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Elissa Ferrante entered the law profession this week, already with a legal honor. She received her Juris Doctor degree from the Rutgers University School of Law-Camden after having been awarded $1,500 only a few days ago from the Mount Laurel, New Jersey law firm of Capehart & Scatchard for her demonstration of exemplary legal writing and research skills. Ferrante is the first recipient of the Blaine E. Capehart Legal Writing Award. Blaine Capehart, for whom the annual award was named, is the firm’s 91-year-old senior shareholder and board chair. He recently celebrated the milestone of having been a member of the New Jersey Bar for 65 years. “I was overwhelmed and gratified not only to learn of the creation of this award but also that the firm thought so much of me to name it in my honor.” Capehart said. “I am also pleased with their decision to challenge Rutgers law students each year to try their best to earn the award because it is a known fact that legal writing is very important to the practice of law. I am happy that we are playing a role to stimulate that effort.” Capehart, himself, was not made aware of the award until all details were finalized. The award will be presented annually to a graduating Rutgers-Camden law student recognized for having produced an outstanding scholarly or practical piece of writing during the past academic year, exemplifying the highest standards of writing in the legal profession. Jo Ann Durako, director of the Rutgers School of Law legal research and writing program, conducted this year’s selection process. Submissions were nominated by faculty members and reviewed by a committee appointed by Solomon. The committee was comprised of professors and chaired by Durako. All of this year’s submissions were scholarly works written in seminars. According to Durako, Ferrante’s paper, titled “Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b) (3) — The Statement Against Penal Interest Exception to the Hearsay Rule after Lilly v. Virginia, 119 S. Ct. 1887 (1999): Making the Distinction Between Custodial & Non-Custodial Statements for Sixth Amendment Analysis,” was chosen unanimously among seven other works submitted. Ferrante’s paper was an ambitious undertaking, tackling a large and timely problem. It demonstrated creativity as well, offering a practical solution to an important issue, Durako said. Ferrante said her paper was the result of a year-long project that began as a topic for a national moot court competition and escalated into a longer writing endeavor as she delved further into the theoretical aspects of Lilly v. Virginia. “This was a wonderful and exciting experience for me,” Ferrante said. “The court made an easy area of the law complicated and my goal was to introduce other areas of the law to try and add more cohesion to the final outcome.” A LAW FIRM-SCHOOL CONNECTION According to Kimberly Alford, the firm’s marketing director, Capehart & Scatchard decided to fund the award for three reasons. First, the firm wanted to honor Blaine E. Capehart, the firm’s leader and patriarch, for his continued guidance. The 91-year-old practicing lawyer still comes to the firm every day and maintains an active presence. Second, the firm wanted demonstrate its commitment to the local law school and its graduating students as they enter the legal profession. And finally, the firm wanted to communicate the high value that Capehart & Scatchard places on excellent writing skills in its lawyers. The firm maintains a close connection with the law school. The firm currently employs 15 Rutgers University Law School Alumni, which represents approximately 30 percent of its lawyers. Various alumni employees return to their alma mater as guest lecturers and instructors. Alison M. Nissen, a 1991 graduate of Rutgers University Law School and an associate at Capehart & Scatchard, said she believes this award recognizes the dedication to legal writing on the parts of both the law school and the firm. “The law school’s writing department is certainly making a conscious and focused effort to improve the writing skills of all of its students,” Nissen said. Rutgers University Law School has implemented a requirement of nine legal writing credits as a condition of graduation, in an effort to place continued significance on writing beyond the first year. Nissen will demonstrate her personal dedication to legal writing this summer when she returns to Rutgers University Law School to teach an advanced class on brief writing. Nissen is a member of the firm’s litigation department and handles all legal research, writing and appellate work for various other departments in addition to her own. Rutgers Law School Dean Rayman Solomon said he hopes the inception of this award will further emphasize the importance of high-quality legal writing skills that both the law school and firm strongly advocate. “Legal research and writing is a primary skill of a successful lawyer, and Rutgers-Camden endeavors to provide the best and most comprehensive training possible,” Solomon said. “Capehart & Scatchard is a preeminent firm in our community and we appreciate their commitment to the recognition of excellence among our students.” Capehart presented the award personally at last Friday’s ceremony, which signified the welcoming of a future lawyer into the profession by one of the area’s most honored statesmen. “I feel very privileged to receive such an honor,” Ferrante said. “I am so grateful to the law school and to Capehart & Scatchard for this award and experience.” Having received her degree, Ferrante now plans to put her skills to good use as she becomes a clerk for U.S Magistrate Judge Dennis Cavanaugh, who is based in Newark, N.J.

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