Announcing the winner of the 2020 Malcolm Edwards ‘57 Award

Madison Welsh 2L likens legal writing to assembling a puzzle. A puzzle of a picture of clear blue sky with thousands of tiny pieces, but a puzzle, nonetheless.

This past year, the pieces all fit together: Welsh is the winner of the 2020 Malcolm Edwards ’57 Award for Best Written Advocacy, which is given annually to the student who pens the best piece of advocacy in first-year Legal Analysis, Research and Writing (LARW).

Welsh says while she didn’t always know she wanted to be a lawyer, writing has always been a valuable skill she enjoys.

“I actually found legal writing came a lot more naturally to me than any other kinds of writing because you follow a very rigid structure,” she said. “It's problem-solving in the sense that once you have a subject to write about, it’s about putting the pieces together in a way that makes sense and sounds nice.”

Established in 2012, the Edwards Award is sponsored by Seattle law firm Smith Goodfriend, P.S., and honors its late partner Malcolm L. Edwards ’57. Edwards is widely regarded as the father of appellate advocacy in Washington state.

“It's problem-solving in the sense that once you have a subject to write about, it’s about putting the pieces together.”

The firm's lawyers, all UW Law graduates, selected Welsh’s pretrial motion brief from among the best from nine legal writing sections. The brief combined various elements to outline a fair use doctrine defense of a fictional nonprofit in a copyright dispute.

“Madison’s brief cogently distilled a complex area of law and then explained in plain and straightforward language why her client should prevail — the goal of any good lawyer,” said Ian Cairns ’10, one of the firm’s lawyers.

UW Law Associate Teaching Professor Ben Halasz, who taught Welsh’s section, added: “In the paper, Madison not only provided an in-depth and persuasive argument from the case law, she also chose her words with care, hunting for ones that were powerful without sounding exaggerated — words that were measured yet memorable.”

Welsh, a political science and French major, had thoughts of joining the United States Foreign Service after her undergraduate studies. She reconsidered after the Trump administration’s sweeping changes to the U.S. State Department, instead heading overseas to teach English in France for a year.

Upon returning to Washington, Welsh landed a job at a small Seattle law firm where she was immersed in the world of the firm’s family law practice. That sparked the interest that led her where she is today.

“That experience working at the law firm was really transformative,” she said. “I had come home [from France] wondering what my next move was going to be, and my boss and co-workers at the firm were really who motivated me to want to become a lawyer myself.”

In law school, Welsh plays a number of key roles beyond the classroom, serving on the Moot Court Honor Board, Washington Law Review and Women’s Law Caucus — all while remaining ground in the foundation of the written word.

That skill, as with most great lawyers, ultimately provides the strongest underpinning for just about everything one does in the legal field — no matter how complicated the puzzle may get.