Posted by: Jarod Word on Mar 1, 2021

Journal Issue Date: March/April 2021

Journal Name: Vol. 57 No. 2

It’s a fair assumption that legal writing is one of the most basic, necessary skills for a lawyer. In fact, studies1 have shown that excelling in a legal writing course is one of the strongest predictors of law school success, with students who master first-year writing courses often maintaining better GPAs and performing better on exams than their peers who struggle in these classes. Suffice to say, such skills are necessary for developing the strategical and analytical acuity needed to become a good lawyer.

Considering this, the Tennessee Bar Association Administrative Law and Environmental Law sections have developed legal writing competitions to engage students and increase the profile of the TBA among these future lawyers and leaders. This is a natural fit for these sections, as the niche practice areas typically foster a congenial bar where personal relationships — in addition to effective written communication skills — are essential to a young lawyer’s success. Building bridges is a critical first step in advancement, and involvement in these sections provides the perfect avenue to do so.

The Jon E. Hastings Memorial Writing Competition, established by the Environmental Law Section in 2004 to honor one of its founding members, has served as a template for this ambition.

“Since our bar association is a voluntary one, we have to begin early to engage future members,” said Bill Penny, who was instrumental in developing the Hastings competition and its recently established Administrative Law counterpart. “It is important that the section not just be about holding CLE’s, though that is important. Sections need to be a premier forum for the topics within the ambit of lawyers in the section. A writing competition helps strengthen that claim.”

This past year has provided evidence, anecdotally at least, that these sections are succeeding in cultivating future involvement with law students. Last year’s winners of these competitions, Duncan Bryant and Austin Warehime, respectively, have both become active TBA and section members. (Listen to Warehime when he cohosted the February “TBA BarBuzz” podcast!) We hope these opportunities not only continue to provide strong resume fodder and bragging rights to the winners but also serve as a great introductory experience to our organization.

You can find out more information on these contests by contacting Administrative Law Section Coordinator Chelsea Bennett (cbennett@tnbar.org), or Environmental Law Section Coordinator Jarod Word (jword@tnbar.org). The entry deadline for the Administrative Law Section’s writing competition is April 5, with submissions for the Jon E. Hastings Memorial Writing Competition due by April 30. 


NOTE

1 . “Grades Matter:  Legal Writing Grades Matter Most,” by Jessica L. Clark, Georgetown University Law Center, George Washington University Law Center, 2013, https://scholarship.law. georgetown.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2246&context=facpub.

JAROD WORD is one of the TBA’s Section and CLE Coordinators.