The Greater Cincinnati Minority Counsel Program (GCMCP) was founded in 1998 as a shared commitment among corporations, majority law firms, minority law firms and public sector organizations of Greater Cincinnati. At that time, only 23 of approximately 1,175 attorneys in the top 25 law firms in the city were black and only five of them were partners in those firms. While this was an increase of minority representation compared to 1987 when there were two black attorneys and no partners in the top 25 law firms (according to the Cincinnati Enquirer), the number still remained anemic. With such a dismal outlook, Judge Nathaniel R. Jones, Senior Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals and Judge Robert L. Black, Jr., Retired Judge, Ohio Court of Appeals, co-convenors of the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati (BLAC)- Cincinnati Bar Association (CBA) Roundtable, urged the Business Opportunity Committee co-chairs, Dennis Broderick, Federated Department Stores, Inc., and James G. Keys Jr., Esq. to find better ways to focus on diversity efforts in the legal profession.
Their concern was not only that the ranks of minority attorneys could thin if law schools no longer gave preference to that group, but also that the inclination of corporations and law firms to seek out minority attorneys could begin to wane.
The concept was presented to the CEO’s of three of Cincinnati’s top corporate employers of outside legal services. John Pepper, Chairman and CEO of Procter & Gamble, Joseph A. Pichler, Chairman and CEO of The Kroger Co. and James M. Zimmerman, Chairman and CEO of Federated Department Stores, Inc., all endorsed the idea for the program and agreed to join in hosting a CEO Forum on October 30, 1998 at the Queen City Club in downtown Cincinnati.
The purpose of the Forum was to announce a launch of the Greater Cincinnati Minority Counsel Program to other major corporate CEO’s and the managing partners of the 25 largest law firms in the Greater Cincinnati area.
The idea of the program was sparked by success of the American Bar Association’s Minority Demonstration Program and the California Minority Counsel Program. Unlike the ABA’s program, the GCMCP’s point of entry with corporation is at the top level of the company.
With increased corporate demand for legal services performed and managed by minority attorneys and interest from the legal community, it was hoped that law firms in Greater Cincinnati would increase their efforts to recruit and retain more minority lawyers.
Our members work together to specifically provide minority attorneys equal opportunity to compete for corporate legal work and to generally ensure a fair and just legal community. We accomplish this by providing our membership with a wide range of programming and opportunities.
Response to the GCMCP’s work has been encouraging. GCMCP continues to grow in the breadth of activities, number of members and in the overall amount of work performed and managed by Greater Cincinnati minority attorneys at member law firms. However, a great deal more still needs to be done to educate about the inherent value of diverse perspectives in legal problem solving and representation.