Women Worth Watching 2015
Inajo Davis Chappell
This Ulmer & Berne Partner Is Committed to Serving Her Community
Inajo Davis Chappell is a partner at Ulmer & Berne LLP, where she chairs the firm’s Nonprofit Practice Group and co-chairs the firm’s Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Under her leadership, the firm’s representation of exempt organizations grew from 88 to more than 250. Her clients range from social service agencies to arts groups, health organizations, foundations, community development corporations, and educational and governmental institutions. Inajo has particular experience in representing school districts in the provision and delivery of educational programming and services to disabled students.
“…I was able to incorporate my passion.”
Outside her legal practice, Inajo is an active civic leader and community volunteer. She holds positions on the boards of several nonprofit organizations, including the Cleveland Foundation, Medical Mutual of Ohio’s Charitable Foundation, and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. She was co-chair of the Cuyahoga County Economic-Inclusion Task Force, a countywide initiative focused on improving economic opportunities for women and minorities in the region.
“I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when I was able to incorporate my passion for civic engagement and community service into my law practice,” Inajo said. “It is particularly rewarding to assist nonprofit clients in resolving ‘bottom line’ issues to enable delivery on mission and community benefit. “
Savoy Magazine named Inajo one of the Most Influential Black Lawyers in America, an honor awarded to elite influencers and achievers in the legal community across the country. She has been recognized in Best Lawyers in America® for five consecutive years, earning the distinction of “Lawyer of the Year” for Non-Profit/Charities Law in 2015. The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association presented Inajo with their 2014 Diversity & Inclusion Award, and the organizaiton’s Women in Law Section recognized her for making a difference in the lives of women and contributing to the Northeast Ohio community at a recent “Women in Law Making a Difference” event.
Education: BA, Yale University; JD, Columbia Law School
First Job: Youth Reporter for WEWS-Cleveland (a local ABC Affiliate
What I’m Reading: “Every Day I Fight” by Stuart Scott and “Believer: My 40 Years in Politics” by David Axelrod
The most important quality a woman leader should have is…
The career advice I’d give my former self:
Be fearless. Trust your intellect, but be guided by your intuition. Make thoughtful decisions.
Words I live by:
Work ethic trumps brilliance any day of the week. Give 150% and earn your stripes. Say what you think and mean what you say.
The one thing I’d do differently in my career, knowing what I know now, is…
…teamwork and mentorship are key ingredients to professional development and advancement.
When I really need to focus on a project, I…
…often work outside of the office; at home in my pajamas! Some of my best thinking is done that way.
My biggest career leap (and what I learned from it) was…
…after a time spent recovering from an illness. I learned that starting over can be restorative and catalytic, and that God is really in charge. What a liberating discovery.
Being a woman in my profession has been…
…an extraordinary asset. Women have keen insight and perspective when problem solving and we work 5 times as hard as everyone else.
I’ve learned that failure is…
…instructive, critical for constructive change and often the guidepost for greater success.
I maintain a healthy personal life by…
…maintaining a focus on family. There is not a lot of “balance” between my professional and personal life. I am a caregiver to several elderly adults so it is often a difficult second job. However, it is a labor of love.
I knew my present career was what I wanted to do when…
…I was able to incorporate my passion for civic engagement and community service into my law practice. It is particularly rewarding to assist nonprofit clients in resolving “bottom line” issues to enable delivery on mission and community benefit.