12 May 2021

Dinsmore & Shohl partners with P&G, Cincinnati Law to launch Innocence Project fellowship

Dinsmore chairman and managing partner George Vincent

Programme is designed to boost diversity in the legal professional and promote justice system reform

US firm Dinsmore & Shohl has teamed up with Procter & Gamble and Cincinnati Law to launch a fellowship programme that is designed to address inequities in the US criminal justice system.

The fellowship will give a recent law school graduate a two-year apprenticeship at the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) to gain experience in civil rights litigation and policy-making, as well as to develop their general lawyering skills.

Verna Williams, dean and Nippert professor of law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law, said: “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 colour. Meaningful change is long overdue. 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 fellowship programme will provide mentoring from experienced lawyers to prepare apprentices for a career in the courtroom, legislature or other elected office. The chosen graduate will work as a member of OIP staff, managing legal cases and supporting its legislative agenda to help reform the criminal justice system. The programme will also give priority to candidates from underrepresented groups in the legal profession.

George Vincent, chairman and managing partner of Dinsmore, said: “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 fuelled our passion and excitement for this fellowship programme.”

Despite the increased focus on diversity and inclusion across the legal industry, progress has been slow. A 2007 study by the American Bar Association found that only 4% of lawyers identified as black or African American and only 4% identified as Hispanic or Latino. A decade later those percentages had only risen to 5%. 

Mark Godsey and Daniel and Judith Carmichael from the OIP said: “This fellowship is a step toward addressing barriers that prevent diverse candidates from entering the legal profession generally and the innocence movement specifically. 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.” 

Last week saw the launch of the ‘When There Are Nine Scholarship Project’, which was created by a group of women lawyers – who all served as assistant US Attorneys in the Southern District of New York – in partnership with the Federal Bar Foundation in honour of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Research published last month found that law firms that were early adopters of a pilot programme to boost the diversity of their leadership teams based on the NFL’s Rooney Rule have seen improvements at more than 30 times the rate seen at non-adopting firms. The first iteration of the Diversity Lab’s so-called Mansfield Rule was launched back in 2017.

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