Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Remembering Ralph Brill (1935-2019)

Ralph BrillRalph Brill, a giant in the field of legal writing education, died on June 21, 2019, at the age of 83.

A memorial service is being held this afternoon at Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago.

Ralph was born in Chicago in December 1935, the son of immigrants from Romania. He attended the University of Illinois where he earned both his undergraduate degree and his law degree. He was associate editor of the University of Illinois Law Forum. He was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1960. Brill's first case as an attorney was a dog bite case.

Ralph Brill began his teaching career by teaching legal writing at the University of Michigan in 1960 and he then joined the faculty of the Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1961. He served as associate dean from 1970 to 1973, and acting dean from 1973 to 1974. He was the director of the school's legal research and writing program for 14 years. At the time of his death he was Professor of Law Emeritus at Chicago-Kent. In addition to teaching legal writing, he taught torts, products liability, advanced torts, and seminars on current issues in tort law and famous trials in history.

Ralph served the legal writing community in many ways. He was Chair of the Association of American Law Schools Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning. and Research. He also served on the Board of Directors of both the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) and the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD). He also served on the Communication Skills Committee of the American Bar Association Section on Legal Education. He was a tireless defender of legal writing professors and the legal writing community.

Burton Awards 2012Ralph was frequently recognized for his contributions to legal writing education. He received these awards:

Ralph Brill and Ill Sup CtIn 1997, Ralph Brill, Susan L. Brody, Christina L. Kunz, Richard K. Neumann, Jr., and Marilyn R. Walter collaborated on the first edition of the ABA Sourcebook on Legal Writing Programs. This book compiled information on existing programs of legal writing and gave recommendations for optimal programs. Recommendations included suggestions on class sizes and commentary on the need to improve the status and salary of legal writing professionals in order to enhance skills training in general. 

Many of Ralph's contributions to the legal writing community are relatively unknown. In 1994, he established a legal writing listserv in conjunction with the Legal Writing Institute Conference held at Chicago-Kent that year. The listserv was expanded after the conference and enabled legal writing professionals to communicate on a daily basis concerning the development of their programs. The listserv membership became instrumental in enhancing the solidarity of legal writing professionals and the overall quality of programs across the nation.

His legacy at Chicago-Kent continues.

Ralph Brill was greatly loved in the legal writing community. We share our deepest condolences with his family, colleagues, and students and with Karin Mika, his partner since 2006.

Click here for another tribute to Ralph on the Legal Skills Prof Blog.




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Ralph was an amazing man. Not only was he central to the field of Legal Writing and an amazing advocate for us all, he was also a kind and warm human being. Although I have many memories of Ralph over the years, the one that comes to mind first is of a dinner at the LWI conference in Portland with Karin and him. I was mesmerized by his continued passion and taken by how he really listened to people and treated them with respect. Those are the qualities I will always associate with Ralph.

Posted by: Janet Dickson | Jun 22, 2019 10:27:17 AM

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