2021 CLEO EDGE Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Heritage Award RECIPIENT
Cassandra sneed ogden
Cassandra Sneed Ogden

As the leader of the Council on Legal Education, Inc. (CLEO) for 25 years, Cassandra Sneed Ogden received consistent praise for her stewardship of the organization during her tenure from the CLEO Board of Directors, students, and industry peers alike. In 2013, she was recognized by “On Being a Black Lawyer” as a member of their “Power 100” list, which recognized the 100 most influential African-American lawyers in the country. Moreover, within that list, she was recognized as one of the nation’s “Pipeline Builders.”

In 2018, Ms. Ogden received one of the inaugural CLEO EDGE awards for her contributions to further Education, Diversity, and Greater Equality in the legal profession. Both awards speak to Ms. Sneed Ogden’s investment in the diversity pipeline throughout her career and guidance in preparing students at every level—from high school to post graduate school—to pursue their law school dreams. She also authored multiple articles addressing the importance of women and diversity in the industry. Because of her influence, hundreds of young women of color were inspired to matriculate law school.

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Throughout her extensive career, Ms. Ogden unceasingly used her position as CLEO’s head to advocate for diverse and underrepresented persons to join the legal profession. This was especially true with respect to her persistent encouragement of women to partake of CLEO’s various programs and service offerings. Since 2000, nearly 70% of CLEO participants have been female. Many CLEO alumnae have personally stated how instrumental and impactful the guidance they received from Ms. Ogden was to providing a successful path to the profession. Whenever speaking at select industry conferences and events, she often spoke of the importance of ensuring that aspiring female attorneys understood that the profession was in dire need of the unique and diverse viewpoints they brought to the table. Further, she implored them to look at their gender as an asset versus a detriment.

Ms. Sneed Ogden is an exemplary role model as she herself broke glass ceilings having been admitted to Georgetown Law Center when the law school population did not include many females, let alone females of color. In fact, in her own class section, she was only one of twelve minority women. In addition, she was balancing marriage and rearing two children, while still having to focus on her studies, not to mention working professionally as a Middle School teacher. Studying mostly at night and weekends, she has expressed gratitude for the support she received from her husband and her mother to make it all the way through to the end of law school. Though the road was a lonely and at times overwhelming one, through sheer hard work, self-motivation, and grit, she successfully completed her law school journey. She graduated Georgetown Law in 1981 and subsequently passed the District of Columbia bar that same year.  She completed the Maryland bar in 1982, on the first try. Through her own story and her work , she has impacted many future women attorneys.


Evangeline M. Mitchell, Esq., Ed.M.

Evangeline Mitchell

Evangeline M. Mitchell, Esq., Ed.M.

Is a social entrepreneur, author, lawyer, and documentary filmmaker. She is the founder of Hope’s Promise Publishing, the first niche publishing company dedicated to producing books geared to aspiring Black lawyers. She is the author or editor of several books including The African American Pre-Law School Advice Guide, Profiles & Essays of Successful African American Law School Applicants, The African American Law School Survival Guide, Conquering the Bar Exam, and Creating Your Personal Strategic Action Plan for Law School Admission Success. She is currently working on Race, Racial Trauma, and the Black Law Student: Real Stories of Racism Experienced in American Law Schools.

She is the founder of the National Black Pre-Law Conference and the National HBCU Pre-Law Summit, the country’s only major national information-sharing, networking and empowerment events created especially for aspiring Black lawyers, and for current HBCU students and alumni. She also launched The Bridge Builders Esq. Mentorship Program for Aspiring Black Lawyers with the goal of providing mentoring circles for prospective law students to enable them to have law student and lawyer mentors and peer pre-law accountability partners to support them in their journeys to law school. In addition, she is the founder of and informational resource websites.

Further, she is a documentary filmmaker, and is the creator and executive producer of the docu-series/web series “Becoming Black Lawyers: African Americans and the Law School Experience.” Through her self-initiated grassroots programming and other efforts and her ability to bring people together around a common cause, she has helped thousands of Black people across the country with law school aspirations better understand what it takes to get into law school and succeed while there. Additionally, she mentors numerous prospective law students across the country.

