Elon Law student places second in national legal writing contest

Kjirsten Durand-Johnson L’20 has been honored in the most recent Adam A. Milani Disability Law Writing Competition for a class assignment she parlayed into a formal contest submission.

An Elon Law student with a professional interest in protecting the environment took second place this summer in a national legal writing competition that challenges entrants to consider questions of discrimination based on disability, race, age, gender, or sexual orientation.

Kjirsten Durand-Johnson L’20 was among the top three finishers in the 2019 Adam A. Milani Disability Law Writing Competition, a contest sponsored by the Mercer University School of Law and the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law.

The competition honors the work of the late Adam Milani, an advocate for disability rights, an accomplished legal scholar, and a faculty member at Mercer Law who forged a reputation for excellence in scholarship on disability discrimination. Milani was a quadriplegic and died in 2005 of complications from surgery.

The brief Durand-Johnson submitted to the competition was the same brief she turned in as a final assignment in her spring trimester legal writing course taught by Professor Sue Liemer: a defense of a fictional company facing a sexual discrimination lawsuit based on harassment by a female employee toward colleagues of both sexes.

That fictional lawsuit also served as the problem in Elon Law’s 2019 Intramural Moot Court Competition. While she chose not to compete in the June intramural contest, Durand-Johnson embraced her class assignment as an opportunity to craft a brief worthy of the writing contest.

“I enjoy the mental puzzle of editing papers, trying to revise and redo my work, over and over, to make it even better,” she said. “I am so honored to receive this recognition, and it makes me even more hopeful and excited for future opportunities.”

Durand-Johnson credits Liemer and Marissa Meredith, an Elon Law Legal Method and Communication Fellow, for helping her to understand in their respective courses the rules and expectations of effective legal writing.

Kjirsten Durand-Johnson L’20

“Kjirsten is so deserving of this award,” Liemer said. “She wrote such an excellent appellate brief that I’ll be using it to show future students an example of strong legal writing.”

It was Durand-Johnson’s determination that led to an offer to serve this fall as Meredith’s teaching assistant. “Kjirsten’s drive to be successful and master the craft of legal writing was apparent,” Meredith said. “She regularly met with me during her fall trimester to get a better understanding of concepts that would aid in developing her skills so it’s no surprise that she placed in this competition.”

Durand-Johnson is a staff member of the Elon Law Review and is pursuing a Master of Environmental Law and Policy, part of Elon Law’s dual-degree program with Vermont Law School. Her interest in legal writing – and her desire to help craft public policies related to the environment – stem from a childhood in South Florida not far from the Everglades where children were introduced early to the impact of climate change.

A graduate of Florida Atlantic University, Durand-Johnson is the second Elon Law student in as many years to medal in the Milani competition. Rebecca Elliott L’19 won third place in the 2018 contest.