Upper Arlington resident Carl Smallwood has been named president of the board of directors of a statewide program that identifies youth from disadvantaged neighborhoods and grooms them to become future leaders in the legal profession.

Upper Arlington resident Carl Smallwood has been named president of the board of directors of a statewide program that identifies youth from disadvantaged neighborhoods and grooms them to become future leaders in the legal profession.

The Law & Leadership Institute was formed last year as a pilot project to improve diversity in the legal profession. Smallwood was elected president at a June 22 meeting of the institute's 11-member governing board.

Smallwood, a partner in the law firm Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, said the program paves the way for young people to enter the legal profession who might not otherwise be encouraged to do so.

"Its mission is to introduce a group of underserved high school students to an educational experience that will improve their academic skills, raise their aspirations to become lawyers and create in them the skills to be successful," he said.

Columbus and Cleveland students entering the ninth grade participated in last year's inaugural Law & Leadership Summer Institute, which is part of the Supreme Court of Ohio's Legal Education Opportunity program. The institute offered students the chance to study law at Ohio State University's Moritz College of Law and Cleveland State University's Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

The program has been expanded this year to Akron, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo. After learning Monday through Thursday about all aspects of the criminal justice system, including hot-button issues such as search and seizure and police use of force, students are tested on their knowledge on Fridays.

One of the program's objectives is to increase diversity in the legal profession, Smallwood said.

"The students are drawn from public school systems, which tend to be more diverse anyway," said Smallwood, who is African American.

An alumnus of Upper Arlington High School, Smallwood received his bachelor's degree from Ohio State University and his juris doctor from Ohio State's College of Law.

Smallwood and his wife, Connie, have two children, Nathaniel, 15, a UAHS student, and Jocelyn, 18, who will start her freshman year at Ohio State in the fall.

Smallwood, who specializes in labor and employment issues, said he knew he wanted to be a lawyer by the time he graduated from high school. He said he is hopeful that the Law & Leadership Institute will inspire students to set goals.

"As lawyers, we're taught a set of problem-solving skills. Those analytical skills can be built at a fairly young age, so these high school students are introduced to academic rigor," he said.

"Whether they become lawyers or not, the hope is that they will carry that forward into their education and into their lives."

cbournea@thisweeknews.com