University of Miami Law Professor Laurence M. Rose, a former Vice Dean of the law school and now Director of its Litigation Skills Program, was honored by the American Bar Association on Aug. 5 at its annual meeting in Chicago. The ABA's Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section chose Professor Rose for its most distinguished prize, the Robert B. McKay Law Professor Award. The following are remarks prepared for the event by William T. Barker, a partner in the Chicago office of SNR Denton and chairman the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section's standing committee on the McKay award. Also included are Professor Rose's remarks, as well as congratulatory messages from colleagues:
William T. Barker's speech
"So did Arthur Jackson hire George Avery to burn down the money-losing manufacturing plant or did the insurance company simply not want to pay for the loss? Did Johnny Fitzgerald drive his truck into the train at the rural road crossing, or did the conductor and engineer fail to keep a lookout and sound the whistle? Was the alley beating done by some random attackers in a high-crime area, or were they the two guys who got the short end of the fight in the bar with the park ranger?
These are some of the well-known NITA casefiles written by Professor Laurence M. (Lonny) Rose, Professor Emeritus and Director, Litigation Skills Program, University of Miami School of Law, and this year's winner of the Robert B. McKay Law Professor Award. These trial simulations have been teaching generations of lawyers how to be better courtroom advocates.
Lonny began his legal career clerking for Hon. James S. Holden of the U.S. District Court in Rutland, Vermont, following NYU School of Law and Stony Brook University. Then, Lonny entered private practice in Burlington, Vt., intending to learn by sitting second chair to the firm's main litigator. But while Lonny was on vacation after taking the bar, the firm's number one litigator suddenly left the firm. But the files and cases – and trials – were left for Lonny to handle. Although Lonny says that most of that early time was 'learning by losing,' Lonny actually effectively handled disputes including tort, contract, and civil rights issues. Lonny even represented a few doctors whose malpractice insurance carrier went bust. Lonny's rude awakening to the practice of law has made him sensitive to the needs of new attorneys to develop and deploy useful practice skills.
Lonny then heard about a new organization called the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, and went to the three-week boot camp in Boulder, Colorado, which changed his life. Although he had been legal counsel to and an adjunct professor at the then-new Vermont Law School, Lonny decided to enter the full-time teaching world. His teaching career started at the University of Kansas, with Lonny directing the legal aid clinical program, and teaching evidence, civil procedure and trial techniques. For the next 14 years, he wrote articles and columns for trial lawyers, lectured throughout the country, and began his NITA service. While focusing on ensuring that his students developed the skills needed to represent the interests of their clients, he also consistently made them think of the ethical dimension of their work. He taught lawyers and law students, from Miami to Seattle, from Boston to San Diego, and out in the Pacific from Hawaii, to Guam and Saipan. Are there any Saipan lawyers here?
In 1989, the University of Miami came knocking on his door, after a national search in their efforts to provide a comprehensive litigation skills program. At Miami, Lonny developed and organized the country's first, and still unique, soup-to-nuts program covering the litigation experience. Eight hours of class attendance each week includes lectures, demonstrations and two weekly workshops led by distinguished practitioners and judges. The workshops include one in pretrial skills covering the initial interview, the pleading and discovery stages, and culminating in motion practice. And the other workshop is in trial skills, from opening through witnesses and exhibits to closing arguments and ending with a final trial held at the courthouse judged by trial judges and served by real people acting as jurors. Being selected by Lonny for teaching in the program is perceived by the local federal and state judges, big and small firm lawyers, and government and corporate counsel as a major recognition. Lonny says privately that he employs the best legal talent in South Florida. Lonny also simply loves telling federal judges what to do – and they even do it. Who can say that?
His distinction and leadership within the law school and the university was also recognized, as Lonny was asked to be the school's Vice Dean, and served in a number of important administrative roles.
In 2006, the NITA board brought Lonny to Colorado to be its first president and to move the organization there. During the next four years under his leadership, NITA expanded its programs available to the public, in-house program to firms and corporations (including a number of insurance companies), and legal-services organizations, including the first-ever program sponsored by the national Legal Services Corporation. NITA's enlarged portfolio of texts and casefiles directed to the improvement of trial lawyers and judges were made available through a collaboration with Lexis-Nexis. But he is most proud of the efforts he spearheaded to improve the rule of law and the independence of lawyers and the judiciary in other countries.
In 1999, he led a team to Northern Ireland, to train lawyers from across its great political divide to come together in the first non-sectarian advocacy training. Thirteen years later, lawyers there hail his work and comment that the lawyers who have participated in the programs over the years have been instrumental in promoting the peace process and the rule of law there.
In Mexico, Lonny's efforts have aided that county's reform of the criminal and civil justice system, changing it from the old, inquisitorial system into an attorney-advocacy based process. In Japan, Lonny has lectured on the methods of teaching advocacy and concentrated on the return of the jury system to Japan after over 40 years of absence.
