Click on the links below to read more about awards and scholarships given by LWI:

Blackwell Award

Golden Pen Award

Hecht Award

LeClercq Courage Award

Legal Writing Scholarships

Teresa Godwin Phelps Scholarship Award


LWI's policy on awards is available here.

2017 Awards

The 2017 Golden Pen Award:

The Board of Directors of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) is delighted to announce that Dahlia Lithwick is the recipient of the 2017 Golden Pen Award.  Lithwick is an author, journalist, former attorney, and senior editor at Slate.  Since 2014, she has also served as the founder and host of the podcast Amicus: Law and the Supreme Court Justices Who Interpret it.  The award will be presented during the 2017 Association of American Law Schools annual meeting in San Francisco, California, on January 4, 2017.

 The Golden Pen Award honors those who make significant contributions to advance the cause of better legal writing.  These contributions may take any form, such as promoting the use of clear language in public documents, improving the quality of legal writing instruction, advocating for better writing within the legal community, outstanding scholarship or journalism about legal writing or legal topics, or exceptional writing in law practice.  The award is normally given to someone who is not an active member of LWI, but active members are considered in exceptional circumstances.

 The LWI Awards Committee recommended Lithwick for the 2017 Golden Pen to recognize her incisive writing about legal issues, and the varied ways in which she shares information about the courts with the public.  Her writing has been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Elle, New Republic, and Harper’s.  She has appeared on major news networks, The Colbert Report, and is a regular guest on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.  Lithwick is also co-author of two books, Me v. Everybody: Absurd Contracts for an Absurd World and I Will Sing Life: Voices from the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. 

 Lithwick’s nominators noted that she is “extremely gifted and highly regarded.”  Her peers admire her for her brilliance and candor.  In a 2014 interview, Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg praised Lithwick’s writing about the courts, calling her “very good” and “kind of—spicy.”  The LWI Board unanimously approved this recommendation.

Previous recipients of the Golden Pen award are Arthur Levitt, Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Don LeDuc, Dean of the Thomas Cooley Law School; Linda Greenhouse, Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times; the late Honorable Robert E. Keeton of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts; Richard Wydick, Professor at the University of California at Davis School of Law; the Honorable Ronald M. George, the Honorable Carol A. Corrigan, and the Honorable James D. Ward, Justices of the Supreme Court of California and the California Court of Appeal; the Honorable Ruggero J. Aldisert of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit; the National Association of Attorneys General; William C. Burton, Esq.; George Gopen, Professor of the Practice of Rhetoric in the English Department at Duke University; Jeffrey Rosen, Professor of Law at The George Washington University and President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Constitution Center; Ken Adams, author; the Honorable Michael A. Ponsor of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts; and Ross Guberman, author.

The LWI Board is grateful for the work of the LWI Awards Committee in identifying nominees and making recommendations to the Board.  The Committee includes C0-chairs Myra Orlen and Kirsten Dauphinais, and members Brenda Gibson, Margaret Hannon, Greg Johnson, Mary Nagel, and Suzanne Rowe. 


2016 Awards

The 2016 Blackwell Award:

The Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute are proud to announce that the 2016 Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing has been awarded to Coleen Miller Barger, Altheimer Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. More information here.

The Boards of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) jointly created this distinguished award to honor the life of our colleague, Tom Blackwell. The award is presented annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to improve the field of Legal Writing by demonstrating:

an ability to nurture and motivate students to excellence;

a willingness to help other legal writing educators improve their teaching skills or their legal writing programs;

and an ability to create and integrate new ideas for teaching and motivating legal writing educators and students.

Coleen will be presented with the 2016 Blackwell Award at a reception in New York on Wednesday, January 6, 2016, during the 2016 AALS Annual Meeting.  More information here.    

The 2016 Golden Pen Award:

The Board of Directors of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) is pleased to announce that Ross Guberman is the recipient of the 2016 Golden Pen Award.  The author of three books, Point Made, Deal Struck, and Point Taken, Guberman is known around the world as an expert and advocate for better legal writing.  The award will be presented during the 2016 Biennial Conference of the Legal Writing Institute, July 10-13, 2016, in Portland, Oregon. `

The LWI Awards Committee recommended Guberman for the 2016 Golden Pen to recognize his significant contribution to advancing the cause of better legal writing.  In addition to his books, he gives legal writing seminars around the world.  Guberman’s nominator noted that his “work is . . . targeted at improving the writing of everyday lawyers.  Ross’s techniques aren’t esoteric; they’re easy to understand, they can be implemented quickly and easily, and they greatly improve the quality of writing.”  The members of the LWI Awards Committee have used his books in their teaching, and know many other legal writing teachers who have done the same.  The LWI Board unanimously approved this recommendation.