Evangeline is the recipient of several awards including the Leadership Empowerment Award from the National Black MBA Association-Houston Chapter, the Roberson L. King Excellence in Education Award from the Houston Lawyers Association, the Sadie T.M. Alexander Service Award from the National Black Law Students Association, the Nation’s Best Advocates – 40 Lawyers Under 40 from IMPACT and the National Bar Association, the Top 50 Black Lawyers of Houston and the Trailblazer Award from, Who’s Who in Black Houston, the Houston Bar Association’s Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program Equal Access Champion Award, the Legacy of NBLSA Award, the CLEO Edge Award for Education, Ms. JD’s Road Less Traveled Award, The National Black Lawyers – Top 100, the National Black Law Students Association Pre-Law Division Honoree Award, and the Lawyers of Color Power List 2020.

Evangeline is a graduate of HBCU Prairie View A&M University, the University of Iowa College of Law, and the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She is working on a distance Certificate in Documentary Arts from the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in Houston, Texas, she currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband Michael and two children Nyla and Michael II.

Yolanda Hawkins-Bautista, Associate General Counsel at Freddie Mac

Yolanda Hawkins-Bautista

Associate General Counsel at Freddie Mac

Yolanda Hawkins-Bautista served as Co-Vice-Chair of the Legal Division’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. Yolanda served as a strong advocate for diversity within the company, in the legal industry, and in the mortgage finance industry as a whole. She is not afraid to push the envelope with senior executives and has earned the respect and praise of her Legal Division colleagues, business clients, and people throughout the legal industry.

One of the most successful programs at Freddie Mac to advance diversity in the legal profession is our Engage Excellence program. Yolanda worked with one of her former colleagues to design a program to expand opportunities for diverse-owned law firms and diverse partners at majority-owned law firms to do work for Freddie Mac. The program requires our attorneys to identify and consider diverse outside counsel for all new matters and seek approval before hiring outside counsel; specifies that, at our direction, majority-owned law firms must work with diverse-owned law firms for Freddie Mac matters; mandates that diverse partners hired for Freddie Mac matters be given law firm origination credit; helps ensure diversity in staffing our matters; gives preferences to the use of certain under-represented diverse outside counsel; and sets annual targets for retention of diverse outside counsel for each department within the Legal Division.

Once the Engage Excellence program that she designed was in place, Yolanda worked with another colleague to design an extensive assessment of the diversity programs at Freddie Mac’s top law firms. They extensively analyze their programming and demographic information and meet in person with law firm management for each firm for 90 minutes to 2 hours. During those meetings, she would summarize our diversity programs and numbers, give them feedback on their diversity work, and tell them whether they are meeting the expectations or not. The conversations are frank and multiple diversity professionals at the law firms privately reported they have been immensely helpful in advancing diversity at their firms. Yolanda’s leadership and creativity has been critical to the success of this program.

During Yolanda’s tenure as Vice-Chairperson of the DEI Council, there was increased hiring and retention of diverse lawyers and professional staff, greatly expanding financial and other support for national organizations promoting diversity in the legal profession, and pushed law firms to track and promote their own supplier diversity efforts.

The fact that Yolanda was able to balance her diversity work at Freddie Mac, her legal work, her work in the community, and her role as a wife, mother, and valued support for elderly relatives speaks volumes about Yolanda’s commitment to diversity, her abilities as a lawyer, her organization skills, and her caring approach to those in need.

Yolanda has advocated for a broad range of diverse communities, but particularly for women and African-Americans. Yolanda, however, does not only advocate for her communities, she has also been a strong ally for other diverse communities such as her recognition that the LGBT community is underrepresented in the partnership ranks at large law firms and pushing to have the LGBT community, as well as racial minorities receive a special emphasis in our hiring of diverse outside counsel.

In addition to all her efforts to promote diversity in the legal industry, Yolanda has also made valuable contributions to the community at large, which will no doubt benefit diverse communities. She is Chair of the Board of Commissioners for the Housing Authority for Prince George’s County where she provides oversight of the Authority’s rehab and development projects, housing programs, commercial structures, and policies, in addition to other issues. She has also held key positions for several diverse candidates for political office, including Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.

