Pioneering professors

Professors Marilyn Berger and Melinda Branscomb, who helped shape the practical skills programs at the law school, retired this spring.

Marilyn BergerA pioneering woman on the faculty, Berger joined the law school in 1978 and was the first woman to receive tenure. She developed the Comprehensive Trial Advocacy Program and the Films for Justice Institute.

For most of her career, she was a stalwart in the first year, teaching Civil Procedure to students who were surprised and excited by her inventive approach to teaching. Her deepest and longest-lasting contribution to the law school will be her work creating and directing the Comprehensive Trial Advocacy Program, which helps students develop the habits of preparation and deep thinking that distinguish truly exceptional lawyers. She will continue to direct that program.

Berger established the Films for Justice Institute in 1995, producing a set of teaching materials based on the case documented in "A Civil Action," that has been used at law schools around the country. Her most recent film project was "Out of the Ashes: 9/11," a documentary she produced about the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.

Professor Berger continues to lecture and write in the areas of gender, film and the law, and advocacy, exploring issues about the relationship of storytelling and its intersection with law.

"Sometimes I'm just in awe of Marilyn," said Professor John Mitchell, a longtime colleague and co-author. "She's given so much to this school: the Comprehensive Trial program; moving our scholarship out of the box of the solely textually-based law review article to the use of other medium, such as film; laying the path for, and being a vocal proponent of, diversity in the faculty; and decades of relevant, demanding teaching."

Melinda BrancsombMelinda Branscomb led the law school's  Labor and Employment Law curriculum for two decades and created a thriving Dispute Resolution Board.

She was trained as a mediator in 1989, the year she joined the law faculty, and has spearheaded the integration of dispute resolution courses into the law school's curriculum and created an active board. Teams she has coached and mentored in the ABA's competitions in Negotiation, Client Counseling, and Mediation consistently have placed at the highest levels regionally and nationally.

Branscomb has always sought to have an impact well beyond the classroom. She worked closely with the King County Bar Association/Labor and Employment Law Section to secure an endowment to fund student opportunities in dispute resolution and labor law and serves as a Special Education Mediator for the State of Washington. She also has served as a mentor for mediators-in-training at two dispute resolution centers, and she conducts Continuing Legal Education programs and in-service trainings for mediators.

 -Summer 2011