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Members of the Georgetown Law Community Honored for Legal Achievement

May 9, 2017 —

Zachary Mason (L'16) Zachary Mason (L'16)
Brendan J. Hennessey (L'15) Brendan J. Hennessey (L'15)
Leslie T. Thornton (L'83, LL.M.'16) Leslie T. Thornton (L'83, LL.M.'16)

Zachary Mason (L’16) has won a 2017 Distinguished Legal Writing Award, part of the Burton Awards for Legal Achievement, for his note, "Online Loans Across State Lines: Protecting Peer-to-Peer Lending Through the Exportation Doctrine." Mason, who wrote the note as a student, was one of ten winners in the law student division.

Brendan J. Hennessey (L’15), an associate in the Washington, D.C., office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, won a 2017 Distinguished Legal Writing Award in the law firm division with co-author Norman Carlin for the article "Adapting to Climate Adaptation: Implications and Opportunities for the Private Sector."

Leslie T. Thornton (L’83, LL.M.’16) received a 2017 Legends in Law Award, also part of the Burton Awards, given to general counsel for excellence in their fields. Thornton is senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of WGL Holdings, Inc., and Washington Gas. 

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s book My Own Words (Simon & Schuster, 2016), written with her authorized biographers, Adjunct Professor Mary Hartnett and Professor Emerita Wendy W. Williams, won the Burton Book of the Year in Law Award. The book also received Special Recognition in the 2017 Robert F. Kennedy Book Awards, a separate honor.

Hartnett and Williams recently discussed the book with Ginsburg and Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit at Georgetown University's Bernstein Symposium on April 27. The justice's late husband, Georgetown Law Professor Martin D. Ginsburg, was a longtime member of the Law Center faculty.

For more information about the Georgetown Law winners, see below. 

The Burton Award winners will be honored at a ceremony on May 22 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. For a complete list, click here. 

The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award Winners will be honored on May 23 at the Newseum. For more information, click here.

Distinguished Legal Writing—Student 

Zachary Mason’s winning Note relates to peer-to-peer lending, a relatively new form of lending that allows individuals to bypass traditional financial institutions and instead borrow and lend money through an online platform. The two primary platforms in the United States, Prosper and Lending Club, facilitate the transactions and offer several advantages in comparison to traditional lending, including lower interest rates for borrowers and a simplified borrowing experience.  

To maintain those benefits, Prosper and Lending Club have each formed a relationship with a state bank in Utah in order to utilize the exportation doctrine, which allows Prosper and Lending Club to “export” the interest rate laws of the state where the bank is located to transactions across the country, regardless of where the borrower resides.  However, a recent decision in the Second Circuit, Madden v. Midland Funding, 786 F.3d 246 (2d Cir. 2015), has threatened the ability of peer-to-peer lending platforms to use the exportation doctrine. In light of that decision, the Note recommends that Congress or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation protect the peer-to-peer lending industry by explicitly permitting these platforms to utilize the exportation doctrine through their relationship with state-chartered banks. 

Mason graduated from Georgetown Law magna cum laude and is currently working as a law clerk for Judge Charles F. Lettow at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. He was editor of the Georgetown Law Journal and completed internships at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and a law firm in Washington, D.C. 

Distinguished Legal Writing—Law Firms

Brendan J. Hennessey’s article, entitled “Adapting to Climate Adaptation: Implications and Opportunities for the Private Sector,” presents an overview of the approaches being undertaken to prepare for and adapt to a changing climate and discusses how private industry can protect their investments and engage in critical new initiatives by incorporating these approaches into their own policies. The article argues that while climate change imposes practical challenges and risks for the private sector, it also presents opportunities to create valuable ventures, particularly for those companies with infrastructure-heavy and development-focused business models.

As an associate in Pillsbury’s Environmental Practice, Hennessey combines experience counseling domestic and international clients on managing environmental risks and complying with environmental laws with years of experience in Congress as an adviser. He has represented clients involved in civil and criminal litigation and advised clients facing potential government enforcement. Hennessey has experience in drafting and negotiating agreements in transactional and enforcement matters as well as experience working directly with federal agencies. At Georgetown Law, he was the managing editor of the Georgetown Environmental Law Review. He earned a B.A. from The George Washington University in 2008, magna cum laude, Elliott School of International Affairs Special Honors.

Legend in the Law

Leslie T. Thornton has served as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of WGL Holdings, Inc., and Washington Gas since October 2014. She advises on matters including, but not limited to, litigation, regulatory affairs, business transactions, employment and labor law, employee benefits, executive compensation, ethics, compliance, cyber-threats/cybersecurity, mergers and acquisitions, and crisis management.  

Prior to joining WGL, Thornton was as a partner at Dickstein Shapiro and Patton Boggs. From 1992-2000, Thornton served in the Clinton Administration where she worked with U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, first as Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor, and then as Chief of Staff. Thornton was selected by the White House in 1995 to serve on the President's White House Budget Working Group when the government shut down, and in 1996, she served in a senior role on Clinton's presidential debate team. Holding a top-secret clearance, Ms. Thornton was also her agency’s representative for the Continuity of Operations of Government program.

Thornton received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and her J.D. and LL.M. from Georgetown Law.

Book of the Year

Adjunct Professor Mary Hartnett (L’85) has been at Georgetown Law since 1998, first as executive director of the Women's Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program (WLPPFP), and now as an Adjunct Professor of Law and Advisory Board Member of WLPPFP. Professor Hartnett is currently writing, with co-author Professor Wendy W. Williams, an authorized biography of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and co-authored, with Justice Ginsburg and Professor Williams, My Own Words (Simon & Schuster, 2016). Professor Hartnett has also served as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C., as a Visiting Professor at the Riga Graduate School of Law in Latvia, teaching International Women's Human Rights Law, as a member of the Edmund Muskie Fellowship legal selection committee, and as Vice-Chair of the American Bar Association's Committee on the Rights of Women.

Prior to her positions at Georgetown, Hartnett was of counsel to the international law firm of Coudert Brothers. She attended New York University School of Law for her first year of law school as a Root-Tilden scholar, and graduated from Georgetown University Law Center magna cum laude, where she was a member of the American Criminal Law Review and the Sex Discrimination Clinic. She received her undergraduate degree from Grinnell College with honors, where she majored in women's studies and political science.

Professor Emerita Wendy W. Williams, who joined the Georgetown Law faculty in 1976 and also served as associate dean of Georgetown Law from 1989 to 1993, is best known for her work in the area of gender and law, especially concerning issues of work and family. She is a coauthor of a casebook on sex discrimination and law and most recently, with Hartnett, joined Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in producing My Own Words, a compendium of the speeches and writings of Justice Ginsburg. She is currently working on a biography of the Justice with Hartnett. Williams also helped draft and testified before congressional committees on the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, and served as the president of the Society of American Law Teachers. She earned her B.A. and J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

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