The Council on Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) is a national organization that was founded in 1968 to expand opportunities for minority and low-income students to attend law school. Since its inception, more than 10,000 students have participated in CLEO's programs and joined the legal profession.
CLEO alumni are represented in every area of society, including: private law firms and corporations, law schools, federal and state judiciaries, and legislatures across the country. The influence of CLEO alumni in the legal profession, in particular and throughout the country in general, is an indication of the important role CLEO has played in helping to advance Justice and Diversity in America.
CLEO’s flagship program is the Prelaw Summer Institute, a rigorous, residential program designed to familiarize and better prepare students to succeed in law school. The Institute has been held on various law school campuses every summer since 1968. Additional workshops and seminars are offered for high school, college, and graduate students interested in pursuing a legal career. Once enrolled in law school, CLEO Fellows become part of a national network of outstanding, talented lawyers.
CLEO’s mission is to increase the number of lawyers from diverse backgrounds that are actively contributing to the legal profession by continually expanding opportunities for persons from minority, low-income and disadvantaged communities to attend law school, graduate, and pass the bar examination.
CLEO strives to be the pre-eminent diversity pipeline organization in the United States preparing law students from diverse backgrounds to participate in the ever-expanding domestic and global opportunities for members of the legal profession and instilling in them a passion for excellence, academic success, leadership, and appreciation for diverse perspectives.
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s focused awareness on the lack of minority lawyers. Ninety-eight percent of the legal profession was white. Law schools had trouble finding qualified minority applicants. The legal profession needed a national commitment to attract and help minority students gain admission to law school.
In 1964, Louis Toepfer, Vice Dean at Harvard Law School convened a group to discuss the possibility of encouraging black students to study law. The result was a summer program at Harvard in 1965 for 40 students, most of whom were juniors at historically black colleges. The program lased eight weeks, was based o selected topics from first-year courses, and provided another basis for admission to law school, besides grade point average and standardized test scores. About half the students who participated in the program were admitted to law school.
Similar pilot summer programs were launched at Emory University, the University of Denver, and UCLA. In 1968, the Council on Legal Education Opportunity was established as the first national program of its kind to coordinate and recruit students to participate in these programs. Thus, the pipeline to the legal profession was opened to a stream of talented students from minority backgrounds.
William A. Blakey (Buddy), Esquire
Buddy was a “social engineer” who devoted his life to serving the “underserved.” Whether he was marshalling through legislation to benefit historically black colleges and universities, participating in a mentoring program through his beloved fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, or brandishing the flags of his beloved alma maters, Knoxville College and Howard University School of Law, his greatest passion, without question, was helping young people further their education.
The Honorable Nanette Diaz Barragán
The Honorable Al Green
The Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee
Sandra Phillips Rogers
Frank E.A. Sander
Kellye Y. Testy
Angela Birch-Cox (Chair)
Elizabeth A. Campbell
Darryl L. Franklin
Malcolm L. Morris
The Honorable Denise Owens
Yaneris M. Rosa
Pamela V. Rothenberg
Joyce Payne Yette
Phyllis P. Harris
Wilhelm Joseph, Jr.
Cassandra Sneed Ogden
Leigh R. Allen II
Julie D. Long