His support of the ABA's Rule of Law Initiative has provided crucial faculty and volunteers and Lonny's work in leadership within the Section of Litigation – that other group – includes chairing a number of its publications and CLE committees, but also coordinating the teaching efforts of its 2008 Darfur Task Force Conference, teaching Sudanese civil rights attorneys.
In 2010, Lonny returned to the University of Miami to direct its Litigation Skills Program. Lonny has a wonderful relationship with the teaching faculty, and manages to work with diverse lawyers and judges, with highly varied practices, to coach them in their efforts to teach and mentor students. Many students come up to the faculty in the courthouse and emphasize that his program was their best, and most valuable learning experience in law school. He continues to assist the law students and the practicing bar in learning and improving their trial advocacy skills and in encouraging their continued dedication to the legal profession. He also continues to develop teaching methods and materials. He was greatly missed by the faculty and staff, and warmly welcomed back after his years in Colorado.
After over 36 years of full-time teaching, Lonny is most proud of the successes of his students in public service, including state governors, U.S. Senators and Congressmen, and federal and state judges and legal services and pro bono attorneys. Also, many of the practicing attorneys who have taught with him have commented on how their teaching experience has improved their legal careers as exemplary trial attorneys and well-respected state and federal judges.
For Professor Rose, the McKay Award is especially significant because it is named after his former mentor, who was dean of the New York University School of Law when Professor Rose was studying for his law degree there, and who later advised him to accept a position on the faculty of the University of Kansas School of Law. 'We spoke a lot over the years,' Professor Rose said, referring to McKay, who died in 1990. 'That's the poignant part of this for me.'
On a personal level, Lonny is married to beautiful Amy, a nurse practitioner, and he has five children, one of whom recently graduated from UM Law, and three dogs. And he professes to be both a Jayhawk and a Hurricane, having served as an Assistant Athletic Director at Kansas and an advisor to the University of Miami athletic department. He also has been a long-time volunteer host for the Doral Open golf tournament, coordinating transportation for PGA golfers and their families, and many other community volunteer efforts. His resume is 18 pages long."
Professor Rose's response
"I am honored and humbled by this award. As many of you are aware, Bob McKay was my law school teacher and dean, my mentor and, I am proud to say, my friend. He was a law school teacher who understood about the need to teach lawyering skills, and he was a lawyer who was dedicated to the ideals of this Section and its goal of continuing education for lawyers. I remember the day in my third year of school when Bob asked me to consider a federal judicial clerkship after graduation. He made the recommendation, and I learned about trials from the viewpoint of a great federal judge. A few years later I began to think of leaving practice to become a law professor. I called Bob and his answer was, 'I was waiting for this call – it's about time,' and he guided me through the process. When I got the offer from the University of Kansas, his alma mater, he was so pleased I was going to his home state.
As an advocacy teacher, I have committed my life to helping law students and lawyers gain advocacy experience as trials have become less frequent. Advocacy is a teachable subject, and we teach lawyers to be credible, professional and ethical. It complements the role of an independent judiciary in insuring that clients — individuals, businesses and the government – can receive the benefits of the justice system. It is our obligation as attorneys to teach the next generation of advocates this art of advocacy, and to insure that the justice system and the rule of law are preserved.
I want to thank the judges, lawyers, professors and students who have taught me, and with whom I have taught, for their contribution to the profession and to me, which culminates in my receiving this award. And I want to thank my family, especially my lovely wife, Amy, for allowing me the freedom to teach this art throughout the United States and other countries. I look forward to assisting the TIPS Section, which I have learned from your warm reception is really the TIPS Family, in promoting advocacy and assisting its members and the profession. Thank you for this wonderful honor."
JoAnne Epps, Dean and Professor of Law, Temple University, Section of Litigation Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates: "Congratulations on being chosen as the 2012 recipient of the Robert B. McKay Law Professor Award. You have had a most outstanding career, punctuated by many 'highs,' including many of us (in which category I place myself) who have learned from the many times you graciously shared your wisdom and vision. I am truly thrilled to know that your contributions are being recognized and honored, and am happy that you can share this honor with the University of Miami. We go back a long way, and we share much growth, and fun, and achievements. But I am well aware that I would not be where I am today without your friendship and support. So it is with pride, and admiration and affection that I send these sincere congratulations. You're something very special, and I'm glad to be among your friends."
Judge Joseph P. Farina, Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida: "I am a better judge and person due to my association with you. As you have mentored and inspired me over the years, you have done so for many others. This recognition is both earned and deserved."
Carol A. Corrigan, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court: "Congratulations. Very well deserved and about time."
Deanell R. Tacha, Dean of Pepperdine University School of Law and retired Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit: "Congratulations!! No doubt in my mind you are one of the best!! Great recognition for great talent. So proud of you."
Arthur Baker, JD '12, University of Miami School of Law: "You really are a phenomenal teacher. I and all of your other former students are fortunate to have had you for Litigation Skills. The lit skills class and my subsequent externship at the United States Attorney's Office were two of my most memorable and challenging experiences in all of law school. Both of these opportunities were made so great and possible because of you."