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Hear from Minority Attorneys

Michael E. Flowers, Partner, Bricker & Eckler LLP

"Number one, corporations - our clients - began to ask the law firms on a regular basis about the lawyers working their matters: 'Are lawyers of color entering and advancing and being retained by your firm?' When clients ask those questions, law firms take notice, as they do any other client concern, and take measures to be responsive.

First (as a Columbus law firm) you are competing for legal talent, so if you are able to broaden your talent pool by reaching out to a more diverse set of lawyers, you had the advantage of making sure your that your firm, in fact, has a chance to attract the best and brightest lawyers across all groups.

What I have observed is that many lawyers of color leave and may do one of two things: They may go in-house and therefore they can become a tremendous business referral source, or many are becoming more entrepreneurial starting business, and may become clients. So the message is, certainly, make sure that you do what you can to make the time you have with the lawyer of color enjoyable, and make the environment conducive to staying. But also keep in mind as they may exit to have them think highly of their experience with the firm, because they have a decision to make as to where to send work; either as an in-house lawyer or as a principal in the business."

--As quoted in July/August 2005 issue of Diversity & the Bar, a publication of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association

C. David Paragas, Partner-In-Charge, Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP

"The Columbus Bar Association's Managing Partner's Initiative gave me an opportunity - as a minority and a managing partner of a branch office - to advocate a program for the entire firm and not just my office. Quickly, Benesch recognized the propriety of this initiative and adopted the program firm-wide. Our Cleveland office has also adopted a diversity policy and we are integrating these priorities into our firm culture."

--As quoted in July/August 2005 issue of Diversity & the Bar, a publication of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association

Carl D. Smallwood, Partner, Vorys Sater Seymour & Pease LLP

"As president of the Columbus Bar Association, in June 2000 I issued the call to action in the legal community, participated in bringing the managing partners together, and helped to guide this process to the point where, in May 2001, 22 law firms signed the written initiative.

The most important thing that we did, in my view, is establish the process of meeting to analyze where we were and to form a written commitment to improve the numbers of minority lawyers who were recruited, hired and retained by these law firms."

--As quoted in July/August 2005 issue of Diversity & the Bar, a publication of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association

Aaron L. Granger, Partner, Schottenstein Zox & Dunn Co., LPA

"My experience of the Columbus legal community started when I was a Minority Clerkship Program participant the summer of 1994. I was assigned to the Ohio Department of Youth Services and I remember trading in my "Staff" shirt and "Crew Leader" badge of previous summer jobs for a lawyer's dress shirt and a tie, with matching suspenders.

At the Department of Youth Services, I researched every aspect of running a youth correctional facility including physical restraint policies, accommodating religious preferences, and employment issues. I went from asking "Do you want fries with that?" to presenting pie charts to the agency director. That helped me build a level of confidence that I carried with me as a staff attorney for the Honorable Yvette McGee Brown, as an assistant Columbus City prosecutor under Janet E. Jackson and currently as a partner with Schottenstein Zox & Dunn.

It also allowed me to see attorneys differently. The nobility of the profession was apparent as I watched attorneys navigate ethical standards when handling extremely sensitive information. The clerkship experience transformed the way I looked, the way I thought about the law, and the way I view my fellow practitioners. More important, it fueled in me a passion for the law that sustains me today, 13 years later. And yes, I still have the suspenders."

Dawn Rae Grauel, Associate, Hahn Loeser + Parks, LLP

"Since the start of my involvement in the Columbus legal community, I have benefited from strong mentoring relationships. When I participated in the Minority Clerkship program in 1999, I knew that I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to clerk for a law firm as a first year law student. I was placed at Schottenstein Zox & Dunn, where I had the good fortune to work on interesting projects under the supervision of terrific mentors.

Because of the program and my clerkship experience, I was more than prepared for my second year clerkship at Hahn Loeser and Parks LLP, where I practice today. Walking into this prestigious law firm on my first day as a summer clerk wasn't half as intimidating as it would have been without the Minority Clerkship program experience.

Today, I remain grateful for the opportunities the Minority Clerkship Program provided. Because I personally witnessed and benefited from such an amazing opportunity, I felt compelled to get involved in the Columbus Bar as soon as I graduated. I'm so glad I did. Today, I continue to reap the rewards through the relationships and friendships I've had the good fortune to develop."

Janica A. Pierce, Associate, Chester Willcox & Saxbe, LLP

"In the summer of 2000 as a second-year law student, I participated in the Minority Clerkship Program sponsored by the Columbus Bar Association in the City Attorney's office under the leadership of Janet E. Jackson. For those not from Columbus, Janet Jackson is a leader in the Columbus legal community and is an African American woman. That interaction with Ms. Jackson enabled me to develop a meaningful mentor relationship and friendship that exists to this day.

The clerkship under Janet Jackson put me in a position to enhance my writing skills and develop legal skills advocating on behalf of the City of Columbus in distinct areas. I believe the program gives minorities an opportunity to showcase their talents in positions or employment that otherwise might not be available. The lasting benefits of my relationships formed while working with the city attorney's office exceeded all of my expectations. It was Ms. Jackson who encouraged me to accept the employment that was offered to me by Frank A. Ray of Frank A. Ray Co., L.P.A., primarily specializing in civil and appellate litigation. Such exposure equipped me for my current practice.

I am truly grateful for Ms. Jackson's diligence and support in encouraging me to pursue this career path as I continue to practice civil and appellate litigation as an associate in the law firm of Chester Willcox & Saxbe, LLP. The Minority Clerkship Program not only serves as summer employment but provides a host of fellowship opportunities that can open many doors in the future."