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A Love for the Law

News Type Alumni
News Topic
Editor Emma Kapp
yvette mcgee

Yvette McGee Brown ’85 has an enthusiasm for law that not only fuels her own success, but also serves as a beacon of inspiration for others. A trailblazer in many respects, McGee Brown’s journey stands as a testament to the power of passion in shaping a fulfilling legal career.

 

Support from the start

McGee Brown was a journalism major at Ohio University. At the end of her sophomore year, she had a conversation with her advisor that changed her career trajectory.

“When she asked me what I wanted to do with my journalism degree, I told her I wanted to work on the Hill and be a press secretary for a congressperson,” said McGee Brown. “And she suggested I go to law school, because everybody in Washington D.C. is a lawyer.”

McGee Brown talked with her grandmother, whom she considered her “go-to” person. Although three more years of college sounded like a lot to McGee Brown, her grandmother knew what she needed to do.

“She didn't even look up from her crochet when I talked to her about it,” McGee Brown remembers. “She said, ‘well, if you're going to live to be 25 anyway, why not be 25 and a lawyer?’”

McGee Brown set her sights on going to law school and received a full scholarship to attend Ohio State. When she arrived on campus, she knew she would need to study hard to compete with her classmates. Although it was a challenging environment, McGee Brown was struck by the support she received from the faculty, especially the administration.

“(Associate Dean) Jack Henderson was always so kind and supportive, especially in my first year,” she said. “I always felt comfortable going in and talking to him. He just wanted to see students succeed.”

Throughout her time as a student, McGee Brown saw that her professors had the same desire for her to succeed. She still remembers the lessons she learned in her trial advocacy class with Alan Radnor and the experience she gained in constitutional law with Lou Jacobs. One of her most memorable classes, though, was her evidence class with Harriett Galvin. In addition to the practical guidance she provided, Galvin imparted wisdom that McGee Brown still carries with her.

“Professor Galvin said she wanted us to jump out of bed every morning excited to go to work, loving what we’re doing and knowing we're going to make a difference,’” McGee Brown said. “And I never forgot those words. She made me want to be a lawyer just for that.”

 

A profound legacy

McGee Brown took Galvin’s words to heart. Although she once thought of going to DC, McGee Brown loved the law and wanted to make a career in central Ohio. After graduation she went to work at the

Ohio Attorney General’s office as an Assistant Attorney General. Then, in 1992, she became the first Black woman elected to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court. She later became the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Ohio in 2011.

“Having all of those firsts – I never would have imagined it was possible when I was a law student,” she said. “That's something that my grandchildren and their grandchildren will be able to look back on, and I feel so blessed.”

Although she has achieved so much in her career, McGee Brown is proud of her work creating the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The center brings together prosecutors, police, physicians, children’s services social workers, and trauma therapists to help young victims of sexual abuse heal and move forward with their life. The center, now known as the Center for Family Safety and Healing, serves more than 1,400 children each year.

“I'm enormously proud to have had the opportunity to lead that effort, because the center will truly outlast me,” said McGee Brown.

 

Paying it forward

Now, McGee Brown serves as the Global Partner-in-Charge of Diversity, Inclusion and Advancement at Jones Day. In addition to assisting clients with a variety of legal issues, she works with the Firm’s leadership and clients on diversity, equity, and inclusion. McGee Brown also makes time to advise young lawyers and share insights.

“As you become a lawyer, you can take the law and use it as a sword and a shield,” she says. “I take great confidence in knowing that we are a country based on the rule of law. Even if I don't agree with an interpretation of the law, I have the ability to challenge it. Maybe I don't win it the next year or even the next five years, but I just keep pushing and building the case.”

As she reflects on her career so far, McGee Brown is proud of what she has accomplished and wants to keep empowering the next generation of legal professionals.

“I think about my grandmother who never had those opportunities because of the time in which she lived,” said McGee Brown. “Every day, she told me I could be anything I wanted to be, even when there was no objective evidence to support it. There was nothing she saw that would say her granddaughter could one day sit on the Ohio Supreme Court. I feel like every day that I get up, I'm paying forward that investment she made in me. And I love it.”

News Type Alumni
News Topic
Editor Emma Kapp

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