OXFORD, Miss. — The Government Law Student Association at the University of Mississippi School of Law hosted its inaugural policy competition last month, where students demonstrated legislative writing, oral advocacy and lobbying skills.
GLSA was founded last spring as space for law students who are interested in pursuing legal careers in government or public service. The organization was created by a team of students on both sides of the political aisle, and it intentionally has two co-directors so that both conservative and liberal viewpoints are adequately represented.
“GLSA’s policy competition committee worked really hard over the summer to create something unique and impactful for our student body,” said founder and co-director Teresa Jones.
The competition allowed students to have an interactive opportunity to take their viewpoint and shape policy through academic research and writing, public speaking, and coalition-building.
“We are so proud of our unique policy competition,” said UM Law Dean Susan Duncan. “At UM Law, it’s our mission to ensure all students are well-equipped for their legal careers, and we’re proud of GLSA’s plans to strengthen our students’ skills in government law.”
Second-year law student Samuel Taylor Rayburn, who is from Oxford, was awarded first place at the conclusion of the competition. Rayburn said he participated because he wanted the learning experience of putting an ordinance together.
“Working through the process of finding the best way to word an ordinance was something I thought would be a valuable learning experience on how to tackle problems in legal writing, and in the end, it was,” Rayburn said. “I felt like I learned a lot about writing things in an enforceable manner that I can not only use in the future if I am in a position to write an ordinance or something similar but are very applicable to contract drafting and useful in that realm.”
He said during the competition process, there were many issues in the process he learned about that he not previously considered, ranging from the wording of the ordinance language so that it is clear and unambiguous to ensuring it can be implemented and enforced in a reasonable and cost-efficient way.
On Tuesday, Nov. 2, GLSA was recognized by Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill at the Board of Alderman meeting, where she announced Rayburn as the first place winner.
“I spend a lot of time on my ordinance from research to writing and editing to preparing a floor speech,” he said. “Winning was validation that my work paid off and a nice confidence boost as I go into the last month of the semester and finals.”
Competitors were give a sample issue two weeks to research and draft and city ordinance either in favor of or opposed to an open container law. After completing the written portion, competitors delivered a floor speech in support of their policy to a panel of judges. The judges for the competition included: Jarvis Dortch, former State Representative and Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union; Professor Christopher Green, Professor of Law for the University of Mississippi School of Law; Pope Mallete, City Attorney for the City of Oxford and Founder of Mayo Mallette PLLC; and Heather McTeer Toney, former Mayor and Vice President of Community Engagement for the Environmental Defense Fund.
The final portion of the competition required competitors to discuss their policy with law student organizations in order to garner support for their policy. The organizations and representatives that participated in Lobby Day included: American Civil Liberties Union, represented by Emily Adams; Black Law Students Association, represented by Arreyah Whitlock; Entertainment and Sports Law, represented by Emma Tompkins and Sydney Merrin; Federalist Society, represented by Jack Hall and Sebastian Harrell; Latinx Law Student Association, represented by Sylvia-Nicole Cecchi; Law Association for Women, represented by Hayley Klima; OUTlaw, represented by Jennifer Bagby and Bailey McDaniel; and Public Interest Law Foundation, represented by Sierre Raphael Anton and LaQuita “Q” Reinhardt.
“My favorite part of the competition was the lobby day portion, because it resembles a real-world approach to solving problems,” Jones said. “For lobby day, the competitors were required to ‘pitch’ their policy to other law student organizations. It had the effect of pushing competitors to use innovative approaches in order to gain support from both conservative and progressive-leaning groups on campus.”
The GLSA remains active throughout the academic year by hosting guest speakers and workshops for its members.
For more information about UM Law, visit law.olemiss.edu.