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UHLC alumna Williams ’22 earns third place in national Brown Award for legal writing

UHLC alumna Williams ’22

UHLC alumna Kirsten Williams ’22

Feb. 15, 2023 — Recognized for Excellence in Legal Writing by the Judge John R. Brown Scholarship Foundation, alumna Kirsten Williams ’22 has vividly reshaped common racism and discrimination misperceptions in an article focused on environmental consequences suffered by minority communities.

“I am really interested in environmental law, specifically humanity’s adverse impact on the earth,” Williams said. “I knew that I wanted to write something about environmental law and tie in that human element.”

Williams’ article, “The Impact of Foresight: Reframing Discriminatory Intent to Properly Remedy Environmental Racism,” won third place and $3,000 in the 29th annual Brown Award 2022. The piece explored relationships between minorities, communities of color and the environment and misconceptions of racism due to incorrect expressions.

“I decided to write about environmental racism because it is clear to me how pollution and other environmental impacts disproportionately affect communities of color and other minority communities and that there are not sufficient legal solutions to that problem,” Williams said. “I wanted to explore what those solutions could be.”

Clinical Associate Professor Whitney Heard brought the scholarship to Williams’ attention and encouraged her to apply, providing a nomination letter and great support throughout the process.

“I am incredibly proud of her third-place finish and steadfast commitment to excelling as a legal writer,” said Professor Heard.

Williams began writing the article in her second year of law school, explaining that the common conception of racism, one where you must be intentional to be racist, is not a correct reflection. In the article, she highlights the subtleties of racism to show a broader aspect and how it impacts communities in an environmental context.

“My best advice for law students would be to start writing early and edit often,” Williams said. “A lot of the best writing, revision and editing processes came in the later stages as I was tightening up words, looking at sentences that weren't clear and breaking sentences apart.”

Currently clerking for Magistrate Judge Andrew Edison in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Williams is working on a wide range of legal issues. Eventually, Williams hopes to practice environmental law and work as a legal writing professor at a university.

“The note has come a long way, and I am really honored to have received the award, especially for excellence in legal writing,” Williams stated. “I am pleased that I can continue my love for writing and editing in the legal field and be recognized for them.”

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