Appellate Advocacy Blog

Editor: Tessa L. Dysart
The University of Arizona
James E. Rogers College of Law

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

In memoriam: Professor Ralph L. Brill (1935-2019)


Legal education lost an important figure last week: Professor Ralph Brill passed away on Friday, June 21. He was 83.

Professor Brill taught at Chicago-Kent College of Law for more than 50 years. He is, quite justly, most renowned for his work in legal writing: in 1977, he revamped Chicago-Kent's legal writing curriculum, creating an oft-emulated three-year program. He went on to direct that program for fourteen years, and he remained a vibrant, vocal, and revered leader in the legal writing community for the rest of his life.

Professor Brill also was a wizard in appellate advocacy. Immediately after overhauling Chicago-Kent's writing program, he turned his attention to bringing order and rigor to the school's work in moot court. In 1978, he and two students—Tom Krebs and Ron Petri—convinced the faculty to approve the creation of Chicago-Kent's Moot Court Honor Society and to award credit to students who participated, with faculty supervision, in interscholastic moot court competitions. He served as the MCHS's faculty advisor until 1992.

Under Professor Brill's leadership, Chicago-Kent's Moot Court Honor Society enjoyed immediate and profound success. One highlight: in 1980, the Chicago-Kent team of Damon Dunn, Richard Kerr, and Pamela Woldow won the award for national best brief in the National Moot Court Competition. Professor Brill's teams racked up multiple championships in the Chicago Bar Association Competition and the All-Illinois Moot Court Competition, and the school won numerous regional titles in the National Moot Court Competition and the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition. 

When Professor Brill stepped down as faculty advisor of the Moot Court Honor Society, he helped to again reshape and improve the program. In 1992, the school launched the Ilana Diamond Rovner Program in Appellate Advocacy. It's a wonderfully-designed co-curricular program, and it remains the umbrella for Chicago-Kent's substantial participation in appellate advocacy. It owes its shape and its culture—and its consistent success—to Ralph Brill. Professor Brill also exerted substantial influence on real-world appellate advocacy: he served as a consultant on major tort cases in Illinois, and he was active in the Chicago Bar Association.

On a personal note: I owe my professional happiness to Ralph. He created Chicago-Kent's Visiting Assistant Professor program; that program gave me my start in academia. He created Chicago-Kent's legal writing program; teaching in that program made me realize I wanted to build a career around teaching smart students to be skilled lawyers. He created Chicago-Kent's appellate advocacy program; I have had the good fortune and profound honor of directing that program for the last 16 years. When he retired two years ago, I took his slot as a Torts professor. He was, as always, remarkably generous about sharing his advice and teaching materials.

We'll miss him. We're better for having known him.

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