By Andrew Cohen
Katie Henderson ’12 has won the third annual Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) Award for Excellence in Legal Research and Writing at Berkeley Law. At a luncheon ceremony on September 13, CEB Executive Director Pam Jester announced Henderson as the winner and presented her with a framed certificate and $2,500 check.
A nonprofit organization of the California State Bar Association and the University of California, CEB provides practice guides, continuing education, and other resources to state bar members. It established the award to honor Berkeley Law students who demonstrate outstanding performance in the First Year Skills Program.
Henderson 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 Rachel Bennett, Benjamin Kozik, Mary Gilbert, Nell Green Nylen, Keenan Klein, Adam Kool, Emma Mann-Meginniss, Emily Prifogle, Tracy Tefertiller, Fanxi Wang, and Evan White.
“Legal writing is an exercise in humility,” says Henderson. “I learned pretty fast that waxing on about my personal image of justice is not a particularly helpful advocacy strategy.”
Like all first-year students at Berkeley Law, Henderson completed the Legal Research & Writing class during fall semester. The class teaches students how to read cases, research legal problems, select precedent, and write legal memoranda on topics involving both 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 are assigned a side, research the case law, and eventually submit a final brief and argue their position in a moot court setting.
“I was surprised that I enjoyed my oral argument so much,” says Henderson. “I think I was a little unsure about whether law school was the right place for me until I was in front of the panel and felt completely energized by the experience.”
Henderson’s brief dealt with civil rights protection for transgender individuals under Title VII, and her winning entry was a response to a summary judgment motion. She credits her course instructor, Patricia Plunkett Hurley, and Hurley’s two teaching assistants for helping to navigate many challenging aspects of the mock case: “Throughout the process,” Henderson says, “they gave me thoughtful and individualized feedback, as well as kindness and support.”
At the award luncheon, First-Year Skills Program director Lindsay Sturges Saffouri introduced the Best Brief winners from last spring’s first-year sections. Director of Professional Skills David Oppenheimer also spoke about legal writing as a critical skill for practicing lawyers.
Three Berkeley Law alumni served on the CEB selection committee: former State Bar of California president Palmer Brown Madden ’73, Contra Costa Superior Court Judge David Flinn ’63, and Oakland attorney Cheryl Hicks ’83, a California State Bar Board of Governors member and former Alameda County Bar Association president.