Cooley Law School emeritus professor receives highest award conferred by SBM


Cooley Law School Distinguished Professor Emeritus Joseph Kimble was awarded the 2023 Roberts P. Hudson Award from the State Bar of Michigan during its Presidential Inauguration and Awards Luncheon. Pictured with Kimble (center) are State Bar of Michigan President Daniel Quick (left) and outgoing State Bar President James Heath (right).

Joseph Kimble honored with the 2023 Roberts P. Hudson Award

 On Thursday, Sept. 21, Cooley Law School Distinguished Professor Emeritus Joseph Kimble was awarded the 2023 Roberts P. Hudson Award from the State Bar of Michigan during its Presidential Inauguration and Awards Luncheon at the Detroit Marriott Troy. The Hudson Award is considered the highest award conferred by the professional organization.

 The Hudson Award is presented periodically to lawyers for “an unselfish rendering of outstanding and unique service to and on behalf of the State Bar, the legal profession, and the public.”

 “I’m deeply honored to receive this award, since it recognizes the decades I’ve spent trying to advance the cause of plain legal language – published a few books; taught law students for 30 years; served as drafting consultant on the projects to rewrite the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and Evidence, and Bankruptcy Procedure, and recently the Michigan Rules of Evidence,” Kimble said during the award ceremony. “But above all, perhaps, the award recognizes my 30-plus years on the Bar Journal’s Publications Committee, and especially the Plain Language column. Next year will be the column’s 40th year. That is just unbelievable, even to me.”

Kimble said that legalese not only brings disrespect on the legal profession but also wastes everyone’s time, energy, and money—and is not necessary. He added: “If you learn to write plainly, your readers, including your clients, will be exceedingly grateful. And you’ll make the world a better place. As the former chief justice said in a 2021 column, ‘access to justice requires plain language.’ Almost 40 years on, the column is still committed to these ends.”

Besides serving as editor of the Bar Journal’s Plain Language column for 35 years, he is a senior editor of The Scribes Journal of Legal Writing and contributes a writing column called “Redlines” to the Judicature journal. He is a past president of the international organization Clarity and was a founding director of the Center for Plain Language.

Kimble has published dozens of articles on legal writing and has written three books—“Lifting the Fog of Legalese: Essays on Plain Language”; “Writing for Dollars, Writing to Please: The Case for Plain Language in Business, Government, and Law”; and “Seeing Through Legalese: More Essays on Plain Language.” During his career, Kimble has lectured on writing to legal organizations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Since 2000, he has served as a drafting consultant on all new and amended federal court rules, and he led the work of redrafting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Federal Rules of Evidence—for each of which he received a prestigious Burton Award for Reform in Law. And he was the drafting consultant on the recently approved Michigan Rules of Evidence.

Kimble has received honors from many state and national organizations, including a “Plain English Champion Award” from the Plain English Campaign in England; the first Plain Language Association International Award for being a "champion, leader, and visionary in the plain-language field"; a lifetime-achievement award from the Section on Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Research of the Association of American Law Schools; and the John W. Reed Lawyer Legacy Award from the State Bar of Michigan. In 2017, Scribes—The American Society of Legal Writers—created the Joseph Kimble Distinguished Service Award. In 2021, Michigan Lawyers Weekly selected him for its Hall of Fame Class.

During his tenure at Cooley Law School, Kimble taught Research & Writing and Advanced Research & Writing. He is now senior director of Cooley's Kimble Center for Legal Drafting.


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