In addition, in her substantive legal work at Freddie Mac, Yolanda has also pushed for changes in the company’s practices that will help ensure better access to housing and employment for diverse individuals.

Greater Equality
Cuong Quy Huynh

Cuong Quy Huynh

Cuong Quy Huynh
Cuong Quy Huynh

Cong Quy Huynh has dedicated his life assisting populations that many leaders would avoid. Cuong founded two nonprofit organizations Enlightened Initiative (EI) whose mission is to work with immigrant and low-income youth training them in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) plus servant leadership skills. EI aims to train the next generation of refugee and immigrant youth to be leaders to help their communities and families across the American society. The non-profit is based in the greater Washington, D.C. area.

Another success for Cuong is co-founding Rende Progress Capital (RPC). His organization has deployed 27 loans to the Excluded Entrepreneurs. RPC has created 13 new jobs and has retained close to 150 jobs for the Excluded Entrepreneurs to assist them and their families to get out of poverty and to build wealth in order to sustain inter-generational wealth creation.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging for so many. Hence, to deal with the pandemic, Rende Progress Capital (RPC) has innovatively created the Race4Progress Fund. The RACE4Progress is a COVID- 19 relief loan with features of a 1% rate, accommodating terms such as 90-day grace period before paying the principal and interest, five-year loan term, abridged application and review process along with progressive conditions such as being open to undocumented immigrant business owners. RPC has deployed over $375,000 to the Excluded Entrepreneurs, and RPC has provided innovative small business technical assistance services to the minority, women, and immigrant-owned business owners.

As a former refugee from Vietnam, Cuong has dedicated his life to training, empowering and supporting refugee and immigrant youth from low-wealth backgrounds across the nation. He has authored a book outlining this life and experience working with refugee and immigrant youth. “God’s crucible: We Who Dream of a Better life.” He is currently working on a second book “Leading Youth with a Servant’s Heart” to assist mentors and youth advisors working with young people. One of Cuong’s greatest successes is training young adults, especially refugee and DACA student to give them a voice.

Cuong exemplifies a great quality as a mentor to young people by sharing his journey as a refugee into this country. He outlines his story to give hope to those who dream a better life in these United States. When many people demonized minorities Cuong mentors them to see their full potential and pride in their own cultural origin. His two nonprofits trains, works with and mentors minority students and businesses. He helps them navigate through the challenges and obstacles getting out of poverty. Cuong practices the best of servant-leadership that the people he serves will “become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servant leaders.”


2020 CLEO EDGE Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Heritage Award RECIPIENT
Stacey Y. Abrams
Politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, author who served in the Georgia House of Representatives and 2018 Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia.

Stacey Y. Abrams is an American politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, and author who served in the Georgia House of Representatives froher mostm 2007 to 2017, serving as minority leader from 2011 to 2017.  In 2018, she was the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia, where she won more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history.

Over the course of her career, she has founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues. Stacey is dedicated to civic engagement, and her most recent endeavors include launching Fair Fight to ensure every American has a voice in our election system; Fair Count to ensure accuracy in the 2020 Census and greater participation in civic engagement; and the Southern Economic Advancement Project, a public policy initiative to broaden economic power and build equity in the South.

She serves on the Board of Advisors for Climate Power 2020, the Center for American Progress, and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, and is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Abrams received degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law School.  Born in Madison, Wisconsin, she and her five siblings grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Georgia.

Penn State Dickinson Law
Barbara McQuade
Greater Equality
Black Lives Matter Co-Founders

Penn State Dickinson Law

Penn State Dickinson Law
Danielle M. Conway Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law

As the oldest law school in Pennsylvania and one of the oldest law schools in the nation, Penn State Dickinson Law’s mission is to prepare students to be leaders in the legal profession. While remaining steeped in the tradition and values that have distinguished Dickinson Law from its inception in 1834, the law school has reimagined how it is preparing students to succeed as lawyers and leaders in service to society. The education of its students is enhanced by the relationship with its world-renowned parent public research institution, The Pennsylvania State University; partnerships with the adjacent nonprofit, private, and public sector legal community; and national and international semester-long experiential opportunities.

