Writing competition offers law students experience

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By Clarissa Anderson | Reporter

The Legal Writing Center at the Baylor Law School has created a writing competition that provides students with hands-on experience much like what they will experience in their career. Law students who register for the competition will receive a prompt to create a real-world legal document.

The competition offers cash prizes of $3,000 to the first-place winner, $1,500 to second place and $500 to third place, and the top three finishers will receive an interview opportunity for a clerkship with Dallas appellate law firm Kelly, Durham & Pittard, LLP. Charlie and Lisa Frazier will underwrite the competition.

“It’s us reaching out and trying to create opportunities for students whereas a typical writing competition wouldn’t create the same kind of opportunities,” said Matthew Cordon, director of the Legal Writing Center and professor of law at Baylor. “For us to have reached out to a law firm and have the law firm be willing to provide a clerkship to one of our students, that just isn’t something you see in this kind of environment.”

Cordon said participants receive a self-contained problem and must exercise independent and sound judgment to create a legal document that solves the problem.

Professor Scott Fraley, director of legal writing, said the competition has practical benefits for students because they will experience writing legal documents in practice, a skill essential for young, practicing lawyers who will be doing an extensive amount of written work. Additionally, the opportunity to interview for a clerkship may be particularly appealing to students since it has gotten harder for graduates to enter the courtroom, Fraley said.

“We’re very excited for it because that is unprecedented in legal writing competitions,” Fraley said. “We think it’s a terrific opportunity for our students – who in this market, frankly, some of them are struggling to find jobs when they first get out – to have an opportunity that might lead to something down the road.”

Fraley said the competition may have lasting effects as well by creating more exposure for the Baylor Law School.

“Especially when we try to take this national next year that it will be a way for Baylor Law School to become more well-known nationally,” Fraley said. “And honestly, that’s something that being a relatively small law school in Waco, Texas, is always a challenge for Baylor.”

Registration closed Wednesday and the competition opens for entries today. The submission deadline is on Tuesday, and winners will be announced on Nov. 30. An awards ceremony for the competition will occur on Dec. 2.

The Legal Writing Center, located on the third floor of the Baylor Law School Library, has been in existence for a little over a year, Fraley said. The writing center’s curriculum teaches students how to draft legal documents and includes simulations in litigation training during Practice Court.

Despite not having been open for long, the writing center has undergone rapid changes.

“It went kind of slowly for a while, then went very quickly in terms of development,” Cordon said, “to the point where the associate dean and I were walking up and down the hallway, drawing lines on the floors, saying, ‘Here’s where we want offices,’ and six months later, we had offices.”

The Ultimate Writing Competition is one of the Legal Writing Center’s newest efforts to provide law students with the preparation they need for their law careers.

“With what we’ve done within a short period of time,” Cordon said, “I think that we’re going to be able to accomplish pretty much anything we set our minds to accomplish in the near future, over the next year or two.”