Levine receives prestigious writing award

Courtesy photo. Jan Levine was awarded the Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial award for his accomplishments in legal writing.
Courtesy photo. Jan Levine was awarded the Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial award for his accomplishments in legal writing.

By Jessica Lasky

Law School professor Jan Levine is set to receive the Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial award from the Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute for his accomplishments in legal writing.

Levine has been improving the law school’s legal writing program since he arrived in 2007 with conferences, new staff and improvement in curriculum.

“I put the writing program on the national map,” Levine said.

Before Levine joined the staff, Duquesne did not appear in the U.S. News and World Report’s legal writing rankings. Now, the university is No. 11 in the rankings.

Law School Dean Ken Gormley said Levine was “the driving force improving the writing program here at Duquesne.”

“Writing seems to be the one thing that students struggle with the most after graduation,” Gormley said.

To improve the legal writing program at the university, Levine hired new staff members and presented at national conferences. One of these conferences was the Third Colonial Frontier Legal Writing Conference in 2013, which focused on advancements in legal writing and hosted professors from many other universities.

Levine, an accomplished professor, earned his tenure back at Temple University before coming to Duquesne. This year will be Levine’s 29th year of teaching.

“[Levin] focuses on individual attention with a one-on-one basis for teaching,” Gormley said.

Students of the Law School are equally appreciative and challenged by Levine. A former student, Chrissy Giuliano Green, said she not only learned to write well in Levine’s class, but she began to enjoy writing more.

“Even though he was demanding and everyone had to come to class with their work done, he would entertain every question and wanted to make sure that class time was for our benefit,” Green said. “[Levine] requires better work from students. He doesn’t let students get away with turning in ‘good enough’ papers.”

The Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial award, handed out once every year, is one of the highest awards given in legal writing. Professors in over 200 law schools are considered.

The recipient of the award must show an “ability to nurture and motivate students to excellence; a willingness to help other Legal Writing educators improve their teaching skills or their Legal Writing Programs; and an ability to create and integrate new ideas for teaching and motivating Legal Writing educators and students,” according to the ALWD website.

Levin has also volunteered much of his time to both of the organizations that awarded him. He founded the ALWD and served as the first president. He also served on the board of both groups and has presented at their conferences.

Thomas F. Blackwell was the victim of a school shooting back in 2002 at the Appalachian School of Law. With this in mind, Levine wishes the award did not exist.

“This [award] is bittersweet for me because Thomas Blackwell was a friend of mine,” Levine said. “He was a wonderful person. I wish we did not have to have an award named after him.”

Levine helped create the award to honor his friend and colleague back when he served on the board.

Current board members from the ALWD and the Legal Writing Institute picked Levine to receive the award not only for his contributions to the legal writing field, but also for his deep understanding of how to improve teaching programs.