Dickinson Law’s core values—intellectual discovery and knowledge sharing, excellence in teaching and learning, and an indefatigable commitment to building and sustaining community—define who its alumni are as lawyers and leaders. Dickinson Law fulfills and furthers its mission of Practice Greatness and its core values by equipping its students with the entire range of skills necessary to excel as legal professionals at local, state, national, and international levels. From its intentionally small class sizes to its emphasis on building one-on-one relationships between and among its students and the staff, faculty, and administration, the law school is dedicated to its students’ success as law students and later as its colleagues in the profession.

Students have the opportunity to learn from, and interact with, distinguished members of the faculty who are experts in their respective fields and who bring their scholarship and practice experience—as prosecutors and public defenders, federal environmental policymakers and securities professionals, health law advocates, leaders in the elder law movement, and recognized authorities in government policy and reform—into both the classroom and the experiential learning capstone activities.

Since its founding, Dickinson Law has had a venerable tradition of producing lawyers and leaders for its communities, with 8,000-plus living law school alumni. Its graduates have committed their professional lives to public service at all levels of government; lawyers in private practice in firms ranging from solo to multinational enterprises; decision-makers working in-house in private and public corporations; leaders working in non-governmental organizations; and advocates working in public interest positions.

Learn more at


Barbara McQuade

Barbara McQuade
Professor from Practice The University of Michigan Law School

Barbara L. McQuade is a professor from practice at The University of Michigan School of Law. Her interests include criminal law, criminal procedure, national security, data privacy, and civil rights. From 2010 to 2017, Professor McQuade served as the U.S attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. Appointed by President Barack Obama, she was the first woman to serve in her position. Professor McQuade also served as vice chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and co-chaired its Terrorism and National Security Subcommittee. As US attorney, she oversaw cases involving public corruption, terrorism, corporate fraud, theft of trade secrets, civil rights, and health care fraud, among others. Professor McQuade also serves as a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Lawfare, Just Security, and Slate, as well as on National Public Radio, and she has been quoted in The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, Politico, and other publications.

Before becoming US attorney, Professor McQuade was an assistant US attorney in Detroit for 12 years, serving as deputy chief of the National Security Unit, where she handled cases involving terrorism financing, export violations, threats, and foreign agents. Professor McQuade began her career as a law clerk for US District Judge Bernard A. Friedman in Detroit, and then practiced law at the firm of Butzel Long in Detroit. Professor McQuade previously taught at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

Professor McQuade has been recognized by the Detroit Free Press with the Neal Shine Award for Exemplary Regional Leadership, The Detroit News with the Michiganian of the Year Award, Crain’s Detroit Business as a Newsmaker of the Year and one of Detroit’s Most Influential Women, the Detroit Branch NAACP, and the Arab American Civil Rights League with its Tribute to Justice Award.


Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi

Alicia Garza
Patrisse Cullors
Opal Tometi
Black Lives Matter Co-FounderS

“I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter… Our lives matter.”

This Facebook post in 2013 by Alicia Garza in reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin sparked the international Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.  Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi were the originators of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media and the call to action.  The co-founders expanded their project into a national network of more than 30 local chapters between 2014 and 2016.

The Black Lives Matter movement, a decentralized network of activists with no formal hierarchy, is perhaps the largest movement in US History with an estimated 15-26 million people participating. The broader movement and its related organizations typically advocate against police violence towards black people, as well as for various other policy changes considered to be related to black liberation.

Today, the co-founders are still politically active, but two have stepped away from the day-day activities of Black Lives Matter to start other organizations.  Garza has started Black Futures Lab, “a policy platform reflecting ‘the most common concerns within Black communities across the political spectrum.’”  She has also written a book, The Purpose Of Power: How To Build Movements For The 21st Century.

Tometi is a feminist writer, organizer, and speaker.  Before BLM, she was the Executive Director of the United States’ first national immigrant rights organization for people of African descent, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. She is the creator of the new Diaspora Rising newsletter, which was launched on Juneteenth 2020.  She is said to have set up the social media aspects of the movement.

