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Drake law prof to accept national prize at U.S. Supreme Court

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Melissa Heames Weresh
MEDIA CONTACT: Tory Olson, 515-271-1834, tory.olson@drake.edu

Melissa Heames Weresh, professor of law at Drake University, has been awarded the 2009 Warren E. Burger Writing Competition Prize for her essay that examines the professional identity of novice lawyers. 

The essay was chosen by a distinguished panel of law scholars in a blind contest. The writing competition, established in 2004, aims to encourage outstanding scholarship that “promotes the ideals of excellence, civility, ethics and professionalism within the legal profession.” 

Weresh, a resident of Clive, will accept the award at the United States Supreme Court during the American Inns of Court‘s Celebration of Excellence hosted by Justice Antonin G. Scalia on Saturday, Oct. 17. 

Weresh has published several books and many articles on legal writing, environmental law and ethics and professionalism.

“This is a tremendous honor for me,” said Weresh, who also serves as director of legal writing at Drake University Law School. “I am humbled to receive this prestigious award, and thrilled to visit the United States Supreme Court.”

“This is a well-deserved recognition of both the quality of Professor Weresh’s work and the strength of Drake Law School’s writing and professionalism programs,” said Law School Dean Allan Vestal, “This achievement is yet another indication of the overall strength of the Law School.”

The essay, titled “I’ll Start Walking Your Way, You Start Walking Mine: Sociological Perspectives on Professional Identity Development and Influence of Generational Differences,” will be published in the South Carolina Law Review.

The essay examines the professional identity development of novice lawyers. Weresh begins with an examination of the concept of professionalism — what distinguishes lawyers as a profession as opposed to an occupation and what values and practices comprise the professional identity of members of the group.  

Her essay also focuses on sociological perspectives on professional identity development and generational differences between novice and experienced lawyers.  

Through this dual lens, the essay concludes with an examination of initiatives in legal education and law practice. These initiatives employ core elements of professional identity development suggested by sociologists while taking into account sources of generational conflict that have the potential to impede the professional identity development of the novice.

Under Weresh’s direction, Drake Law School’s legal writing program moved up to 17th in the 2010 edition of “America’s Best Graduate Schools,” published by U.S. News and World Report magazine. The program was ranked 39th in last year’s rankings. 

Weresh serves on the Board of Directors for the Legal Writing Institute and on the Editorial Board of the Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors. She is the author of a textbook titled “Legal Writing: Ethical and Professional Consideration,” published by Lexis/Nexis. She is the coauthor of a forthcoming text published by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.

Before joining Drake in 1997, she was an associate with Buckingham, Doolittle and Burroughs in Akron, Ohio. There, she concentrated on environmental compliance and corporate transactional issues.

An Order of the Coif graduate from the University of Iowa College of Law, Weresh served as the senior note and comment editor of the Iowa Law Review. She received her undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University.