In the ABA’s Appellate Issues on-line magazine, Wendy McGuire Coats wrote that in Point Made, “Guberman has assembled example after example of creative, clever, clear, common-sense legal writing.  He’s compiled in one book the great writing that will cause a legal writer to sigh, ‘I wish I'd written that.’  But he did not stop there.  Guberman has written a useable handbook that will aid the writer in crafting similar envy worthy moments of argument . . . Guberman’s techniques provide immediate ways to improve, tighten, and enliven the language and persuasive force of your prose.” 

For more than a decade, Guberman was a Professorial Lecturer in Law at the George Washington University Law School, where he taught a seminar on drafting and writing strategy.  He also provides seminars throughout the United States and internationally (see

The 2016 Terri LeClerq Courage Award:

Laurel Oates and Mimi Samuel of Seattle University received the third Terri LeClerq Courage Award at the gala on July 12, 2016, during the 2016 LWI Biennial Conference in Portland.  Laurel and Miimi have consistently championed the role of legal communication in fostering just and effective legal systems around the world, and LWI is honored to be able to recognize their work.

Terri LeClerq created the Courage Award to honor "courage writ large" relating to legal writing and demonstrated in the form of personal, moral, or civil courage. Through the award, the Legal Writing Institute honors members who have demonstrated exemplary courage by doing, despite fear, something that most people would not do. Past recipients of the Courage Award are Ralph Brill and Molly Lien (jointly), and Terry Phelps.

The LWI Awards Committee recommended, adn the LWI Board enthusiastically agreed, that Laural and Mimi should be the recipients of the third Courage Award. The selection is based on their demonstration of extraordinary "courage writ large" concerning legal writing by conducting teaching methods workshops in Afghanistan and by teaching legal writing in Russia, India, and numerous countries in Africa.

2015 Awards  

The 2015 Blackwell Award:

The 2015 Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing was awarded to Helene Shapo, Professor of Law Emerita at Northwestern University School of Law. The Blackwell Award was presented during the 2015 AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.  

Helene has been a pioneer in the legal writing field. As explained in her nomination letter:

[T]hroughout her 35-year career in the LRW field, she has quietly but firmly pushed for both more and more diversified course offerings and for more credits for those courses, better faculty salaries and status, and greater job security. In just about every way possible over her incredible career, Helene has been an innovator and a leader in our field. Through her writing, speaking, service, and curriculum design, she has been a guiding light in advancing the discipline of Legal Writing, improving the way it is taught to students, and improving the status and security of Legal Writing faculty.

The 2015 Golden Pen Award:

The Board of Directors of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) is pleased to announce that the Honorable Michael A. Ponsor, Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, is the recipient of the 2015 Golden Pen Award.

Judge Ponsor was recognized for his contributions to the cause of excellent legal writing, both in his opinion writing and in his teaching as an adjunct at Western New England University School of Law and at Yale, his alma mater. Demonstrating his commitment to teaching future lawyers, Judge Ponsor has for the last 20 years taught persuasive writing and advocacy skills in an upper-level simulation course. Judge Ponsor presided over the first death penalty case in Massachusetts in 50 years, and recently wrote a well-received novel, The Hanging Judge, about the legal and moral issues involved.

The nomination of Judge Ponsor recognized him as [a] respected and compassionate jurist as well as an exceptional writer, teacher, and mentor . . .. He has engaged the judiciary, current and future lawyers, and the public in a much-needed dialogue about two major challenges facing the criminal justice system:  the death penalty and the extremely high rates of incarceration in the United States.

2015 LWI/ALWD/LexisNexis Scholarship Grants:

LWI and ALWD select recipients of competitive scholarship grants, also funded through generous donations by LexisNexis, that reflect the three organizations’ commitment to the professional development of legal research and writing professionals. Recipients are full-time or adjunct professors teaching legal writing who demonstrate great promise in their pursuit of a particular scholarly project.

The Boards of Directors of LWI and ALWD are pleased to announce that the grant winners and names of the proposals for 2015 are as follows: Deborah Borman, De-grading Assessment: Rejecting Rubrics in Favor of Authentic Analysis Jennifer Cooper, Making It Stick for Law Students: The Science of Successful Learning In Law School Mark Osbeck, Research Memoranda, Data Analytics, and the Future of Case Forecasting Linda Shashoua, In Defense of Deference, Appellate Review In the Modern Video Age