Jointly created with the Association of Legal Writing Directors, this award honors 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. The Blackwell Award is presented at the annual January meeting of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS).
The Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute are proud to announce the winner of the 2024 Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing is:
Kris is a Professor of Law, Legal Practice at Georgetown University Law Center where she has taught since 1994. She is a Past President of LWI, a past Secretary of ALWD, and a former Editorial Board Member of Legal Writing: The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute. Kris has chaired or co-chaired numerous conferences including the Applied Legal Storytelling Conference and the LWI Biennial Conference.
The Thomas F. Blackwell Award is presented annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to improve the field of legal writing by demonstrating (1) an ability to nurture and motivate students to excellence; (2) a willingness to help other legal writing educators improve their teaching skills or their legal writing programs; and (3) an ability to create and integrate new ideas for teaching and motivating legal writing educators and students. Kris unquestionably exemplifies these contributions as a teacher and a colleague. In one nominating letter, her nominators stated:
Kris Tiscione is the kind of teacher, scholar, and colleague that lets us get to know Tom Blackwell. Her broad and deep and dedication to her students and colleagues as well as her passion for legal writing honors Tom’s memory and continues his work.
Former students praised Kris’s ability to nurture students and inspire them to think more deeply about the topics in their courses:
Professor Tiscione also trusted her law fellows’ abilities to mentor first year students through one-on-one meetings and written feedback on assignments. Her faith in my ability to help younger students was a great motivator to work hard to improve my skills, and to look at my own writing with a more critical eye. Her belief in my potential in turn helped me develop confidence in my own abilities. Of all my law school teachers, I can say without hesitation that Professor Tiscione had the most profound and positive impact on my development as an attorney.
[Kris’s] love of rhetoric—the focus of her intellectual curiosity and the source of her intellectual passion—sets Kris apart. She created a course to teach interested students, myself included, how persuasive writing—legal or otherwise—transcends time: From Aristotle to modernity, principles of persuasion are timeless, teachable, and, most importantly, learnable. Kris pushed us to think critically and rigorously engaged with rhetoric. Kris knew I wanted to publish the paper I wrote in her class, so she put in a herculean effort to guide me to meeting the “publication standard.” And I did, thanks to her.
Outside of the classroom, Kris’s inspires her colleagues at Georgetown and members of the legal writing community with her discipline-building scholarship, her dedicated mentorship, and her tireless advocacy for legal writing scholarship and faculty.
In [her Philosophy v. Rhetoric in Legal Education] article, Kris took up the cause of disrupting the status of legal writing as “the stepchild of the law school curriculum,” . . . . She identified the discrimination at work as discrimination on the basis both of gender and “perceived intellect,” that is, the discrimination was based in part on the misguided theory of others in the legal academy that not only were most professors of legal writing women, they were women “who aren’t that smart teaching a course that’s not that hard.” Given the context, it took courage to write what Kris wrote—and she has continued to show that same courage time after time after time.
[Kris] has been one of my most important colleagues. By her leadership and quiet encouragement, she has helped me to see my own value as a teacher, scholar, and faculty member. I trust her advice: she always builds me up, even when she is delivering a candid and difficult assessment. Every discussion with her is an opportunity for growth.
Kris teaches us all how to incorporate aspects of formal logic and rhetoric into our teaching. I am a better professor because she has filled in some of those gaps for me. She and I also spent time together really noodling through the different types of legal reasoning. Not just what Wilson Huhn says in his book, The Five Types of Legal Argument, but also contemplating the newer ideas of narrative reasoning and inferential reasoning.
The Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute are proud to announce that the winner of the 2023 Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing is:
Ruth Anne is a Distinguished Clinical Professor of Law at Rutgers Law School, where she has taught since 1997. She is a Past President of LWI, and she is a longtime Board member of Legal Communication and Rhetoric: JALWD, currently serving as Editor-in-Chief Emeritus. Ruth Anne is also a co-founder of the Applied Legal Storytelling International Conferences, co-sponsored by LWI and CLEA.
