By Andrew Cohen
Jennifer Barnette ’14 has won the fifth annual Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) Award for Excellence in Legal Research and Writing at Berkeley Law. CEB Executive Director Pam Jester announced the news at a recent luncheon ceremony, and presented Barnette with a framed certificate and a $2,500 check.
The continuing ed program, co-sponsored by the university and the State Bar of California, established the award to honor students who excelled in the law school’s First Year Skills Program. It provides practice guides, courses, and other professional resources to state bar members.
Barnette 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 Easha Anand, Carolyn Blumenfeld, Paul Cox, Charles Crain, Shepard Daniel, Jessica Diaz, Anne Hilby, Amanda Karl, Justin Orr, Anuradha Sivaram, and Winny Young.
“I think the professional skills program is the most valuable part of our first year,” Barnette said. “Everyone I meet in the legal profession emphasizes how important it is to write well. The skills we cultivate in Written and Oral Advocacy are beneficial in both transactional practice and litigation. Being able to communicate effectively by writing briefs, contracts, negotiating deals, or arguing in front of a jury, is probably what distinguishes great attorneys from mediocre ones.”
At the award luncheon, First Year Skills Program Director Lindsay Sturges Saffouri introduced the Best Brief winners, and Director of Professional Skills David Oppenheimer emphasized the importance of legal writing as an essential skill for attorneys.
A fundamental foundation
Like all first-year students at Berkeley Law, Barnette tackled the Legal Research and Writing class during her fall semester. The class teaches students how to read cases, research legal problems, determine 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 brief writing. After receiving a hypothetical case based on an emerging legal issue, students research the case law and draft and submit competitive briefs; finalists revise their briefs based on feedback from their professor and argue their position in a moot court setting.
Last spring, the case addressed whether a retailer’s use of an image of Woody Allen on a billboard fell within an exemption to California’s right of publicity statute. Barnette wrote a brief on behalf of the retailer opposing Allen’s motion for partial summary judgment.
“We’re so fortunate at Berkeley Law to have fantastic instructors, in Legal Research and Writing as well as Written and Oral Advocacy, who really care about helping us reach our potential and become great legal practitioners,” Barnette said. She thanked Trish Plunkett Hurley, a lecturer in residence with the First Year Skills Program, for “her extensive feedback and constant enthusiasm, which motivates us to do our best.”
Two Berkeley Law alumni served on the CEB selection committee for the award: Judge John Sugiyama ’75 of the Contra Costa County Superior Court, and Niki Moore ’06, a senior associate in WilmerHale’s Palo Alto office. They were joined by Clara Ruyan Martin of Cadence Law Group in Los Angeles.