Emerging Scholar

LWI presents this award biennially to a legal writing professor whose outstanding scholarship strengthens and builds our discipline.  The award will be presented at the LWI Conference or, if necessary, at a legal writing conference near the recipient.  With this award, we hope to foster a new generation of scholars while recognizing the rich diversity of our community. 

Unlike the Phelps Award, this award is limited to a professor’s first or second full-length, published article on legal writing doctrine or pedagogy.  Anyone can nominate an eligible candidate, and eligible candidates can nominate themselves.    The Awards Committee reviews the submissions and recommends an award recipient to the LWI Board based on the quality of the candidate’s scholarship.

In the spirit of recognizing the many individuals who make significant contributions to the field of legal writing, the committee especially encourages a diverse and inclusive pool of nominees.  Members of the LWI Board of Directors and the LWI Awards Committee are ineligible for nomination until at least one year after completing service.

2024 Winner: Michael Blasie Assistant Professor of Law, Seattle University School of Law

The Board of Directors of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) is delighted to announce that Professor Michael Blasie is the recipient of the 2024 Emerging Scholar Award. The Board created this award in 2019 to help foster a new generation of scholars in our field. The award is limited to a professor’s first or second full-length, published article on legal writing or pedagogy.

Professor Blasie’s second full-length article, "Regulating Plain Language," published in the 2023 Wisconsin Law Review, has made a significant impact on the plain language movement. As an emerging leader in this field, Michael has produced work that addresses critical aspects of plain language laws and their implications for legal writing.  This nomination for the Emerging Scholar Award is in recognition of his contribution to the evolving discourse on legal writing. 

Michael’s article examines the various designs of plain language laws passed by legislatures and regulators, highlighting their scope, standards, and enforcement. It reveals how courts are becoming more proactive in incorporating plain language into legal doctrines, such as constitutional law and contract law. These insights are crucial, as they reflect the evolving nature of legal writing and the growing need for clarity and accessibility in legal documents. 

The article also emphasizes that legal writing involves more than technical skill—it requires understanding complex policy decisions. Michael discusses which branch of government controls legal writing and whether regulation should be the responsibility of the government, the legal profession, or the market. He also explores who or what should be covered by these laws and how to incentivize or discourage certain behaviors, providing a comprehensive perspective on the topic. 

Michael's analysis sheds light on the broader implications of plain language laws and their impact on legal writing. His work underscores the importance of clear communication in legal documents, highlighting that plain language is essential for public access to justice and legal comprehension. The detailed examination of policy considerations in the article shows that plain language is not merely a stylistic choice but a fundamental aspect of effective legal communication. 

Michael's contribution to the field of legal writing through this article demonstrates his potential to influence and shape future scholarship. His insights into plain language laws and their implications for legal practice are noteworthy, and his thorough analysis provides a deeper understanding of the complexities involved. His work exemplifies the kind of innovative scholarship that advances the field. 

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 Chair Colin Black and members Cindy Archer, Janet Dickson, Caroleen Dineen, Lindsey Gustafson, Tamara Herrera, Liz Kukura, Karen Mika, Hilary Reed, and Nancy Soonpaa.

The recipient of the Emerging Scholar Award will be recognized at the 2024 LWI Biennial Conference at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis in July. You can join us in congratulating Michael by emailing him at mblasie@seattle.edu.