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Law School Remembers Professor Emerita Mary Falk, Legal Writing Scholar


Professor Emerita Mary Ruth Falk, a longtime member of the legal writing faculty, died in her New York home on March 21, 2021, following a recurrence of lymphoma. She was 78.

Falk, known as “Mollie” to family and friends, joined the faculty of Brooklyn Law School in 1987, where she taught a variety of legal writing courses, including the Law School’s first advanced legal writing seminar. She served as chair of the Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Law Fellowship Selection Committee and as supervisor of the Jerome Prince Memorial Evidence Competition. She retired from teaching in 2016, but continued to write and publish articles.

Falk co-authored several widely used textbooks for law students, including Appellate Advocacy: Principles and Practice (5th ed., LexisNexis, 2012) (with Professor Emerita Ursula Bentele and Eve Cary). She co-authored two books and numerous articles on cognitive theory and language and the law with Professor Elizabeth Fajans. Their most recent article, “Hendiadys & Legal Interpretation: What Part of ‘and’ Don’t You Understand?,” 17 Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD 39 (2020), was featured on the Volokh Conspiracy, a blog of Reason magazine focusing on legal research.

Prior to joining the faculty, Falk served as associate appellate counsel for the Legal Aid Society Criminal Appeals Bureau.

“Mollie was a luminary in the area of legal writing, as both a teacher and a scholar,” said Dean Michael T. Cahill. “She leaves a powerful and enduring legacy at Brooklyn Law School and beyond.”

Falk was born July 21, 1942, in Queens, N.Y. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1963 and received a master’s degree in French literature from Yale University. After a career in publishing, she earned her law degree at New York University School of Law.

Falk was an active volunteer with the Riverside Church, including for their food kitchen and social justice committee. She was an ardent supporter of the Irish Repertory Theatre and lover of the lecture series at the New York Historical Society.

“In losing Mollie, I feel like I lost three people: friend, co-author, and colleague,” said Fajans. “Mollie mentored new writing teachers, shared all her materials, chaired the Prince Competition, and supported, encouraged, and championed her students. When we taught together, we would laugh so hard at each other’s jokes that we would set the whole class off.”

Falk was predeceased by husband Omar K. Lerman, and is survived by stepson Dion Lerman and Alanna Campbell, whom she considered a daughter.

Contributions in Falk’s memory can be made to the New York Historical Society or USA for UNHCR. A memorial service will be announced later in the summer.