Skip to Content

Excellence In Writing

Michael Pangburn '83 Sets Standard For Writing Excellence

Springfield, Ohio - When the Burton Foundation was examining the best of the best in legal writing, the work of Michael Pangburn clearly rose to the top, earning the 1983 alumnus the foundation's 2017 Distinguished Writing Award, one of the most prestigious distinctions in the legal field.

"It's an honor to be recognized as one of the best of the best writers in the legal profession," said Pangburn, who won for the article "Anticipating and Avoiding Expert Deposition Fee Disputes," which he co-authored with John Sear of the law firm Bowman & Brooke LLP.

The article was published by the American Bar Association (ABA) and later re-published by Law360, a LexisNexis company serving as the lead sponsor of the Burton Awards and the distinguished writing awards. By being published in Law360, the article qualified for consideration for the Burton Awards, a non-profit program run in association with the Library of Congress. Law360 and the ABA co-sponsor the awards.

The article was selected from nominations submitted by the nation's top 1,000 largest law firms. An academic board reviewed the submissions and chose the article co-authored by Pangburn and Sear as one of 25 winners. The piece gives real-world perspective into deposition disputes that arise in the daily lives of trial attorneys. He and Sear also presented a webinar on the topic.

"The experiences John and I have had over the years of legal practice provided the foundation for the article. Winning a Burton Award means a lot to me because I came to Wittenberg University with very poor writing skills and grammar knowledge," said Pangburn, who also played football, was a member of the fraternity Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI) and worked in the Wittenberg Sports Information Department.

"I left Wittenberg University with very good writing skills and far better grammar knowledge, thanks to the likes of [Emeritus Professor of English] Terry Otten and [Emeritus Professor of Political Science Joe] "Doc" Bindley as well as the Writing Workshop (now known as the Writing Center) at Wittenberg. I continue to improve my writing skills every day by working with some of the best attorneys in the United States."

Pangburn currently handles litigation defense and franchise employment and contract issues for Thor Motor Coach Inc., Airstream Inc., Postle Operating L.L.C. and the motorized divisions of Jayce Inc. He graduated with degrees in both business and political science at Wittenberg before earning his J.D. from Valparaiso University School of Law in Indiana in 1986.

A regular speaker at conferences for the Defense Research Institute (DRI), he also serves as a lecturer for Uniform Commercial Code classes at Notre Dame Law School (Ind.). Even though he lives in South Bend, Ind., which is approximately two miles south of Notre Dame stadium, he said he proudly flies the Wittenberg flag.

"I am very thankful to all of the professors I had at Wittenberg," Pangburn said. "The license plate on my Ford Edge says "WITNBRG" and the one on my "Wittenberg red" Nissan 350Z says "˜Tiger Up." My appreciation for Wittenberg is best demonstrated in a story I often tell.

"Before I married, I drafted my last will and testament, and the sole beneficiary of my estate was Wittenberg University. I think that fact says it all. My daughter is now at Wittenberg University. Ironically, the Writing Workshop/Writing Center that helped me so much in improving my grammar and writing skills now employs my daughter. She is a far better writer than I am today."

The Burton Awards ceremony took place on May 22 in Washington, D.C. at the Library of Congress, followed by a reception, dinner, gala and performance by comedian and impressionist Darrell Hammond. During the event, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received the Book of the Year in Law Award for her work, My Own Words.

The Burton Awards, established in 1999, is funded by the Burton Foundation, a non-profit, academic effort devoted to recognizing and rewarding excellence in the legal profession. The Burton Awards honors the finest accomplishments in law, including writing, reform, public service and interest, regulatory innovation, and lifetime achievements in the profession.

"Receiving the Burton Award means that all of the hard work I put into being a better writer has paid off and means that Wittenberg University has lived up to its motto in educating me - "Having light we pass it on to others'," Pangburn said.

"While Wittenberg did not lead me to law school and a career as a lawyer (I've wanted to be a lawyer since I was in junior high school), it gave me the education required to be accepted into law school," he added. "My Wittenberg education also provided me the bedrock foundation for critical thinking that has served me well. My love for Wittenberg University is closely tied to all of the great people who attended Wittenberg during my time there. It truly was a great four years, thanks to each of them, as well as the great professors."

Cindy Holbrook
Cindy Holbrook
Senior Communications Assistant

Top Stories

Make a Gift

We make the news because of you. Make a gift today and support the impact that comes from Wittenberg.

Make a Gift

About Wittenberg

A nationally ranked university for the liberal arts and sciences affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Wittenberg University has repeatedly been ranked throughout the years by the Princeton Review for the quality of its teaching and faculty, including 11th in the nation for "Best Classroom Experience" and 15th in the category "Professors Get High Marks" in the 2011 edition of Princeton's annual Best Colleges guide. Most recently, Wittenberg earned the No. 4 spot in the category of "Most Accessible Professors." Wittenberg appeared in the Princeton Review's Guide to Green Colleges in 2013 and again in 2015. Additionally, Wittenberg currently has more Ohio Professors of the Year than any other four-year institution in the state, and has been recognized nationally for excellence in service and athletics.

Back to top