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Penn Law receives $1 million gift to advance legal writing and communications

September 08, 2015

The University of Pennsylvania Law School has received a $1 million gift from Michael J. Rotko L’63 to endow the Denise A. Rotko Associate Deanship of Legal Writing and Communications.

The endowment is in memory of Michael J. Rotko’s late wife, Denise A. Rotko NU’73, GNU’76, who received her undergraduate and graduate nursing degrees from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and taught at Penn’s Nursing School. She was also the stepmother of Thomas Rotko L’94 and mother of Daniel Rotko L’15.  

“Lawyers need to be strong communicators, and we work very hard to make sure our students are effective legal writers,” said Ted Ruger, Dean of the Law School. “This generous endowment highlights the critical work our Legal Skills Program does to teach our students to think, act, and communicate like lawyers.”

“My wife was devoted to teaching at Penn — as a student, an alumna, and a faculty member,” said Rotko. “This gift honors her commitment to ensuring that students get the skills they need to be successful in their careers.”

The head of Penn Law’s Legal Practice Skills Program, Eleanor Barrett L’05, will serve as the Denise A. Rotko Associate Dean of Legal Writing and Communications. Barrett graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, where she received an AB in Public and International Affairs. She graduated summa cum laude from Penn Law, where she received her JD and was named Best Oralist in the Edwin R. Keedy Moot Court Competition.

Before returning to the Law School in 2012, she clerked for the Honorable Marjorie O. Rendell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and worked in private practice at Kirkland & Ellis LLP in Washington, D.C., and Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia.

As the Denise A. Rotko Associate Dean of Legal Writing and Communications, Barrett administers and teaches the first-year Legal Practice Skills course; works to design and implement new skills, writing, and communications courses and programs across the Law School; and oversees the Law School’s moot court program.

Penn Law’s Legal Practice Skills Program, through the first-year writing course, teaches students fundamental practice skills such as problem solving and communication. In addition, the program also offers professional development programs and serves as a resource for students looking to enter legal writing and advocacy competitions.