Nance, Frederick R.

Frederick R. Nance


Frederick R. Nance is a highly-regarded legal and business counselor, nationally-recognized Sports and Entertainment Law practitioner and a leader in the firm. His high profile practice ranges from involvement in an ongoing series of critical negotiations involving community interests in Northeast Ohio to serving as business counsel to NBA star LeBron James, comedian Dave Chappelle and other notable athletes and entertainers. He is also an experienced trial litigator in federal and state courts.

Fred serves on the boards of the Cleveland Clinic (as a fiduciary director), the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Team NEO and of the publicly traded company RPM International Inc. He previously served for six years as an outside director to the publicly traded McDonald & Company Investments, Inc., where he was a member of the Audit and Compensation Committees. His previous nonprofit board service includes 10 years on the board of The Cleveland Foundation, as well as service on the boards of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Foundation, and BioEnterprise, Inc. 

He has a long track record of civic leadership at the highest levels in the Cleveland area, including as a standing member of the Executive Committees of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland’s 14,000+ chamber of commerce, where he served as the Chairman of the Board from 2006 to 2008. He is also a member of the Executive Committee and past President of The 50 Club of Cleveland. 

From 1991 through 2001, Fred served as the primary outside counsel to the City of Cleveland and former Cleveland Mayor Michael White in a variety of impactful initiatives and development projects including spearheading the battle to keep the Browns in Cleveland and leading the litigation and negotiation that returned the Browns franchise to the city when the former owner relocated the team.

In 2015, Fred was inducted into the Northeast Ohio Business Hall of Fame in recognition of the leadership roles he has played in many high stakes community initiatives. He was the only lawyer inducted in the previous 16 years and only the seventh lawyer in the history of Cleveland to receive such recognition. 

His Sports and Entertainment experience is extensive, including being selected from among several hundred candidates as one of five finalists for the position of Commissioner of the National Football League. Later, Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner asked Fred to join his team’s front office where he served for three years as the Browns General Counsel, while remaining a partner in the firm. In 2012, he was recognized by the seminal sports business publication Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal as “certainly one of the top sports lawyers in the country.” He serves on the Advisory Board of the National Association of Black Sports Professionals and leads the firm’s US Sports and Entertainment practice. His firm leadership experience includes serving two four year terms on Squire Patton Boggs’ worldwide, seven-person Management Committee and as the firm’s Regional Managing Partner.


    • Serving as business counsel to NBA star LeBron James, comedian Dave Chappelle and other athletes and entertainers.
    • Representing a major oil company in a class action seeking more than US$1 billion for alleged property damage.
    • Serving as project counsel on various Cleveland economic development initiatives.
    • Representing a publicly held company in various matters related to the termination of its CEO.
    • Defending a professional sports team in various grievance proceedings and other litigation.
    • Providing Sarbanes-Oxley Act counsel to companies before the Securities & Exchange Commission.
    • Negotiating and administering a series of agreements between the City of Cleveland and the National Football League guaranteeing the return of the Cleveland Browns. 


    • University of Michigan, J.D., 1978
    • Harvard University, B.A., 1975


    • Ohio, 1978


    • U.S. Dist. Ct., N. Dist. of Ohio
    • U.S. Ct. of App., Sixth Circuit

    Professional Recognition

    • 2016 Most Influential Black Corporate Directors – Savoy Magazine
    • Profiled in Savoy Magazine as being among the “Most Influential Black Lawyers in America”
    • Selected for the cover and feature article in the Cleveland edition of Attorney at Law Magazine.
    • Honored with the “Managing Partner of the Year Pathfinder Award” at the Fourth Annual African-American Managing Partners and General Counsel Dinner during the National Bar Association’s 89th Annual Convention
    • Selected for the cover and feature story in Smart Business magazine. 
    • Inducted as a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.
    • Listed first in Cleveland Magazine’s list of “Cleveland’s Most Influentials.” 
    • Featured on the cover of the February 2007 edition of Inside Business magazine and identified as No. 1 on that publication's list of the 100 most powerful people in Northeast Ohio. He has subsequently been included in that listing every year. 
    • Listed in Best of the US and included in The Best Lawyers in America every year since 2001, including recognition for Sports Law every year since 2007 and Bet-the-Company Litigation since 2010. In 2005, he was also selected for the cover and featured in the annual publication Ohio Super Lawyers
    • Selected as the first profiled among several hundred professionals in the inaugural edition of Who’s Who in Black Cleveland
    • Life member of the U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit Judicial Conference. 
    • Member of the Cleveland FBI Citizens' Academy for 2005.
    Selected Community Recognition
    • “Who’s Who in Black Cleveland”, 2004-2015.
    • “Strong Men & Women - Excellence in Leadership” Award from the Dominion Companies, 2009.
    • “Distinguished American” Award from the National Football Foundation, 2008. “Black Professional of the Year” Award from the Cleveland BPA Foundation, 2008.
    • “In Tribute to the Public Service” Award from the Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, 2007.
    • “Regional Vision” Award from the Northeast Ohio Regional Leadership Task Force, 2007.
    • “Community Leaders of the Year” Award from the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, 2006.
    • “Honoree” of the Ohio Cancer Research Associates, 2006.
    • “Service to Mankind” Award from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 2005.
    • ORT American Jurisprudence Award, 2005.
    • “Trailblazer” Award from the Norman S. Minor Bar Association, 2004.
    • “Cardinal Robert Bellarmine Lawyer of the Year” Award from St. Ignatius High School, 1999.

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