Cullors, who is still involved with Black Lives Matter, is an artist, author, educator, and political strategist and organizer. She is credited with the BLM hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.  Additionally she is an associate faculty member who teaches Social Environmental Arts Practice at Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona.

All three have been named to Time 100: Most Influential People of 2020.


2019 CLEO EDGE Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Heritage Award RECIPIENT
Deval L. Patrick
former Governor of Massachusetts and current Managing Director of Bain Capital Double Impact

Leonard M. Baynes
Dean, University of Houston Law Center
John C. Brittain
Professor of Law, University of the District of Columbia – David A. Clarke School of Law
The University of Chicago Law School
Thomas J. Miles, Dean

Cleary Gottlieb
International Law Firm
Justin Cruz
Assistant Dean of Admission & Diversity, Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law
Nitza Milagros Escalera
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Fordham University School of Law

Jennifer Chen
Director, Association of Corporate Counsel Foundation
Freddie Mac (Legal Department)
McLean, VA
Tribal Law and Policy Institute
West Hollywood, CA

John C. Brittain

John C. Brittain Olie W. Rauh Professor of Law University of the District of Columbia, Washington, DC

“A lawyer is either a social engineer or a parasite to society.”— Charles Hamilton Houston

(John C. Brittain’s favorite quote)

John C. Brittain joined the faculty of the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law in 2009 as a tenured professor of law and served as acting dean from July 2018 to April 2019. He had previously served as Dean of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston, Professor Emeriti law professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law (UConn Law School) after 22 years, and as Chief Counsel and Senior Deputy Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, DC, a public interest law organization founded by President John F. Kennedy to enlist private lawyers in taking pro-bono cases in civil rights.

During his tenure at UConn Law School, Professor Brittain directed two CLEO Pre-Law Summer Institutes and taught at the University of Mississippi School of Law in a third institute.

Professor Brittain writes and litigates on issues in civil and human rights, especially in education law. In 2013, he was named to the Charles Hamilton Houston Chair at North Carolina Central University School of Law, established to bring prominent civil rights law professors and litigators to the law school to teach constitutional and civil rights law for a year. Professor Brittain was one of the original counsel team in Sheff v. O’Neill, the landmark school desegregation case decided by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1996, chronicled in Susan Eaton’s book, The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial, in which he is frequently mentioned. He is presently a part of a legal team in a case styled, Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education v. Maryland.  A federal court found the State of Maryland violated the constitutional and statutory rights of students attending the state’s historically black institutions of higher learning – Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and Maryland Eastern Shore University – by unnecessarily duplicating educational programs from the former de jure era of racial segregation.

In 1993, the NAACP awarded Professor Brittain the prestigious William Robert Ming Advocacy Award for legal service to the NAACP without a fee.  Professor Brittain holds a B.A. from Howard University, 1966 and a J.D., from Howard University School of Law, 1969.

Leonard M. Baynes

Leonard M. Baynes Dean and Professor of Law University of Houston Law Center, Houston, Texas

“I am delighted and humbled to be the recipient of the CLEO Edge Award. CLEO is the premier organization ensuring that there is a steady pipeline of students from underrepresented backgrounds into the legal profession. Making sure that we pave the way forward for those who follow us is very important to me. So to receive this recognition from CLEO is quite an honor and means a lot to me.”

As the ninth dean of the University of Houston Law Center, Leonard M. Baynes brings a national reputation as a communications law scholar with specializations in business, media, and diversity issues. He manages more than 60 full-time faculty and oversees 12 centers and institutes, including the No. 6 ranked Health Law & Policy Institute and the No. 7 ranked Institute for Intellectual Property & Information Law as well as the No. 9 ranked Part-Time Program.

Baynes initiated an award-winning Pre-Law Pipeline Program designed to create more opportunities for first-generation, economically challenged, and under-represented college students who are considering law school. He instituted a voluntary “Community Service Day” during which incoming first-year students, faculty, and staff fan out across the city to work on public service projects. He also has increased the number of scholarships and opportunities for students to serve in school-funded, public service internships at home and abroad.