Ruth Anne’s nominators call her “the consummate teacher.” She is a four-time recipient of Rutgers’s Lawyering Professor of the Year Award, and in 2018, Rutgers awarded her the prestigious Lindback Foundation Teaching Award. Ruth Anne is also a prolific scholar and a dedicated leader and mentor. In the words of Ruth Anne’s nominators, “Few members of the legal writing community have made so many far-reaching contributions to our field as Ruth Anne Robbins. She has been a leader in helping individual members of our community, as well as our collective group, succeed. Through her leadership roles and committee work, she has raised the profile of our membership and helped professors across the country excel in both teaching and scholarship. Moreover, she has been a thoughtful leader on the cutting edge of legal writing scholarship and pedagogy.”
The Thomas F. Blackwell Award is presented annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to improve the field of legal writing by demonstrating (1) an ability to nurture and motivate students to excellence; (2) a willingness to help other legal writing educators improve their teaching skills or their legal writing programs; and (3) an ability to create and integrate new ideas for teaching and motivating legal writing educators and students. Without a doubt, Ruth Anne exemplifies these qualities in many ways. Here are some illustrative excerpts from Ruth Anne’s nomination letters:
Professor Robbins’ students praise her as a teacher, mentor, and friend. Anonymous student evaluators of her first-year legal writing classes have described her as “absolutely wonderful,” “a great teacher,” “engaging,” “responsive,” “outstanding,” “a fantastic teacher,” and “everything I could ask for in a professor.” Student evaluations of Professor Robbins’ Persuasion course have also been effusive. Several students have described seeing meaningful improvement in their skills; one person reported that “I feel my writing has taken on a greater level of depth.” . . . Yet another person wrote, “The skills I learned here are invaluable and I am positive that I will draw on what I learned from this class for the rest of my legal career.”
Whether it’s conferencing about a piece of writing, reviewing resumes, helping a student when a job offer unexpectedly falls through or navigating a family crisis, I cannot think of a presence at Rutgers Law School that is more dedicated to the academic and holistic well-being of her students. Parents and grandparents excluded, I have never, and may never again, have a mentor who is so unwaveringly supportive, understanding, and caring about my legal aspirations and personal growth and development.
Ruth Anne is recognized as the primary force in the creation and development of three sub-fields of the discipline of legal writing: applied legal storytelling, client-centered lawyering, and document design. Within each sub-field, she came up with new ideas, refined and developed
them through research and examination, wrote about the resulting concepts, and integrated all this into her teaching of law students and lawyers. In conversations, workshops, webinars, social media posts, and articles, she helped spread new disciplinary concepts to other teachers and, through other teachers, to greater numbers of students and lawyers.
Despite all of her many discipline-building and teaching accomplishments, Ruth Anne has always had time to help and mentor the new professor and the just-starting-off scholar. She has selflessly mentored and shared her ideas and materials with countless other professors in the field. Many careers would not be the same without having had the benefit of her professional influence.
I presented my initial thoughts on kairos during one of the storytelling conferences. The presentation came very early in my research and thinking on the subject. I said something in the presentation that resonated with Ruth Anne, and she wrote it down (and even used it in a footnote years later). She became my personal cheerleader on the kairos project, frequently reminding me that “the time was right” for me to share my draft and later on to complete the article. . . . Ruth Anne’s consistent reminders were important in keeping me on track, but more important was her insistence that the work I was doing mattered.
This nomination cannot adequately convey Ruth Anne’s most important qualities—qualities that anyone who has worked with her admires—the enormous energy, commitment, and caring she brings to every endeavor on which she embarks. She is proud to be a member of the legal writing community, and we are so fortunate to have known her and benefitted from her talent.
The Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute are proud to announce the winner of the 2021 Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing:
Teri A. McMurtry-Chubb is a Professor of Law at UIC Law. Professor McMurtry-Chubb researches, teaches, and writes in the areas of critical rhetoric, discourse and genre analysis, and legal history. She has lectured nationally on structural discrimination in educational institutions and the workplace. Teri is a leader in designing curricula to facilitate diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
Professor McMurtry-Chubb is a past president of ALWD and has served as a mentor for countless members of the legal research and writing community. She is the author of several books, book chapters, and articles. She is a past recipient of the LWI Phelps Award for Scholarship in Legal Communication, an award presented annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to improve the field of Legal Writing by demonstrating (1) an ability to nurture and motivate students to excellence; (2) a willingness to help other legal writing educators improve their teaching skills or their legal writing programs; and, (3) an ability to create and integrate new ideas for teaching and motivating legal writing educators and students.
Without a doubt, Professor McMurtry-Chubb exemplifies the Blackwell Award qualities in several important ways. Her award nominator explains Professor McMurtry-Chubb's qualities well:
Teri has been an inspiration and a mentor to a countless number of legal writing teachers and scholars . . . . She is accomplished in all of the areas that the Blackwell Award recognizes, including . . . motivating students at several institutions to excellence, crossing the country on a regular basis to teach other educators and institutions on anti-bias initiatives and curriculum, much of which she has developed herself through her scholarship. She is a leader, a thinker, a writer and a teacher extraordinaire. She has done everything I can imagine to bring up younger teachers and scholars and her powerful positivity lit the way for many professors of color in our field.
The Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute are proud to announce the winner of the 2020 Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing is:
This distinguished award is presented annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to improve the field of Legal Writing by demonstrating:
Brad is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School in Minneapolis, who has served the legal writing community for thirty-seven years at his home institutions, as the President of ALWD, as a principal contributor to the second edition of the Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs (ABA, 2d ed. 2006), as ALWD Liaison to the Council of the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, and much more.
As stated in his many nomination letters, Brad exemplifies these qualities in several important ways. Here are just a few excerpts from several nominators:
Brad Clary’s contributions to the legal writing academy over the past thirty-seven years deserve to be recognized . . . . Brad’s innovation has transformed the Minnesota program into the best it can possibly be. . . . He has increased morale from the student and teacher perspective by always offering sound counsel to any student or instructor who stops by his office (his door is always open) . . . . He has created a legal writing program that produces award-winning students, dedicated lawyers, and talented attorney instructors.
I am pleased to nominate Brad Clary from the University of Minnesota School of Law for the Blackwell Award. Brad is the sort of person who quietly does things because they need to get done. He would never think he did anything extraordinary, but he has accomplished great things for our discipline. He embodies the values the Blackwell Award represents.
I fell in love with teaching, in part because every discussion Brad and I had about the class I taught was focused on outcomes for the students. We talked then about how, even in the early 2000s, legal writing and its teaching were under-theorized and very incompletely researched. He encouraged me to do something about it.
Additional evidence of Brad’s dedication to the legal writing field are two ground breaking conferences, both held at University of Minnesota Law School, the Erasing Lines Conference and the Acknowledging Lines Conference. These conferences, which may be best described as bookends, have helped frame the issues confronting legal writing faculty.
The Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute are proud to announce the winner of the 2019 Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Legal Writing to
This distinguished award is presented annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to improve the field of Legal Writing by demonstrating:
Terry’s service to the legal writing community has been vast. She has been a member of ALWD since its inception and has served both on the Board of Directors and as President. She has acted as Assistant Editor-in-Chief as well as Managing Editor of the Journal of Legal Writing and was instrumental in moving that journal online. Terry is also a co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Legal Writing Conference and the West Coast Rhetoric Group.
In all aspects of Terry’s career, she has devoted herself to building our discipline, mentoring junior faculty, and inspiring young minds. From encouraging us to develop a common legal writing language, to helping map the scholarship of our discipline, and advocating for better conditions for legal writing faculty, Terry’s scholarship has made an outstanding contribution to our community.
The Blackwell Award Reception was held at the 2019 AALS Annual Meeting in January. The Award was presented by Jodi Wilson, President of ALWD and Kristen Tiscione, President of LWI.