Winning columnist John G. Browning, center, meets with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, left, and legal writing expert Bryan Garner, right, in Washington, D.C., at the Burton Awards.
June was an unforgettable month for Southeast Texas Record columnist John Browning.
The month began with the "Legally Speaking" author traveling to Washington, D.C., on June 15 for the legal profession's answer to the Pulitzer, the Burton Awards for Distinguished Achievement in Legal Writing.
There he accepted the Burton Award for a series of his "Legally Speaking" columns, and got to meet not only judicial luminaries like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, but figures from the entertainment world like "Ally McBeal" and "Boston Legal" creator David E. Kelley, Michelle Pfeiffer, and "30 Rock" actress Jane Krakowski.
A few days later, it was off to the Texas capitol. In Austin, at the Texas Press Association's annual conference, Browning received the Association's first place award for Outstanding Column Writing in a Daily Newspaper for "Legally Speaking" columns appearing in Dallas' Daily Commercial Record.
The columns singled out by judges from the Oregon Press Association were the two-part series "Law & the Fog of War" (described by the judges as "very engaging") and the more lighthearted "Lyrical Law."
The panel of judges wrote "thank you for a 'legal' column that doesn't alienate those with four-year degrees," and one judge further commented that Browning's submissions were the "best set of columns I've read for this contest so far without question!"
But these accolades would prove to be just a preamble to the biggest statewide honors in print and broadcast journalism, the Houston Press Club's Lone Star Awards.
Less than a week after the TPA Awards, Browning found himself in Houston, having been named a finalist in four Lone Star categories.
The evening got off to a slow start with a third-place finish in the "Outstanding Magazine Column" category for "Legalities," the DCEO Magazine column penned by the attorney by day/author by night.
But the night was far from over for John Browning.
His "Legally Speaking" two-parter "Law & the Fog of War" took yet another honor, a first place trophy for "General Commentary/Criticism" in the Newspapers under 100,000 circulation category.
It was the third straight year that a "Legally Speaking" column has won this category. In selecting it over columns from the San Antonio Current and the Fort Worth Weekly, a panel of judges from out of state called it "a fascinating and illuminating examination of what happens when the acts of war are examined in the light of day in a courtroom."
The juggernaut continued when Browning's June 2008 cover story from DCEO Magazine "The Hit Men: 18 Tough Lessons from Dallas' Masters of the Corporate Lawsuit" took first place honors in the Outstanding Magazine Article division, edging out Austin Monthly. Judges called the article "both intriguing and informative."
The biggest story of the night, however, came in the "Print Journalist of the Year" category for Newspapers under 100,000 circulation. Browning won that coveted title over finalists from the Fort Worth Weekly and the San Antonio Current, taking the first place trophy as well as a cash prize.
In acknowledging his "Legally Speaking" columns, the judges cited Browning's "refreshing approach to a stale subject," "ability to speak of the legal in 'non-legalese,'" and his "flashes of appropriate humor which do much to humanize the courtroom."
A clearly overwhelmed Browning professed shock.
"Just to have been a finalist alongside journalists from around the state who do this full-time and who have done it for longer than I have was a tremendous honor. I'm in disbelief at winning all these, especially Print Journalist of the Year."
Browning started writing "Legally Speaking" for his hometown paper just over four years ago. Since that time, it has spread to newspapers from Dallas to Beaumont, garnered numerous awards, and has been cited or reprinted by publications across the U.S., including the Los Angeles Daily Journal and the ABA Journal.
Browning has even had journalists from the United Kingdom, Ireland, and India call or e-mail him about "Legally Speaking."
Not bad for what Browning, who practices full time as a litigator in the Dallas office of a national law firm, describes as a "nights and weekends labor of love."