Baynes was inducted into the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council (MMTC) Hall of Fame, where former FCC Commissioner and MMTC Chair Henry Rivera described him as “a champion for diversity.” Baynes previously served as the inaugural director of the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Development at St. John’s University School of Law.

In 2010, Baynes received the Diversity Trailblazer Award from the New York State Bar Association. During his deanship, he was named one of the nation’s top 100 most influential lawyers of color, and he was awarded The Houston Lawyer Association’s Robert L. King Excellence in Education Award.

During Baynes’s deanship, the Law Center was recognized by Insight into Diversity Magazine for four years in a row with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award and for the past two years, the Law Center was the only ABA-accredited law school to receive this prestigious award. In 2019, he accepted the American Bar Association Alexander Award on behalf of the UHLC PreLaw Pipeline Program.

Baynes has written more than 25 law review articles on corporate law, communications law, and diversity. He received his B.S. from New York University; M.B.A., Columbia University;  and J.D., Columbia University School of Law.

The University of Chicago Law School

The University of Chicago Law School Thomas J. Miles, Dean, Chicago, Illinois

The University of Chicago Law School is honored to be recognized by CLEO with the EDGE Award for Education.  We are proud of the work we have done to increase the diversity of our student body, and we are proud of our partnership with CLEO that has helped us make progress toward our goals.  Our commitment to diversity is central to our mission of inquiry and exploring legal questions from multiple perspectives.  Our entering class this Autumn includes 40% students of color, our largest cohort to date.  When these students arrive on campus, we look forward to supporting them with resources and initiatives so that they can take full advantage of the rich educational opportunities at University of Chicago education and launch fulfilling and exciting careers.” – – Thomas J. Miles

The law school thrives on its passion for ideas, the belief that ideas matter and are worth discussing, and that our environment succeeds only when our community includes and welcomes people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Fostering an environment that unambiguously values diversity in all its dimensions-including racial, gender, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation/identity, cultural, lifestyle, and viewpoint – is an essential element to our success. To that end, our mission is to lead the school’s efforts to promote a learning environment that is welcoming and inclusive for all students both inside and outside of the classroom.

Located on a residential campus in one of America’s great cities, The University of Chicago Law School occupies a unique niche among this country’s premier law schools.  UChicago Law offers a rigorous and interdisciplinary professional education that blends the study of law with the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. Students, faculty, and staff form a small, tightly knit community devoted to the life of the mind.  Learning is participatory. UChicago Law does not seek to impose a single viewpoint or style of thought on its students. Instead, its faculty exposes students to contrasting views, confident in students’ abilities to choose their own paths.

Adapted from “About the Law School,” The University of Chicago Law School Website


Cleary Gottlieb

Cleary Gottlieb An International Law Firm Washington, DC

“Cleary Gottlieb is honored to receive the CLEO Edge Award for diversity.  At our firm, diversity and inclusion are not mere buzzwords, but are central aspects of our identity.  We are proud of our collegial values and culture of inclusion throughout our global legal practice.”

Michael Gerstenzang, Managing Partner

Cleary Gottlieb was established in 1946 by seven lawyers who had already built prestigious careers as partners in the Wall Street law firm of Root Clark Buckner and Howland and in post-war government service.

Founding partners George Cleary, Leo Gottlieb, Henry Friendly, Mel Steen, Hugh Cox, Fowler Hamilton, and George Ball had notably different backgrounds, diverse interests, and a range of skills, but shared three things in common:

  • Intellectual prowess
  • The highest professional standards
  • Progressive social values

Their overall objectives were to avoid internal competition to the fullest possible extent, to welcome like-minded peers of every stripe into their firm, and to function democratically.

Cleary Gottlieb is a vibrant and engaging community, home to an eclectic group of people of various backgrounds. Diversity and inclusion are in our DNA and are absolutely central to our firm’s founding principles and ongoing identity.

Our culture of inclusion reflects our global legal practice. We work daily with clients around the world on matters involving a broad array of legal, business, and social/cultural perspectives. To further ensure we remain an open and innovative workplace, we actively support community outreach and training programs focused on issues of diversity.

