UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – At Penn State Law in University Park, students have the opportunity to learn both objective and persuasive writing in their first year of law school from a team of highly experienced faculty and practitioners. From the first day of class, students work on behalf of mock clients who need legal advice. The legal writing professors have many years of teaching experience, including teaching first-year legal writing classes as well as upper-level legal writing classes. They each also have legal practice experience prior to teaching, including a former commercial litigation and family law, a former administrative lawyer with a focus on workers’ compensation matters, and a former federal circuit court staff attorney.
Associate Dean of Legal Writing Nicole Chong said: “I am so proud of the legal writing team and the work they do to help Penn State Law students transition into legal writing. Our legal writing professors spend a significant amount of time and energy providing individual feedback to students and meeting with students on an individual basis so that each can learn and grow based on their unique backgrounds and prior writing experiences. It’s rewarding to see how first-year students improve from their first day of law school until they head out into their first summer jobs. That growth is due in large part to our legal writing faculty’s commitment to our students.”
This year, Penn State Law announced the addition of two new legal writing professors to the team: Assistant Professors of Legal Writing Jessica Kincaid and Michael Kovac. They add both teaching and legal practice experience to the legal writing program.
Kincaid joins Penn State Law from Thompson Hine LLP in Ohio. Most of Kincaid’s work was focused on business restructuring and bankruptcy litigation. She represented creditors and trustees in major bankruptcy cases and advised businesses in workouts, while maintaining an active pro bono practice. Her practice involved bankruptcy law, Uniform Commercial Code issues, fraudulent transfers, and other commercial law and finance matters. Kincaid also clerked for the Honorable Arthur I. Harris for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio after law school. She received her J.D. degree from the University of Michigan School of Law. Professor Kincaid also has prior teaching experience as an adjunct professor at Walsh University, teaching graduate-level courses. She hopes to bring her practice and teaching experience to the first-year legal writing courses and to an upper-level experiential learning course. Explaining her philosophy about legal writing, Kincaid said: “As Justice Ginsburg noted, above all, good legal writing is trustworthy: ‘It states the facts honestly. It does not distort lines of authority or case holdings. It acknowledges and seeks fairly to account for unfavorable precedent.’” Kincaid hopes “to guide students as they develop the necessary skills to produce trustworthy legal writing that marries substantive doctrine with practical skills.”
Kovac was the Chief Deputy Attorney General for the Criminal Prosecutions Division of Nevada’s Office of the Attorney General, and he prosecuted and supervised the prosecution of criminal cases throughout Nevada. Before that, he worked for the same office as a deputy attorney general and senior deputy attorney general. He handled a wide variety of criminal cases, ranging from fraud to murder, and has been an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, Gould School of Law; Arizona State University; the University of New Mexico (Gallup); and Nevada State College, primarily teaching law and criminal justice courses. He also has experience clerking for the Court of Appeals for the Second Judicial District Court of the United States, the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, and the Las Vegas Township Justice Court. Kovac received his law degree from Duquesne University School of Law. Kovac’s litigation experience is tremendously beneficial in teaching first-year legal writing, and he will bring his significant criminal law background to Penn State Law as he prepares an upper-level experiential course. As learned from his practice experience, he explains that “legal writing serves as the backbone of all successful lawyering. The disposition of a wide range of legal disputes—from a contract dispute to a dispute raised in a pretrial motion filed in a criminal case—oftentimes turns on the quality of an attorney’s writing.” He will strive “to ensure students have the skills needed for a successful career."
Penn State Law also recently celebrated two legal writing faculty members for their dedicated work. Mandee Baumer has been promoted to associate professor of legal writing. Chong said, “We recognize all of Professor Baumer’s contributions to Penn State Law’s legal writing curriculum. She does an amazing job at teaching the first-year legal writing courses, and her upper-level experiential courses are extremely popular with students.” Before her promotion, Baumer was a writing specialist at Penn State Law and an assistant professor of legal writing. Prior to teaching at Penn State Law, she was a career staff attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
Additionally, Professor of Legal Writing Barbara Brunner retired at the end of the 2021-22 academic year. Since 2006, Brunner served at Penn State Law, teaching the first-year legal writing courses, an upper-level writing class, as well as the essay component of the summer bar preparation class. Recognizing her excellent service to Penn State Law, Brunner was awarded the title of emeritus professor of legal writing.