By Andrew Cohen
Christopher Martin ’13 has won the fourth annual Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) Award for Excellence in Legal Research and Writing at Berkeley Law. At a luncheon ceremony on September 12, CEB Executive Director Pam Jester announced Martin as the winner and presented him with a framed certificate and a $2,500 check.
CEB is a joint committee of the University of the California and the State Bar of California that provides practice guides, continuing education, and other professional resources to state bar members. It established the award to honor Berkeley Law students who demonstrate outstanding performance in the First Year Skills Program.
Martin and 11 classmates became eligible for the award last spring after receiving Best Brief honors in their first-year Written and Oral Advocacy sections. The other Best Brief winners were Joel Coito, David Rosen, Rachel Schwartz, Christopher Perre, Ciara Mittan, Martin Quinones, Kennji Kizuka, Lily Bu, Anne Bellows, Samantha Groden, and Tim Sun.
“Brief writing can be challenging because the process does not have a clearly defined endpoint,” Martin said. “It seems like there’s always room for more research, writing, editing—and fine-tuning the argument. The Written and Oral Advocacy course makes brief writing manageable by breaking down the process into discrete tasks with multiple rounds of individualized feedback.”
At the award luncheon, First-Year Skills Program Director Lindsay Sturges Saffouri introduced the Best Brief winners and Director of Professional Skills David Oppenheimer spoke about the importance of legal writing.
“In this profession, if you can’t write effectively you can’t be effective as an advocate, counselor, or advisor,” Oppenheimer said. “To write, we must understand; and to write well, we must understand really deeply. And we don’t know if we understand something deeply until we articulate it in writing.”
Like all first-year students at Berkeley Law, Martin first completed the Legal Research & Writing class during his fall semester. The class teaches students how to read cases, research legal problems, choose precedent, and write legal memoranda on topics involving state and federal law.
During the spring Written and Oral Advocacy course, students learn more advanced research techniques and how to write a brief. After receiving a hypothetical case based on an emerging federal issue, students research the case law and write and submit competitive briefs; finalists revise their briefs based on instructor feedback and argue their position in a moot court setting.
This year’s case addressed whether a restaurant’s implementation of a speak-English-only rule constituted national origin discrimination against Navajo employees. In the context of the restaurant’s motion for summary judgment, the students briefed whether: (1) the plaintiffs could establish a prima facie case of discrimination, (2) the rule was justified by business necessity, and (3) there was a less discriminatory alternative that would meet the same business need.
Martin wrote an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brief opposing the restaurant owner’s motion for partial summary judgment. He credited Saffouri, his writing instructor, and teaching assistants David Kemp, Claire Kelleher-Smith, and Anna Crivelli.
“The instructors and teaching assistants invest a tremendous amount of time and energy into the program and it shows in the written work of students here,” Martin said. “In many ways, the program is the foundation of Berkeley Law’s impressive commitment to skills-based learning, which is arguably more important now than ever before.”
Three Berkeley Law alumni served on the CEB selection committee: Contra Costa County Superior Court Judge John Sugiyama ’75, San Francisco trial attorney Barbara Lawless ’72 of Lawless & Lawless in San Francisco, and senior associate Niki Moore ’06 of Wilmer Hale’s Palo Alto office.