Former University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law Dean Robert K. Walsh received the 2017 A. Sherman Christensen Award, given by the American Inns of Court in recognition of outstanding service and exceptional leadership on Saturday, Oct. 21. Walsh is dean emeritus and professor at Wake Forest University School of Law.
Walsh served as Dean of UALR Law from 1976-1981 and became a partner at Friday, Eldridge and Clark law firm before joining the Wake Forest University School of Law.
The award was presented at the American Inns of Court Celebration of Excellence Dinner, a black-tie event hosted by the Honorable Justice Elena Kagan in the Great Hall of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C. The award, which was presented in the high court’s courtroom, is funded by an endowment established by LexisNexis.
Justice Kagan in her talk praised the American Inns of Court for its mentoring of young lawyers in professionalism.
The A. Sherman Christensen Award is bestowed upon a member of an American Inn of Court, who at the local, state or national level has provided distinguished and significant leadership to the American Inns of Court movement. The recipient should exemplify the qualities of leadership and commitment displayed by Judge A. Sherman Christensen.
“Dean Emeritus Bob Walsh certainly fulfills these requirements,” says Cindy Dennis, awards and scholarships coordinator for the American Inns of Court. “By honoring distinguished American Inns of Court members, the award helps foster interest in the activities and goals of the American Inns of Court movement throughout the legal community.”
The American Inns of Court is a national organization focusing on mentoring beginning lawyers in ethics, professionalism and the best values of the legal profession. It has more than 32,000 current members with 2,500 judges in nearly 400 local inns across the nation. There are more than 100,000 alumni of the organization.
Walsh, who served as Wake Forest Law dean from 1989-2007, is widely recognized as one of the leaders in legal education in the United States. Besides directing the rise of the law school into national prominence, he recently served as the president of the American Inns of Court Foundation Board of Trustees, being the second non-judge president of the organization in its 30-year history.
Walsh was also recently elected as an Honorary Academic Bencher of the Honorable Society of Inner Temple. The Inner Temple is one of the four Inns of Court in London. Benchers are senior respected judges and practicing barristers of high achievement and constitute the governing body for each Inn. Dean Walsh is only one of three Benchers in the United States and the first Academic Bencher outside of the United Kingdom. The other two Benchers are U.S. Supreme Court Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer.
In addition to 350 lawyers and judges from around the nation, David Pittaway, the Treasurer of Inner Temple, and Patrick Maddams, the Sub-Treasurer, traveled from London to attend the ceremony. “Congratulations on this richly deserved award,” Maddams said.
There were also a number of attendees from the two Little Rock chapters of the American Inns of Court. From the Judge Henry Woods Inn of Court, U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe and April Renée Golden from the Arkansas Public Defender Commission attended. And from the Judge William R Overton Inn of Court, Trish Guenther from Guenther Accounting Solutions, James Monroe Scurlock from Wallace Martin Duke and Russell and Tracey Dennis, Esquire, attended.”
Walsh received more than 20 letters of support for his nomination from distinguished attorneys and judges, among them Supreme Court Justices from England and Ireland.
In 2010, the American Bar Association (ABA) gave its national award, the Robert J. Kutak Award, to Walsh as the person who “meets the highest standard of professional responsibility and demonstrates substantial achievement towards increased understanding between legal education and the active practice of law.” Past winners of the Kutak Award have been practicing lawyers, academics and judges, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2006.
Prior to becoming dean at Wake Forest Law, Walsh was a litigation partner with a law firm in Little Rock, Arkansas, dean of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law, a law professor at Villanova University, and an associate with a law firm in Los Angeles.