Cooley Law professor honored with Legacy Award

Joseph Kimble, a distinguished professor emeritus at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, received the State Bar of Michigan's John W. Reed Michigan Lawyer Legacy Award on Oct. 7 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi. He is the fourth recipient of the award, which is "given periodically to an educator from a Michigan law school whose influence on lawyers has elevated the quality of legal practice in the state." Also at the state bar's annual meeting, WMU-Cooley Law School graduate and board of directors chairman, Lawrence P. Nolan, was sworn in as the organization's president-elect.

During the presentation, Kimble was honored for "teaching a generation of lawyers how to become better writers and communicators." Known to many as the "Guru of Plain Language," he taught legal writing and drafting for more than 30 years at WMU-Cooley. He is senior editor of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing, the longtime editor of the Plain Language column in the Michigan Bar Journal, a past president of Clarity, and a founding member of the Center for Plain Language. Since 1999, Kimble has been the drafting consultant on all U.S. federal court rules, and he led the work of redrafting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence. He has also published two critically acclaimed books about legal writing.

"Joe Kimble is the quintessential WMU-Cooley professor dedicated to students and lawyers alike in his commitment to teaching and practical legal scholarship. He has skillfully taught countless students how to write clearly and coherently while working tirelessly to show practicing lawyers how to avoid legalese," said WMU-Cooley President Don LeDuc. "Only the best legal-writing teacher would be invited to help rewrite the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Federal Rules of Evidence. And that teacher is Joe Kimble."

"I've tried all my professional life to advocate and teach plain language - in its full sense of clear communication. I hope this has elevated the quality of legal practice, not only because poor writing wastes everybody's time and money, but also because of the public's dim view of legalese; it diminishes respect for our profession," Kimble said. "I accept the award with a nod toward all teachers everywhere. You may know the line from Henry Adams: 'A teacher affects eternity.'"

Kimble is the first WMU-Cooley Law School recipient of the John W. Reed Michigan Lawyer Legacy Award, which is named after a University of Michigan professor who earned a reputation as a pre-eminent scholar and teacher.

At the State Bar of Michigan's inaugural lunch on Oct. 8, President Thomas Rombach, also a WMU-Cooley Law School graduate, passed the gavel to Lori Buiteweg. Nolan was named president-elect and will assume the top position in one year.

Published: Wed, Oct 14, 2015