Well Argued: Celebrating a Distinguished Career
Retiring Professor Brad Clary ’75 made writing and advocacy twin strengths of Minnesota Law.
For more than two decades, Professor Bradley G. Clary ’75 has been a driving force behind the excellent reputation of Minnesota Law’s legal writing and moot court programs. He has taught legions of law students to write effectively and prepared them for their legal careers by imparting wisdom derived from his decades in private practice.
After 21 years on the job, Clary will retire this spring from his role as clinical professor of law. He leaves behind a legacy of exacting standards for writing and an approach to teaching that stresses the challenge and substance of the daily practice of law.
“I think the role of the law school is not simply to teach students how to think like lawyers. The role of the law school is to help students be lawyers,” Clary says. “I try to bring to my teaching real-world practicalities and lessons that go beyond mere theory and help students anticipate things they have to think about.”
Dean Garry W. Jenkins says that Clary has been a powerful presence at Minnesota Law. “Under his stewardship and guidance, our legal writing and moot court programs have developed, grown, and reached soaring heights; he’s supported numerous students in winning prestigious awards, but also equipped thousands more with the practical, essential skills to become highly effective lawyers and advocates,” Jenkins explains. “His contributions as a teacher, mentor, faculty colleague, and trusted advisor cannot be overstated.”
In January, Clary received the prestigious Thomas F. Blackwell Memorial Award for outstanding achievement in the field of legal writing. The national honor from the Association of Legal Writing Directors and the Legal Writing Institute is a testament to the influence Clary has had on students and the teaching of writing in general.
Pathway From Practice
Clary spent 24 years in full-time private practice, becoming a partner at Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly. He represented clients and served as chair of the general litigation, business litigation, and antitrust groups. In 1982, Clary, a former moot court competitor himself, offered to help coach the Minnesota Law team—and essentially never stopped. The national team became a reliably tough competitor, advancing to the national finals in 11 of the last 14 years and capturing second place in 2004.
In 1985, Clary became an adjunct professor in appellate advocacy. Though he thoroughly enjoyed his legal work, he decided to join the faculty full-time in 1999 because he felt so energized by the students. “I love watching future lawyers get better and better in their advocacy skills,” he says. “It was fun watching the light bulbs go on.”
In addition to teaching multiple litigation-related courses, Clary found time to collaborate on five textbooks about complex litigation, appellate advocacy, and more. He also served on the Minnesota Supreme Court Civil Justice Reform task force from 2010 to 2012.
‘Shoulders of a Giant’
Professor Christopher Soper, Clary’s successor as director of legal writing, says Clary rejuvenated the program with a fresh approach that gives students ample writing practice and feedback. Today, Minnesota Law students are known in legal circles as strong writers; some graduates have gone on to full-time legal teaching positions nationwide.
“We’re standing on the shoulders of a giant in advocacy,” Soper says. “Brad is responsible for all of the success that our legal writing program has had. He’s such a fantastic mentor—and he’s adept at navigating all sorts of difficult situations. His wisdom about how to proceed in the face of an uncertain situation will be what I’ll miss the most.”
Professor Clary's legacy will continue through the creation of the Bradley G. Clary Scholarship, which will provide financial support for future Minnesota Law students. If Professor Clary had a meanginful impact on you or your career, please consider helping us to fully fund this new scholarship created in his honor.
Brian Larson, now an associate professor of law at Texas A&M University, first had Clary as his antitrust professor at William Mitchell (now Mitchell Hamline School of Law). Impressed by Clary’s teaching manner and prowess, Larson eagerly accepted when Clary later invited him to be an adjunct professor in Minnesota Law’s writing program.
With Clary’s encouragement, Larson earned a doctorate in rhetoric and scientific and technical communication from the University of Minnesota and conducted dissertation research at the Law School. Together, Larson and Clary developed a structured study group to help multilingual law students with writing. “He was very concerned that we make sure we’re treating all of the students fairly,” Larson says. “It’s careful thought about how the pieces and people fit together, and that’s central to the way Brad behaves in general.
Nadia Wood ’10, an assistant federal public defender in the capital habeas unit in Arkansas, found Clary to be an exceptional professor. He excelled at preparing students to apply civil procedure concepts in practical ways, such as drafting pleadings and negotiating settlements. As a student instructor in the legal writing program, Wood further honed her writing skills and got inspired to pursue public interest work, thanks in large part to Clary.
“Professor Clary is an excellent teacher who developed innovative curriculum decades ahead of his time,” Wood says. “He cares deeply about his students and takes time to encourage and challenge them to become outstanding members of their profession.”
Clary’s enthusiasm for the law, high standards, willingness to mentor, and eagerness to share his experience and expertise with others will all be missed, Soper says.