Dinsmore, P&G, Cincinnati Law Launch Fellowship to Address Inequities in Criminal Justice System
A recent law school graduate will have the opportunity to join one of the country’s leading Innocence Projects thanks to a newly created fellowship. Procter & Gamble (P&G), Dinsmore & Shohl LLP, and the Ohio Innocence Project at Cincinnati Law (OIP) collaborated to create the Dinsmore and P&G OIP Fellowship, which is designed to give a recent law school graduate the opportunity to hone lawyering skills and gain experience in civil rights litigation and policy-making.
Despite an increased emphasis on diversity and inclusion over the past decade, the legal field remains one of the least diverse. Candidates from populations underrepresented in the legal profession will be given priority for the fellowship.
“As the events of the past year demonstrate, the tentacles of racism run deep in the criminal justice system, working grave injustices on communities of color. Meaningful change is long overdue,” said Verna Williams, dean and Nippert professor of law at University of Cincinnati College of Law. “That’s why collaborating with Dinsmore and P&G is so exciting. Together, we will help build a cadre of attorneys to address this crisis.”
“The Procter & Gamble Company continues to build on our longstanding efforts to promote equality, including bold actions addressed at the bias and racism that Black Americans still face. We are honored to join with Dinsmore, one of our long-term partners, to create this new fellowship and provide an essential resource to one of the most successful Innocence Projects in the country,” said Deborah Majoras, P&G chief legal officer and secretary. “Our goal is to use our unique skills, connections and access to the broader legal community to meaningfully impact access to legal representation, as well as diversity and inclusion in the profession, starting with our own team and our law firm partners.”
For Dinsmore’s leadership, this is an exciting project and the result of years of cooperation and affiliation.
"Dinsmore's long and successful partnership with P&G and our consistent support of OIP, as well as our commitment to community service, diversity, equity and inclusion, have fueled our passion and excitement for this fellowship program," said Dinsmore Chairman and Managing Partner George H. Vincent. "I'm proud of both our financial and future hands-on contributions to the development of diverse lawyers, as well as our efforts to improve the legal and criminal justice systems at large."
Marty Dunn, chair of the diversity committee at Dinsmore, agreed.
"The ongoing fight for justice is ever-present in our minds and hearts," he said. "We see some of the victims routinely in the media. But those who tragically die are often forgotten, as are the many struggles of those who languish in our prison system. We’re proud to join P&G in this fellowship to ensure that justice is never abandoned until it is delivered for all."
Addressing issues of racial justice is work that is done on the ground within communities, and the Dinsmore and P&G OIP Fellowship will provide a step toward addressing injustices in the criminal justice system, while serving as a model for similar ventures at other Fortune 500 companies and law firms that want to engage in this work.
Unique to this fellowship program is that it takes the corporate/law firm fellowship model and applies it to Innocence Projects. In addition to opening doors for new attorneys, the program will help establish a pipeline to attract and train candidates on how to litigate and advocate in the context of a dynamic civil rights organization.
"This fellowship is a step toward addressing barriers that prevent diverse candidates from entering the legal profession generally and the innocence movement specifically," said Mark Godsey, Daniel P. and Judith L. Carmichael professor of law and director, Lois and Richard Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project. "We hope to diversify the cadre of attorneys who do innocence work, an area that is so significantly impacted by systemic racism and bias. We're excited to partner with P&G and Dinsmore in this work to provide hands-on, meaningful work experiences for new attorneys as they embark on their legal careers."
A Look at the Legal Landscape
According to the American Bar Association’s National Lawyer Population Survey, four percent of active attorneys identified as Black or African American in 2007 and four percent identified as Hispanic or Latino. Ten years later, those numbers had risen to only five percent. In addition, the percentage of active attorneys identifying as Asian remained steady at two percent, and those who identified as Native American remained around one percent. Though the numbers vary slightly across reporting agencies, the overwhelming fact is that minority populations remain significantly underrepresented in the legal profession.
About the Fellowship
The fellowship is a two-year, set-term apprenticeship program for new graduates, preparing them for a successful career in the courtroom, legislature, or other elected office, and in any public interest legal organization where sophisticated litigation skills are required. In addition to learning the field, the fellow will be mentored by seasoned attorneys along the way. A new fellow will be chosen every two years as the program grows. The recipient will work as a member of the OIP staff, managing legal cases for claims of actual innocence and supporting OIP’s legislative agenda to help reform the criminal justice system.