Write-on Competition

Write-on CompetitionThis week we welcome back guest writer Stephanie Gregoire to talk about what the write-on competition experience was like for her.

This past summer, I went through the write-on competition for my school’s flagship law review and was successfully selected to join the law review as a member. During that entire process, I found myself having several “I wish I would’ve known this” moments, so to that end I hope to provide some illumination into the vagaries of the write-on competition.

I do want to caveat that each school (and sometimes each journal at a school) will operate theirs differently, so for the sake of transparency, here’s how mine functions: all of the journals and law review have the same write-on “prompt” but invite different categories of people to participate over a two-ish week period during the summer. Our “prompt” was a case pending before the Supreme Court, and we had to write a note or comment on that case that we then submitted for anonymous evaluation. It was not mandatory, and if we were eligible to write-on to multiple journals we could submit to all of them. With that background out of the way, let’s talk about my multiple “what…” moments!

It can be exhausting and all-consuming

To be fair, I did write-on while working full-time at an internship and taking a summer class, so I was definitely doing way too much to begin with. But it was pretty tiring in general to spend my free time on a case I had to learn, research, figure out a thesis/argument about, find sources for said argument, develop said argument, write it out, and then edit until I simply could not edit any longer. Editing is where the magic happens – I am very convinced I would not have succeeded in writing on had I not edited until I thought I was going to actually lose my mind. But it was definitely a sprinted marathon, largely self-inflicted due to the other things I had going on at the same time, but by the time I submitted it, I was ready for a long nap. And to not look at Lexis and Westlaw for awhile.

Planning and organization are the only reason I made it through

We had a presentation ahead of write-on where a sample projected timeline was provided – read the case on day 1, do some basic research into the concepts days 1 and 2, figure out where you want to go with it on day 2, research on days 3-5, etc. I did my level best to follow that because I figured if it was what they suggested, there was a reason for it. I had to modify slightly due to my chaotic schedule, but for the most part, I survived because I had my plan established and followed it. It was written out in my planner and also on my electronic calendar so I knew what I wanted to accomplish each day. But beyond scheduling organization, I had a rough outline of what I wanted to accomplish and how I wanted to get those points across in my paper, built largely off some of the fundamental tools and keys to success of legal research and writing.

The Bluebook is going to be your best frenemy

Very few law students are fans of the Bluebook and its obscure, sometimes nonsensical rules for legal citations. You can count me among that number, especially during 1L. But during write-on, I found myself appreciating it more and more. Yes, there are some rules that I still have issue with, but I’ve come to appreciate it for what it is. That does NOT mean I like it, but I think we’ve come to a mutual understanding. And considering how much of law review/journal work tends to involve the Bluebook, that’s probably a good thing. I did also find myself learning new rules that definitely weren’t addressed in my 1L legal writing class so that was kind of fun.

The worst part is the wait

I think the biggest “why did no one tell me this?!” moment came in the days after submitting my paper. We had a rough timeframe of when each journal planned to notify people of the results, so I knew approximately when I would find out whether it had paid off. And yet the night after submitting it, I was awake for several hours thinking about all of the mistakes I’d made, like a wrong signal, whether the period after something was italicized, things like that. The saving grace I had was the fact that I was still working and taking a class, so I had that to distract me for most of the day, but the wait was still brutal. I have no shame in admitting that when I did get the congratulatory phone call, I felt an enormous weight off my shoulders and felt like I could breathe freely again. It felt great.

Write-on was 100% worth it, if for no other reason beyond the fact that it made me a better legal researcher and writer. And so far, the work I’ve done for law review has been just as, if not more, beneficial to those same skills. If you’re on the fence about doing write-on, I cannot encourage you enough to go for it. Worst case, you end up in the same position you’re in now but with improved research and writing skills, which will only serve to benefit you. There are plenty of resources out there to help you be successful!


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About Stephanie Gregoire

Stephanie is a 2L at the University of Houston Law Center in Houston, Texas. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2017, where she majored in History. In the years since completing her B.A., she has worked in Human Resources across the country, working in South Carolina, Louisiana, and Washington before moving to Texas. Outside of school, her hobbies include baking, working out, and travelling.

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