Lucille Jewel is the inaugural Phelps Award recipient


The Board of Directors of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) is delighted to announce that Lucille Jewel is the inaugural recipient of the Teresa Godwin Phelps Award for Scholarship in Legal Communication.   Professor Jewel is a Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Law.  Her scholarship is interdisciplinary in nature and focuses on the intersections between technology, law, culture, and rhetoric.  She writes about cognitive approaches to legal argumentation, technology and the practice of law, the impact of culture on the legal profession, and the past, present, and future of legal education.

The Phelps Award honors and draws attention to individual works of outstanding scholarship specific to the legal writing discipline that are published in any given calendar year. The award is meant to set aspirational standards for others writing in the field.  In making the award, the selection committee and the LWI Board focused solely on whether an individual work is specific to the discipline of legal writing and on whether it makes an outstanding contribution to the discipline.

The creation of the Phelps Awards supports LWI’s discipline-building priority.  Naming these awards in honor of Terry Phelps recognizes her consistent support for and encouragement of others’ scholarly work and her own exemplary scholarship in narrative, international human rights, and legal rhetoric, including the foundational article that nourished and influenced all subsequent study of the field, The New Legal Rhetoric, 40 Sw. L.J. 1089 (1986).  This article was the essential introduction to the idea that legal writing was itself a field worthy of serious study.

The Selection Committee unanimously recommended Professor Jewel for the inaugural Phelps Award to recognize her 2016 article, “Old School Rhetoric and New School Cognitive Science: The Enduring Power of Logocentric Categories,” published in Volume 13 of the Legal Communication & Rhetoric: Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors.  In it, Professor Jewel argues that when we study how categories affect legal meanings, it becomes apparent that the overuse of boxed-in legal categories can produce distortion and injustice. Drawing upon legal history, jurisprudential trends, and cognitive science, the article theorizes that--although they do not mirror how we really think--ancient legal-thought structures have endured because they offer a way to present complex information in a clean and structured way, which is optimal for how humans process information.  After recognizing this state of affairs, Professor Jewel concludes the article by offering examples designed to engender a critical and empathic understanding of how categories work in a practical legal context.

The selection committee praised Professor Jewel’s article, remarking “the article does a good job of building on a base of scholarly research, and it will reach practitioners with insights that are simultaneously theoretical and useful.  The article will also remind LRW teachers that theory (in this case, cognitive theory) should reach into the classroom.”

The award will be presented on Thursday, January 4, 2018, during the annual Blackwell Reception at the AALS Annual Meeting in San Diego, California.  Please join us. 

The LWI Board is grateful for the work of the selection committee in identifying nominees and making recommendations to the Board.  The Committee includes Chair Kate O’Neill, and members Lisa Eichorn, Elizabeth Fajans, Ian Gallacher, and Teri McMurtry-Chubb.