We believe all Cleary lawyers benefit from interacting with the creativity, talents, and perspectives contributed by people of different backgrounds and experiences, and that our firm-wide efforts to nurture diversity help us more effectively serve an even broader range of clients.

Cleary Gottlieb’s effort to increase the representation of diverse and female associates

in our senior ranks remains a priority and is supported by the entire leadership.  The Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and the Committee on Retention and Promotion of

Women develop, organize, and host programs and workshops aimed at furthering the core principles of diversity and inclusion. These educational events are designed to foster dialogue throughout the firm and are open to all lawyers. The goal is to broaden perspectives on topics that relate to diversity and inclusion within Cleary, as well as outside the firm.

Today, we remain proudly rooted in the forward-looking vision, collegial values, and culture of inclusion of our founding partners.

Justin Cruz

Justin Cruz Assistant Dean of Admission and Diversity Initiatives Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law, Orange, California

“I am extremely humbled and honored to receive the 2019 CLEO EDGE Award in Diversity from an organization that changed my life. If it were not for CLEO, I would not be where I am today. I dedicate this award to the next generation of diverse law students out there who will change the world on the promise of hope.”

 Justin Cruz earned his BS in Industrial and Systems Engineering with honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia,  and his JD from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri. While in law school, Dean Cruz was Managing Editor of the Washington University Law Review.   He received the CALI Excellence Award for his work in the Intellectual Property and Nonprofit Organization Clinics.

After graduating from Washington University Law, Dean Cruz worked in the area of intellectual property law as in-house counsel for a fortune 500 company. Prior to joining Chapman, he served as Associate Dean of Student Affairs at Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida, and as Assistant Director of Admission at Thomas Jefferson School of Law (TJSL) in San Diego, California. In addition, Dean Cruz was an adjunct professor at TJSL where he taught the Intellectual Property Law Practicum course.

Prior to his career in law, Dean Cruz worked as an engineer for Caterpillar, Inc.  He has also served in various capacities in the Law School Admission Council including as a member of the Diversity Committee, HBCU/HACU/TCU Initiatives Subcommittee, Finance and Legal Affairs Committee, and, currently, the Emerging Markets and Innovation Committee.

In 2017, Dean Cruz received the “Be the Change” leadership award from the Orange County Bar Association for his work in diversity and inclusion in the Orange County Legal Community.  He continues to serve in many diversity leadership roles including as a standing executive committee member for the Annual Meeting of Law School Diversity Professionals (AMLSDP) and as a board member of the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association in Orange County, California.

Nitza Milagros Escalera

Nitza Milagros Escalera Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Fordham University School of Law, New York, New York

“I am so honored to have been named as one of the recipients of CLEO’s Diversity Award and accept the award on behalf of my colleagues at Fordham Law School who have volunteered their time to be part of CLEO’s program at Fordham. 

CLEO is an organization I deeply respect.  One of the organization’s former Board Chairs, Buddy Blakey, was a mentor when I participated in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Fellowship program. From Buddy I learned the importance of diversity in all of the professions and how to serve as a mentor. I am grateful for having the opportunity to reflect on Buddy’s work and to celebrate CLEO’s great work.”

In addition to being the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Nitza Milagros Escalera is the Assistant Dean of Diversity Initiatives. Escalera has long been committed to deepening connections and learning across cultures and diverse groups within the legal profession. At Fordham she taught a seminar titled, Negotiation and Mediation: A Cross-Cultural Perspective and worked with the Community Economic Development Clinic.  At John Jay College, she has taught courses on Race and Ethnicity, the Latinos/as and Social Justice, and Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in Urban Latina/o Communities.  Currently Escalera teaches courses in Human Rights and Law in Latin America, as well as the LatinX Experience of Criminal Justice. She is a founder and member of the Board of Directors of Friends of PASOS: A Museum and Center for Peacebuilding, Inc.

Escalera is a former fellow of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and of the Coro Fellow’s Leadership Program. As dean of student affairs and diversity initiatives, Escalera works with the Fordham Law school community to develop and implement initiatives and activities to enhance the School’s continuing commitment to foster a community that respects and prizes diversity. In addition, she is an advocate in promoting the participation, in all aspects of the law school, of students who are underrepresented in the legal profession because  their race, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, and gender.  Escalera’s mandate includes outreach to students at the primary, secondary, and college levels of education in order to expand the diversity of the legal profession in general and the Fordham Law community in particular.

