Daniel Mayor was a winner of the 2020 Writing Competition and, as the Vol. 76 Editor-in-Chief, he has been instrumental in setting up this years competition. Read his interview below for advice on how to successfully navigate the competition.
Q: When you took part in the Writing Competition last summer, what other responsibilities did you have?
A: During the writing competition I was an intern in the Miami Law Health Rights Clinic. I asked for time off in advance, and my supervisor was more than happy to accommodate the request. I urge every participant to ask for time off. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. The worst answer you will receive is that you cannot take time off, and you will be no worse off than you were before. Remember that your supervisors were once law students and are well aware of the importance of the writing competition.
Q: How did you manage your time between the competition and your other commitments?
A: I managed the competition like an actual job. I worked 8-12 hours on the paper when I had the day off. Use the time off during the holiday weekend to write! I know, it sucks not to barbeque and hang out with your family. But your small sacrifice during the competition can yield lifelong benefits from gaining membership to a review. The first thing you should do to make the week manageable is plan out what work you will do on each day. This not only sets goal posts to help stay on track, but also allows you to adjust if you sense you are falling behind. You should still eat and sleep. Maybe just watch a few less episodes on Netflix that week.
Q: What was the most challenging aspect of the competition?
A: Anxiety. You’re worried you won’t finish on time. You’re worried you didn’t utilize the packet correctly. You’re worried no one will select your article.
Relax. We were in your shoes last year, and we understand! This competition is designed to challenge you. Take time to remind yourself that you can do this.
Q: If you could go back in time, is there anything you would have done differently during the competition?
A: I would have taken better notes while reading so I did not have to refer back to the materials as much. Also, I would begin outlining early. Having an attack plan when you start reading will help you avoid wasting time. The packet can be intimidating, but you should be able to assess what cases/articles are the most helpful and then find supporting materials for the arguments you plan to develop. We’ve already given you a framework for how to approach writing, so fill in those subheadings (Prior Law, Main Case, etc.) with notes from the readings to build your outline.
Also, if you have never looked at a casenote, then read a few! This will help you gain a sense of how the note will look and how you should develop your arguments.
Q: What can participants do to make their submissions stand out?
A: The easiest way to stand out is demonstrating you put thought and time into your argument. This can be done by coming up with unique theory or approach to the case, or more simply by properly editing your endnotes and in-text citations. There will likely be various policy concerns you can address; however, you should focus your argument on a few that you can flesh out. Well-developed ideas are better than multiple approaches thrown on the page. Remember, the reviews will be reading 100+ notes, so the memorable ones will be those that frame the issue creatively and minimize errors.
Q: What advice would you give to students participating in the Writing Competition this year?
A: Trust yourself. You have written exams, researched legal sources in LCOMM, and worked under deadlines. This competition is largely based off three skills you have (hopefully) developed during your time in law school: reading/researching, writing/drafting, and editing.
Remember to use the white pages of the Bluebook (as we discussed at the “How to Write a Casenote” Workshop).
Set aside time at the beginning to develop your ideas before you dive into the writing.
Read your paper aloud once you are done.
Eat and sleep!