Christina Rosendahl drafted the best legal document, winning first place in Baylor Law School's annual Ultimate Writer legal writing competition. For her efforts, she was awarded a $3,000 cash prize and an opportunity to interview with the prestigious appellate law firm Durham, Pittard, and Spalding, LLP in Dallas, Texas.
Baylor Law is pleased to announce the winners of the 2020 Ultimate Writer Legal Writing Competition:
First-place winner: Christina Rosendahl
Second Place: William de los Santos
Third Place: Casey Cochran
Semifinalists: Ryan Owen, Max Atchity, and Asher Miller
Honorable Mentions: Tom Evans, Chandler Dean, and Jacob Hadjis
Baylor Law's Ultimate Writer legal writing competition is unlike any other legal writing competition. In addition to cash awards for the top three competitors, each winner is awarded an opportunity to interview for a clerkship with the prestigious appellate law firm Durham, Pittard, and Spalding, LLP in Dallas.
Austin native Christina Rosendahl, winner of the 2020 Ultimate Writer admitted that while taking on the additional work of the competition was hard work, she doesn't regret the time. "This competition is unique, with just a one week time period, and it being a closed problem, it was a creative, fun way that let you hone in on the writing itself," and added, "it was relevant given the technology aspect and how technology has outpaced the law."
Focusing on a complex scenario ripped from current legal headlines, the competition was designed to test contestants' abilities to review a packet of materials and draft a real-world document. This year, competitors were challenged to draft a response to a motion to compel which was filed by the United States in a criminal action pending in federal court. The government specifically requested the defendant unlock his personal cell phone using "any biometric method applicable to the phone," including fingerprint or facial recognition. Competitors wrote arguments that requiring the defendant to unlock the phone would violate his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Around the country, judges have split on the legality of forcing suspects to open their phones with biometric identifiers, and it's near-certain that the U.S. Supreme Court will have to weigh-in on the issue soon.
"We wanted to make this year's competition both challenging and timely," stated Director of Baylor Law's Legal Writing Center and Professor of Law Matt Cordon. "Not only did our competitors have a limited time to prepare their motions, but they were also prohibited from using third-party research. Even with these restrictions the quality of the submissions was fantastic. This competition was not easy to judge."
Charlie (JD '86) and Lisa Frazier have graciously underwritten the competition since its inception. "Writing has changed," stated Charlie Frazier, "The need to be succinct, well organized, and to have the presentation be visually appropriate and readable is much more important than ever before… whether it's transactional or litigation, judges will tell you that effective writing is critical."
Kirk Pittard (JD '99), whose appellate law firm judged the responses and who will interview the winners for a clerkship opportunity stated, "I really believe in this competition because research and writing is crucial in my practice, and this competition rewards students who have done well in research and writing." He added that he and his firm continue to support this competition because "it's important to give back to the law school that gave me so much and helped me to become the attorney I am today."
For questions or comments regarding the Ultimate Writer or Baylor Law School's Legal Writing Center, please contact Professor Matt Cordon.
Related: The Ultimate Writer Competition
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Established in 1857, Baylor Law was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,500 living alumni. Accredited by the American Bar Association and a member of the Association of American Law Schools, Baylor Law has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. Baylor Law boasts among its notable alumni two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law's trial advocacy program as among the best in the nation at No. 2. Baylor Law School also is ranked No. 48 in the magazine's 2020 edition of "America's Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training" and No. 4 in the nation in its most recent "Best Law School Facilities" listing. Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since its inception in 1984. Learn more at baylor.edu/law
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