Legal Writing Contests for Law Students

As lawyers, we often toil relatively anonymously in the fields of memo, brief, and client letter writing with only the satisfaction of a job well-done as our rewards. So I want to bring to law students’ attention a very enjoyable way to get some public recognition of the value of excellent written legal analysis.

That is – enter a legal writing contest! There are quite a number of legal writing contests that are sponsored by various organizations year-round. I recently learned that Michael Lin, who was a student last year in my Northwestern Law colleague Grace Dodier’s Communication and Legal Reasoning (“CLR”) course, won second place in the Adam A. Milani Disability Law Writing Competition, a national disability law writing competition sponsored by the Mercer University School of Law and the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law. The competition honors the work of the late Professor Adam Milani, who was an advocate for disability rights and a faculty member at Mercer University School of Law. Professor Dodier’s class was writing briefs on an issue arising under the Americans with Disabilities Act last spring, and Prof. Dodier had encouraged students who wrote top briefs in the class to submit their briefs to the Milani Competition.

I’ve found several blogs and websites that list many student legal writing competitions around the country. These include a list on the webpage of the Law Student Division section of the American Bar Association, found at http://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_students/events_competitions/wec.html, as well as a blog by Prof. Kathryn A. Sampson of the University of Arkansas School of Law, found at http://legalwritingcompetitions.blogspot.com/

Perusal of these lists reveals that there are legal writing contest on almost any legal topic you can imagine, including criminal justice, business law, antitrust law, alternative dispute resolution, GLBT legal issues, international law, domestic violence law, and many others. Some contests require submission of trial or appellate briefs, while others require documents such as essays, seminar papers, or student law review notes. And awards can include money, expense-paid trips to attend legal conferences, and publication!

And just to make sure you win, here is a blog post by law professor Eric Goldman of Santa Clara University School of Law that purports to tell you how to win a legal writing competition in three easy steps: http://blog.ericgoldman.org/personal/archives/2010/03/how_to_win_a_wr.html I can’t vouch for whether his steps will guarantee you a win, but he has some interesting thoughts!

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