Awards & Honors | Programs

In 1999, William C. Burton established the Burton Foundation to recognize great accomplishments in the law. The program the Foundation runs would be principally devoted to rewarding legal writers, but extends to other prominent awards including "Reform in Law" and even the naming of "Legends in the Law" for lifetime achievements. Today, the awards program is nationally recognized and is run in association with the Library of Congress.

Below is William Burton's opening statement which appeared in the 2019 program.

May 20, 2019
William C. Burton, Founder and Chair
Burton Awards Program at the Library of Congress
Washington, DC

I could never have imagined, back in 2000, that the rather modest program that was launched would become so prodigious. My greatest gratitude to everyone involved in the success of our program. Our prosperity is truly due to our awards team.

This year, there could be no greater honor than to have the Chief Justice of the United States, John G. Roberts, Jr., participate in our program. We are forever grateful to him.

Over the past twenty years, we sought to reward the finest lawyers, encourage others to follow their examples, and promote the profession of law.

We began twenty years ago with only 20 winning authors and 100 guests at the National Press Club in Washington DC. Now, our venue is the palatial Library of Congress; we select over sixty award winners each year, and we have several hundred leaders in law and their guests attend the event. We have grown by leaps and bounds, and we believe we can always leap further and expand those bounds.

We began by presenting awards solely to excellent legal writers, which stills remains a paramount objective, and through the years we have expanded into recognizing the finest members of the judiciary, the most impressive general counsel, exceptional lawyers in the military, outstanding counsel in the executive branch of government, the foremost managing partners, the most admirable and deserving members of the executive branch, as well as other great accomplishments in law.

At the same time as we have emphasized excellence in law, our profession has been putting an ever-increasing, countervailing, emphasis on productivity. All too often, unfortunately, too great a premium is placed on output, rather on the quality of the work performed.

Our program seeks to remind everyone that perfection is the standard to be sought, and to reward those who have achieved this all-important objective.

Throughout time, lawyers have played an important role in society and in upholding the rule of law. As Bill Cunningham, lawyer and commentator once said, "In reality, lawyers are the glue that holds society together. Without lawyers...without law, you have anarchy."

Over the past 20 years we have rewarded close to fifteen hundred winners. We applaud all of our recipients both past and present. We also acknowledge every other applicant who applied and who was not selected. The future, is bright for everyone whose goal is excellence, for losing is just an initial step in the process of winning. Our program will also continue to build and perfect. To always be better and always aspire to new and even higher standards.