Meet the Cincinnati Bar Foundation President Bernice Walker

The Cincinnati Bar Foundation welcomes Bernice L. Walker as our new president. Walker has been an active member of the Foundation Board since 2018. She has been a member of the Cincinnati Bar Association since law school and is an alum of the Cincinnati Academy of Leadership for Lawyers. We checked in with Walker to learn a little more about her background and her vision for the Foundation.

Why did you become an attorney? 

I wanted to help people. I thought I was going to combine my love for sports with my law degree and represent professional athletes. I grew up in a household where education was important; my parents had advanced degrees and I knew I was going to college. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Economics from The College of Wooster and was working at a financial institution in my hometown of Dayton, but I wanted to do more. I had an interest in law and attended the People’s Law School, a program for lay people, and the experience confirmed my interest. In addition, my supervisor asked about my interest and goals during my annual review and made me aware of the evening program at the NKU Salmon P. Chase College of Law (Chase). 

Tell us about your career path. 

I enrolled in law school, moved to the Cincinnati area in 1989, and continued working at The Central Trust Company (nka PNC Bank). One summer, I worked at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. After graduating from Chase, I was hired as an associate at Manley Burke LPA. We had a general civil practice and I served as Deputy Director of Legal Services for the Village of Lincoln Heights. In 2000, I began my career in supplier diversity serving as the Director of Small Business Development for Hamilton County. I held that position for nearly 13 years before joining the Duke Energy team. Additionally, I was an adjunct professor at Chase (1996-2004) and was president of the Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati (1999-2001).

What is the most interesting/rewarding part of your current job? 

As a Supplier Engagement & Diversity Manager, I help to identify diverse businesses that support our core operations. There are numerous interesting and rewarding aspects of my job - helping people and making connections with contracting opportunities. I am also the primary point of contact for compliance, e.g., confirming we have support for businesses that self-identify as diverse. Additionally, I travel for work with Duke Energy headquartered in Charlotte, NC. I travel there several times a year, but also manage outreach for the Midwest (OH, KY, IN, and TN), and represent the company at conferences. The most rewarding part is setting goals and achieving them. We set a goal to become members of the Billion Dollar Roundtable and we achieved this major milestone in the supplier diversity arena in 2023.

Why did you decide to become involved with the Foundation? 

The Honorable William A. McClain encouraged me to participate in the Cincinnati Bar Foundation. I thought the Foundation had a worthwhile mission of promoting justice and changing lives through the law. I served on the Grants Committee several years before becoming a member of the board. 

What are your goals for your two years as Foundation president? 

There are many not-for-profit organizations that benefit from the grants the Foundation awards while supporting our mission. I think it would be great if we increased awareness of the Foundation and its objectives while increasing the number of contributors and the diversity of our donor base. I would also like to see more diversity at our events, and I hope to identify more diverse musicians and other talented members of the legal community to participate in Rock the Foundation.

What are you doing when you are not working or volunteering? 

One for my favorite things to do is walk, yes, Bernice Walker likes to walk. I enjoy walking through Eden Park. Although the hills can be challenging, when you reach the top, you can look over the Ohio River and see Kentucky. I also like participating in fundraising walks like the Freestore Foodbank Hunger Walk. Participants and donors can designate food pantries to support. I walk with the Temple Blessings Team to help raise funds for my church’s food pantry.