IIT Chicago-Kent Professor Ralph L. Brill receives the Association of Legal Writing Directors' first Brill Award

The award will honor service to the legal writing academy for 50 years or more

Monday, January 24, 2011
Professor Ralph Brill is the first recipient of the Association of Legal Writing Directors' Brill Award. Click on the image to watch a video of Professor Brill accepting the award during a reception at the AALS annual meeting in San Francisco.
Professor Ralph Brill is the first recipient of the Association of Legal Writing Directors' Brill Award. Click on the image to watch a video of Professor Brill accepting the award during a reception at the AALS annual meeting in San Francisco.

The Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) has established an award honoring IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Ralph L. Brill in recognition of his more than 50 years of service in the legal academy. Professor Brill received the first Brill Award on January 7 at an ALWD reception held during the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting in San Francisco.

Subsequent awards will be given periodically to honor those in the legal academy who, for 50 years or more, have assisted their colleagues and students in mastering legal analysis, research and writing. The award is a gold plate, a brilliant metal whose color is associated with 50-year anniversaries, explained Mary Garvey Algero, ALWD president and the Warren E. Mouledoux Distinguished Professor of Law at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.

"The term 'brill' is used as a short form for 'brilliant,' which refers to shining brightly, radiating light, excellent, wonderful, and exceedingly intelligent," she said. "In legal writing circles, the term 'Brill' is also associated with Ralph Brill, a man who has shone brightly, has radiated light on his school and his colleagues, has demonstrated excellence, is wonderful, and exceedingly intelligent."

The son of Romanian immigrants, Professor Brill was born in Chicago. He earned his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Illinois, where he served as associate editor of the University of Illinois Law Forum. In 1961, after a short teaching stint at the University of Michigan Law School, Professor Brill joined the Chicago-Kent faculty.

Professor Brill founded both the law school's groundbreaking legal research and writing program and its award-winning moot court program. He served for 14 years as director of Chicago-Kent's innovative three-year legal research and writing program. Each year, Chicago-Kent's Ilana Diamond Rovner Appellate Advocacy Competition presents the Ralph L. Brill Award for the best brief. Professor Brill is a co-author of A Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs, published by the American Bar Association, and has served as an appellate consultant in many important cases, primarily in the area of torts.

Professor Brill is a past chair of the Association of American Law Schools' Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning and Research. In 1985, Professor Brill was instrumental in the founding of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI), a group of legal writing professionals who, prior to the LWI, lacked a forum in which to exchange ideas or to compare experiences. He is a former director of the LWI and of the Association of Legal Writing Directors.

"I've taught about a dozen courses in my 50 years of teaching. None was as important as Legal Writing. There, students honed the basic professional skills of legal analysis, legal reasoning, legal research, and oral and written communication, skills essential for all kinds of law practice," explained Professor Brill.

"However, early on, Legal Writing was the orphan of the curriculum at most schools. I worked hard, with others, to change that, so that now more than 2,000 teachers have made Legal Writing their field, 70 books on aspects of Legal Writing have been written, the teachers are publishing important studies on student learning and teaching methods. And these teachers are the most generous teachers in legal education, sharing materials, helping new teachers, holding meaningful national and regional conferences to share their wisdom," he said.

Professor Brill has taught many courses, including torts, products liability, advanced torts, and legal research and writing, to more than 8,000 Chicago-Kent students. He currently maintains a full-time schedule, teaching torts to first-year students. Professor Brill continues to work tirelessly to elevate the status of legal writing educators and programs. His commitment and service to the fields of legal writing and legal education have earned him an American Association of Law Schools Legal Writing, Research, and Reasoning section award, the Thomas L. Blackwell Memorial Award, the Courage Award and the Burton Foundation's "Legends of the Law" Award, among others.

"I have received every award possible in the field. This new award is so special because it bears my name, and will help keep it alive long after I am gone," said Professor Brill.

The Association of Legal Writing Directors, which conferred the award, is a nonprofit professional association of directors of legal reasoning, research, writing, analysis, and advocacy programs from law schools throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. The ALWD, which has more than 200 members representing more than 150 law schools, is dedicated to improving legal education and the analytic, reasoning, and writing abilities of lawyers.

Chicago-Kent College of Law is the law school of Illinois Institute of Technology, a private, Ph.D.-granting institution with programs in engineering, psychology, architecture, business, design and law. Chicago-Kent was the first law school in the nation to require its students to take five semesters of legal writing courses before they graduate. The law school's emphasis on effective analytical, research, and communications skills has served as a model for other institutions.