Posted December 9, 20205:24 pm
What do a child and an aspiring lawyer have in common? It takes a village to raise both.
That’s how a young father who is an attorney-in-waiting described the years-long effort that led him to pass the most recent Ohio Bar Exam.
Anthony Alto will be one of 741 new attorneys admitted to the practice of law in Ohio during next week’s virtual bar admissions ceremony. An achievement five years in the making, the 32-year-old credits his wife Alicia, family, and friends for all their sacrifices while he attended law school and prepared for the big test.
Whether it was his spouse assuming a more demanding role as a parent after their son Anthony Jr. was born 15 months ago, or neighbors mowing his lawn so he had an extra 30 minutes to study, he credits the help he received.
“As happy as I am [to pass the bar exam], I feel very empowered and motivated to do some really good things in the community because my community did what it did to get me to this point,” Alto said.
Graduating as a political science major from Cleveland State University in 2012, Alto’s seeds in civic and community service were sown during his childhood.
His youth group leadership at church evolved into positions within student government at Cleveland State as well as in organizations and programs for Hispanic empowerment throughout Cleveland.
Those roles led him to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections as a recruiter for Spanish-speaking poll workers. With his work there – and subsequent networking opportunities – he sensed a more impactful way he could help those in need.
“I want to feed the world, provide services, items, clothing. There’s a lot of people good at doing that. The community needs [to help] people who cannot advocate for themselves,” Alto said. “I want to be a voice for the voiceless.”
Despite working full time and attending law school, Alto always prioritized his social welfare efforts, both through Cleveland-Marshall College of Law clinics and the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
Last year, he helped organize a trip to a detention facility in Texas where students helped migrants seeking asylum. As profound as that was, his most influential experience, the one that kept him dedicated to his professional pursuits amid all the exhaustion, was a civil litigation clinic, where he prevented an elderly woman from being evicted from her home.
“This little, old lady came to us as a last resort. She was living in the cold, in an environment that nobody else would want to live in,” Alto said. “To just give up [because things were hard], how selfish would it be of me to just sit back and say, ‘I’m not going to do anything for anyone else?’ That would be a betrayal to my family and my community.”
His efforts in and out of the classroom were recognized by law school faculty and staff when he was given an annual award that demonstrates a commitment to making clients’ lives better and the community stronger.
Days away from becoming a licensed attorney, Alto is in the process of starting his own practice in Cleveland. He plans to focus on a variety of disciplines that mix his interests, experience, and needs in the Hispanic community, including criminal defense, as well as election, business, and family law.
He’ll start his business with the support of Cleveland-Marshall’s incubator program, which gives solo practitioners resources and connections to kickstart their operations at the law school’s facilities with minimal overhead. More important for Alto, it’ll give him the flexibility to focus on his fledgling firm and maintain his work in the community.
“That transcends all,” he said.