Students win awards for excellence in legal research and writing

June 12, 2024
From left: Nicolette Gelnak, Alanna McNaughton, and Joshua Fujita
From left: Nicolette Gelnak, Alanna McNaughton, and Joshua Fujita

For seven students in UCLA School of Law’s first-year Legal Research and Writing course, the rewards for their achievements in the classroom far exceeded the invaluable education that they received in the ins and outs of crafting legal briefs and other fundamental documents.

In April, the students were celebrated at a ceremony that the law school hosted with Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) for their outstanding work during the 2023-24 year.

Founded in 1947, CEB is California’s pioneering continuing legal education service, “a self-supporting non-profit program of the University of California” that focuses “on serving the just and fair practice of law in California today.” In collaboration with the State Bar of California, it creates key legal materials including practice guides and continuing education programs for members of the bar and law students statewide.

The CEB Award for Excellence in Legal Research and Writing is presented at UCLA Law and other leading law schools in California to promote the success of students who perform at the highest level. Honorees included those whose work was named the best brief in their class:

  • Joshua Fujita (winner)
  • Alanna McNaughton (winner)
  • Nicolette Gelnak (runner-up)
  • Zachary Munson (finalist) 
  • Philip Obrinsky (finalist)
  • Katrina Zhu (finalist)
  • Lydia Zicker (finalist)

The winners were chosen by a selection committee that consisted of three UCLA Law graduates: Amanda Alden ’05, Timothy Coates ’83 and Khanh Tran ’13.

“LRW was a foundational class for the legal research and writing I continue to do in school and in my summer positions,” says McNaughton, who took home a $2,500 award as one of the two winners. “I didn’t realize until months later how rare of an opportunity it was to receive the kind of consistent feedback on my writing that the LRW class provides, and I’ll always be grateful to my professor and writing advisor for their time and dedication to reflecting on each individual student’s work. Through the course, I not only learned the technical skills of drafting memoranda but also began to develop my personal style of argumentation and deepened my understanding of legal analysis and strategy.”

The April celebration capped a year in which the students produced a series of memos and other legal documents, drawing on the skills that they learned in performing research and crafting persuasive arguments.

The event included members of the law school’s LRW faculty, several other writing advisors and members of the UCLA Law administration. Between speeches and casual conversation, the attendees enjoyed a cake that was decorated to look like the cover page of the briefs that the students had submitted in their classes.

“The best advice I can give to anyone who wants to improve is to be willing to accept feedback, especially during the fall semester, and truly take the guidance you receive to heart,” says Fujita, who was the other $2,500 winner. “Additionally, the research portion of the course is just as important, and the ability to do legal research quickly and comprehensively has been invaluable moving forward.”

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