She holds a B.A. from LeMoyne College, an M.S. from Syracuse University, an M.P.A. from New York University, a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law, and an Ed.M. from Teachers College at Columbia University.


Jennifer Chen

Jennifer Chen Director ACC Foundation, Association of Corporate Counsel, Washington, DC

“ I am so incredibly honored to be recognized by CLEO, an organization that I have worked with from the beginning of my career.  CLEO continues to make an impact in the legal profession and in advancing diversity, a passion close to my heart. I am humbled to be recognized alongside these amazing individuals and organizations who are truly making a difference in the legal community.”

Jennifer Chen is the Director of the ACC Foundation, the 501(c)(3) charitable arm of the Association of Corporate Counsel.  As Director, she leads the Foundation’s efforts and programming in support of its mission to provide research, leadership and professional development opportunities, support of diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the promotion of pro bono in the legal community. Ms. Chen has more than 16 years of experience creating unique and engaging educational programs and fundraising events, as well as initiatives supporting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession.  During the span of her career, Ms. Chen has built an impressive network of contacts, throughout which she is known for connecting people with valuable opportunities that support their professional and career development.

Jennifer is a graduate of the University of Maryland and is the proud parent of an Louisiana State University Tiger.

Freddie Mac

Freddie Mac (Legal Department) Ricardo Anzaldua, EVP, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, McLean, Virginia

“Freddie Mac is honored to receive the CLEO Greater Equality Award. We embrace diversity, inclusion and equality because by doing so produces opportunity and innovation.” –Regina Shaw, Associate General Counsel

Freddie Mac is a government-sponsored enterprise chartered by the United States Congress to stabilize the nation’s mortgage markets and expand opportunities for homeownership and rental housing. The Legal Division plays a major role in fulfilling the company’s mission by providing quality, proactive, timely, and cost-effective legal advice responsive to client needs.  Freddie Mac leverages its leadership role in the housing and financial services industries to promote and enhance diversity, inclusion, and equality in the legal profession.

The Legal Division, through its Diversity and Inclusion Council, has positively impacted the legal profession by using resources to expand opportunities for individuals who are excluded due to injustices based on economic, social, gender, ethnic, race, LGBT, disability, and veteran status.

Tribal Law and Policy Institute

Tribal Law and Policy Institute Jerry Gardner, Executive Director West Hollywood, California

The Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI) is very honored to receive a 2019 CLEO EDGE award [for] Greater Equality which is a concept that runs through all of TLPI’s programs and services”

Established in 1996, the Tribal Law and Policy Institute (TLPI) is a Native American non-profit corporation organized to design and deliver education, research, training, and technical assistance programs that promote the enhancement of equal justice in Indian country and the health, well-being, and culture of Native peoples. TLPI’s mission is to enhance and strengthen tribal sovereignty and justice while honoring community values, protecting rights, and promoting well-being. The organization’s vision is to empower Native communities to create and control their own institutions for the benefit/welfare of all community members now and for future generations. TLPI has also developed a series of detailed objectives and guiding philosophies that provide more context for TLPI’s vision and mission.

TLPI seeks to facilitate the sharing of resources so that American Indian and Alaska Native (Native) Nations and tribal justice systems have access at no cost to resources that support tribal sovereignty and can be adapted to meet the needs of their individual communities. TLPI seeks to establish program and services that link Native Nations and tribal justice systems with other academic, legal, and judicial resources including law schools, Indian legal services programs, tribal colleges, tribal legal departments, and other relevant legal organizations. The underlying philosophy is that Native Nations, tribal justices systems, and Native communities are best served by equal access to a full range of legal resources that can be adapted to meet the needs of their individual communities in a culturally appropriate manner.   

When the organization began almost 23 years ago, there was only one staff member working from home and a three-person Board of Directors. Today, TLPI has since grown to 35 staff members and a seven-member Board of Directors with physical offices in Southern California, Minnesota, and on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in Montana.

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Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc.

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