Columbia Law School Wins Special Award for Legal Writing

Columbia Law School is one of two law schools in the nation that will receive a special Record of Distinction Award from the Burton Foundation, an organization that honors law school students for effective legal writing. Each year, deans are permitted to submit one article to the foundation, whose judges look for entries that “use plain, clear and concise language and avoid archaic, stilted legalese.” Columbia Law School is receiving special recognition for having three winning articles since the competition’s founding in 2000. The award ceremony will take place on June 4 in the Coolidge Auditorium and Great Hall of the Library on Congress in Washington, D.C., with guest speaker Bob Schieffer, CBS News’ chief Washington correspondent. The University of Minnesota Law School is also being presented with a Record of Distinction prize.

Professor Philip Genty, who directs the Legal Practice Workshop, in which Columbia Law School associates-in-law teach legal writing to J.D. students, will receive the Record of Distinction Award on behalf of the Law School. He has been involved with legal writing at the Law School since his arrival in 1989. He has been a member or chair of the Associates Committee since 1993 and, along with the late Professor Curtis Berger, co-chaired a committee in 1994-96 that evaluated the legal writing skills program.

“Law firms and nonprofit organizations that recruit our students tell us that one of the most important skills for J.D. graduates is the ability to write like a lawyer,” said Dean David M. Schizer. “We’re proud of our winning students and of Philip Genty, who has overseen the teaching of legal writing to a generation of 1Ls and 2Ls.”

“A Civil Jury in Criminal Sentencing: Blakely, Financial Penalties, and the Public Rights Exceptions to the Seventh Amendment,” by Grant R. Mainland, ’07,  which was published in the 106 Columbia Law Review 1330, was one of 15 articles to receive the Burton award this year. Columbia’s other winning articles, in 2006 and 2005, respectively, were: “What Happens to a Prosecution Deferred? Judicial Oversight of Corporate Deferred Prosecution Agreements” by Benjamin Greenblum, ’06, which appeared in 105 Columbia Law Review 1863; and “‘The Reports of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated’: Administering Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act After Georgia v. Ashcroft” by Meghann E. Donahue, ‘05, which was published in the 104 Columbia Law Review 1651.

William C. Burton, a partner in D'Amato & Lynch, is the founder of the Burton Awards. A former New York state assistant attorney general and an assistant New York state special prosecutor, he now devotes his practice to lobbying at the federal and state levels. For 15 years he was director of government affairs for Continental Insurance in New York and is the author of Burton's Legal Thesaurus, a nationally known legal reference tool . The book, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, is now in its fourth edition.