, the Case Western Reserve University School of Law on Monday announced the launch of a continuing education program that offers a free curriculum for local business leaders and practicing lawyers seeking to bolster their credentials in diversity, equity and inclusion.
The Academy for Inclusive Leadership Development, which is also open to non-attorney legal professionals and Case law students, claims to be the first of its kind in the country.
The academy’s inaugural curriculum will run from October through April and incorporate a mix of in-person Saturday sessions and online components. Presenters will include experts in diversity training, leadership and human resource management. Lectures and real-world simulations will address topics like structural bias, microaggressions and attorney-client relationships across borders.
Bryan Adamson, the David L. and Ann Brennan Professor of Law and associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the law school, developed and will lead the academy. He says the program will help area firms diversify their ranks.
“Despite all the efforts by law firms and legal organizations to increase diversity, we still have dismal numbers in terms of type and scope,” he said. “Something’s not working.”
According to the National Association of Law Placement’s 2021 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms, 18.5 percent of total lawyers are people of color, and 10.75 percent of partners are people of color. Four percent of partners are women of color.
The report also measured diversity rates based on cities and metropolitan regions. In a ranking of 36 such municipalities, Cleveland ranked last in lawyers who are people of color, with a 6.14 percentage rate. The city also ranked next to last in percentage of female associates, at 38.7 percent, topping only Salt Lake City.
Adamson assumed his deanship in the summer of 2020, one month after George Floyd’s murder. He witnessed an appetite among Cleveland’s legal and business communities for enhanced diversity, equity and inclusion offerings, so he brainstormed ways to serve those needs, along with those of students.
“This is going to be good for Cleveland and for the legal profession here,” said Kimberly Moses, a partner at Calfee, Halter & Griswold. “There’s a tremendous push for the legal profession to become more diverse. It’s a challenge to do that in the law firm setting.”
Moses cites low diversity enrolments in law schools as part of the problem, along with organizational structures at many law outfits. “While a lot of firms have diversity professionals, law firms are still led by lawyers,” she said.
“The best intended firm might hire an outside consultant to be the diversity director, who may or may not understand the culture in the law firm, who may or may not have direct access to most senior leaders in the firm,” said Frederick R. Nance, global managing partner at Squire Patton Boggs, who counseled Adamson as he developed the program. “If you want to make substantive change it’s got to come from the top.”
Lawyers who complete the program will earn continuing legal education credit.
By bringing an educational institution into the equation, law firms and businesses will be relieved of a burden to develop training programs themselves, said Adamson. “The time is right for us, as educators, to offer tools and resources to people who want to make positive changes in their workplaces, and by extension to the legal profession,” he said.
The Case professor added that the university will also benefit. This past February, the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates voted to require U.S. law schools to educate students about bias, racism and cross-cultural competency.
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