UMass Law student’s patient safety ideas win national award for legal writing

Mary Chaffee ’17 is one of ten students from across the country who will be presented with the prestigious Burton Award at the Library of Congress in May

UMass School of Law third-year student Mary Chaffee ’17 has received the Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing, one of ten students nationally to receive the honor. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be accepting the Book of the Year in Law Award at the same event.

Chafee’s article, “Extracting Medical Injury Information from the Legal System to Improve Patient Safety in the Health System: A Social Utility Approach,” was published in the 2016 Volume of the UMass Law Review.

Chaffee, who grew up in South Hadley and now lives on Cape Cod, entered law school after serving 26 years as a U.S. Navy nurse, including as director of the Navy Medicine Office of Homeland Security. She retired at the rank of Captain.

Chaffee has served as a legal skills teaching assistant, vice president of the student animal law organization, and law review staff editor. She completed fieldwork in litigation, environmental advocacy, and land use, as well as legal studies at the University of Insubria, Italy.

Co-editor of the book Policy and Politics in Nursing and Health Care, she has published extensively on health care and disaster response. Chaffee holds a Ph.D. in nursing from the University of Maryland Baltimore and an honorary doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She was inducted into the American Academy of Nursing and awarded a science writing fellowship.

“As a student at UMass Law honored for her exceptional legal writing, Mary Chaffee joins students from the nation’s top law schools in accepting the selective Burton Award,” said interim UMass Law Dean Eric Mitnick. “Her involvement in the student animal law organization, as a teaching assistant and as staff editor of the law review demonstrate Mary’s commitment to the study of law and honing her legal writing skills here at UMass Law.”

About the Burton Awards

The honor of 2017 Law360 Distinguished Legal Writing Award is given to only 10 articles from entries submitted by the nation’s top law schools, with students’ exceptional legal writing honored.

This year, the non-profit program, which is run in association with the Library of Congress, presented by lead sponsor Law360, and co-sponsored by the American Bar Association celebrates its Eighteenth Anniversary. The Burton Awards program is dedicated to rewarding great achievements in law, with a special emphasis on writing and reform.

The award winners are selected by law school professors and judges, including professors from Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School and University of California Berkeley Law School.

This year’s award ceremony will be held May 22 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be accepting the Book of the Year in Law Award at the function. Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will also participate in the program.



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