Oregon Law Grieves the Passing of Mary S. Lawrence, Founding Director of Its LRW Program

Mary Lawrence

Founding director of Oregon Law’s Legal Research and Writing Program, Professor Emerita Mary Lawrence, JD ’77, died September 23, 2021. She was a pioneer in the national legal writing discipline and a legend in the national community of legal writing professors.

Professor Lawrence founded Oregon Law’s Legal Research and Writing Program, which she led from 1978 until her retirement in 2000. She established an innovative and widely respected program that emphasized legal analysis and taught writing as a “thinking process.”

“Mary Lawrence is truly an icon in the legal writing and research field,” said Marcilynn A. Burke, Dean and Dave Frohnmayer Chair in Leadership and Law. “We are very saddened by her loss, and very grateful for her legacy at Oregon Law and across legal education.”

The program she founded served as a nationwide model and is currently tied for the top ranking in the nation, a tribute to her lasting impact. “Our program is built on the foundation that Mary established over twenty-two years of groundbreaking work. She touched so many lives through her teaching, scholarship, directing, and mentorship,” said Suzanne Rowe, current director of the program, and James L. and llene R. Hershner Professor.

Professor Lawrence received numerous awards recognizing her work. She earned University of Oregon’s first Orlando J. Hollis Award for Outstanding Faculty Teaching in 1990, and at her retirement the law school endowed a scholarship in her name to recognize the top student in each first-year class.

She received the first award for distinguished service given by the Association of American Law Schools’ Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research. In 2000, she received the inaugural Marjorie Rombauer Award from the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD). In 2013, she was selected to receive the prestigious Burton Award for Outstanding Contributions to Legal Writing Education. That same year, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from ALWD and the Legal Writing Institute (LWI).

LWI also established the Mary S. Lawrence Award to recognize outstanding legal writing professors for pioneering scholarship and innovative curriculum or program design. For years she was Senior Editor of the LWI journal, Legal Writing. In 2010, the journal published a collection of tributes to Professor Lawrence from the national legal writing community.

Mary Lawrence’s legacy continues to inspire at University of Oregon and nationally. As long-time friend Charles Calleros, Professor and Alan A. Matheson Fellow in Law, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, said, “If you want to celebrate Mary's remarkable life and spirit today, just do something kind and generous for someone else, think of Mary, and smile.” Oregon Law will remain ever grateful for her groundbreaking work, dedication to the discipline, and generosity of spirit.


Donations in memory of Professor Emerita Mary Lawrence may be sent to the University of Oregon School of Law, c/o The University of Oregon Foundation, 1720 E 13th Ave, Ste 410, Eugene, OR 97403, or online. You may contribute to The Mary Lawrence Scholarship Endowment Fund, established when Mary retired, which provides scholarship support for the top ranked law student of the first-year class.