Former US Rep. Louis Stokes, who joined global law firm Squire, Sanders & Dempsey L.L.P. after serving 15 consecutive terms in the US House of Representatives as the first African American from Ohio elected to the position, was awarded a 2010 Spirit of Excellence Award from the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. This prestigious award, which honors lawyers who have shown outstanding courage and creativity in promoting diversity in the legal profession, was presented to Stokes and other honorees at an ABA gala on Feb. 6, 2010.
For Stokes, the honor is an opportunity to remind the legal profession – one which he considers to be the finest in the world – that the profession must continue efforts to ensure diversity.
“There’s no question we’ve made progress,” said Stokes, comparing his own experience as a young lawyer to minority lawyers today. Stokes said when he graduated from law school in 1953, there was no point for an African American to apply to a “white” law firm. “But as I look across the spectrum and see the relatively few minority lawyers in law firms and as partners, it’s clear we need to do more. I’m proud to receive this award, but prouder still to be part of a law firm that is doing more, and is making a difference.”
Frederick R. Nance, co-chair of the Squire Sanders Diversity Committee, noted that apart from his historic election, Stokes was the founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 2008, the highly respected Council for Opportunity in Education established the Louis Stokes Institute for Opportunity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education. The Stokes Institute promotes research, curriculum and professional development in STEM education for low-income students of color.
“Throughout his career in Congress and now with Squire Sanders, Lou has been a tireless advocate for diversity and a tremendous role model,” said Nance. “This award was tailor-made for Lou.”
Squire Sanders Diversity Committee Co-Chair Traci H. Rollins said Stokes’ career has had a huge impact on the firm’s associates and continues to inspire the firm’s ongoing focus on diversity.
“It’s simply a thrill for our young lawyers to be able to work with and learn from a living legend,” Rollins said. “We benefit daily from Lou’s leadership, insight and courage as we continue to make diversity a priority at Squire Sanders.”
Stokes was also honored by the Federal Bar Association Northern District of Ohio Chapter. The association selected Stokes to receive the inaugural Pillar of Justice Award, which honors lawyers who have substantially contributed to the advancement of justice.
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