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Legal writing professors win Courage Award

July 06, 2016

Professors Laurel Oates and Mimi Samuel recently won an award for courage in their work teaching legal writing overseas, but the way they see it, their students are the courageous ones.

Mimi Samuel"In doing this work, we are constantly inspired by the courage of the participants that we meet in our training sessions," Professor Samuel said.

Over the years, they've met judges who enforce the rule of law despite significant pressure not to do so, lawyers who fight government corruption, academics with hundreds of students but minimal resources, and law students who make significant personal sacrifices for their education, she said.

The Legal Writing Institute Board of Directors will present the Terri LeClercq Courage Award to Professors Oates and Samuel on July 12 at the 2016 LWI Biennial Conference in Portland, Oregon.

The award recognizes "courage writ large" relating to legal writing, demonstrated in the form of personal, moral, or civil courage. Professors Oates and Samuel were selected because of their commitment to working with judges, lawyers, and law schools in a number of countries in Africa as well as in Afghanistan, India, and China.

According to the nomination, the two Seattle University School of Law professors "have brought [their] seminars to places that are not vacation spots but rather places in dire need of the rule of law. While others may have worried about their personal safety in places such as Afghanistan or Uganda, Laurel and Mimi have simply taken reasonable precautions and proceeded as though it was 'no big deal.'"

Laurel OatesBut if they as teachers are courageous, the students are doubly so, said Professor Oates. She recalled a student in Afghanistan who did so well that she was offered a scholarship to study for an LLM degree in the United States. Her mother and sisters begged her not to leave home, saying that she'd never have the opportunity to marry or have children.

Her father, however, supported her decision and she became the first Afghan woman to receive an LLM. "She is now back in Afghanistan, teaching law at the University of Herat and working with others to improve the role of women in Afghanistan," Professor Oates said. "Her actions are an example of real courage."

The two professors also received a 2016 Global Legal Skills Award, presented in May at the 11th Global Legal Skills Conference in Verona, Italy.

Seattle University School of Law has the top-ranked Legal Writing Program in the United States.