INDIANAPOLIS — Norris Cunningham was presented with the 2022 Dr. John Morton-Finney Jr. Award for Excellence in Legal Education by the Indianapolis Bar Association this morning [Tuesday, November 22, 2022]. Norris, a member of Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC, was “the unanimous selection for his work in creating the Law Education and Mock Trial program at Arsenal Tech High School which reflects true vision and a passion for sharing the law with younger generations” according to the Indy Bar. The newly monikered program “Classrooms to Courtrooms: Building Broader Pipelines to Legal Education” is designed to do just that - build a broader pipeline and network for underserved students, who either have not considered a legal career or who do not have access to higher legal education, to obtain positive exposure to the practice of law. While Classrooms to Courtrooms focuses on litigation through mock trial, it also provides the students exposure to a wide variety of practice areas and skillsets for attorneys and other legal professionals at all levels.
Upon notification that he would be the 2022 recipient, Norris shared, “In 1995, during my third year of law school, I was President of the Black Law Students Association, and it was my privilege to accompany John Morton-Finney when he came to speak at the school. He was 106 years old, still practicing law out of his home, and with a razor-sharp wit. Before his lecture to the students, I sat with him and Dean Norman Lefstein in the Dean’s office and learned so much about Dr. Morton-Finney’s life — the struggles and the triumphs. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. To be presented an award with his name on it is simply unfathomable to me.”
Offer Korin, member SKO, had the honor of introducing Norris at this morning’s ceremony, said [Norris] “took it upon himself to begin to solve our issues with lack of diversity among practicing attorneys. Norris looked outside of our offices and courthouses and recognized a vast gulf between the demographics in our local high schools and our local law schools. He realized that a meaningful impact can be made on individual lives, and the profession as a whole, by entering high schools and modeling for the students the possibilities that can be achieved through the practice of law.” Classrooms to Courtrooms is not only in the process of being replicated by the attorneys and staff of SKO in all of their communities but will soon be implemented by other law firms around the country and across the globe.
The nomination read in part, “The students in the Law Education / Mock Trial program at Arsenal Technical High School have benefited in immeasurable ways from the leadership and contributions of Norris Cunningham and other attorneys who are teaching them on a weekly basis. They are opening their minds to the possibility of law as a career choice, whether as attorneys or as other legal professionals — Norris makes sure that paralegals, legal assistants, and others who work in the legal profession make their way to the classroom. And, the students are getting to see attorneys who look like them — at a school filled with predominantly black and Hispanic students, attorneys who are also diverse are coming into their school and into their classrooms to teach them about the legal process.”