UM Law Students Produce Legal Scholarship at Record Level


Faculty involvement and academic structure aid in student publishing.

OXFORD, Miss.–During the 2012-13 academic year, University of Mississippi law students placed more than 30 articles in law journals, including 12 externally.  This year’s success is both a credit to the students and the long-standing faculty emphasis on developing students’ ability to write persuasively.

The law school implements two curricular offerings to hone student writing skills: upper level writing seminars and law journals.  Students are required to take upper level writing classes, which mandate they write a 25 page paper, under faculty supervision, often requiring multiple drafts.  This process helps develop writing skills introduced to students during their first year legal writing classes.

“We believe deeply that when students pursue legal scholarship, they grow in their appreciation for the depth and complexity of the law,” said Matthew Hall, associate dean for academic affairs.   “Moreover, by honing and presenting a thesis, they develop the ability to argue persuasively — with the crucial distinction that they argue not for a client, but for an idea.”

Students have, for many years, published seminar papers from upper level classes such as Professor Ronald Rychlak’s Gaming Law class and Professor George Cochran’s Supreme Court seminar.  This year 12 students published seminar papers.

In particular, seven students (almost half the class) in Will Berry’s International Criminal Law class placed articles in external law journals.  Berry is an assistant professor of law and beccaria scholar in criminal law at the law school.

“The majority of journals will not even look at your work if you are still a law student – they prefer to publish their own student journal members or those already in the work force,” said Kaitlyn Tucker, a current 3L student from Long Beach, whose article is forthcoming in The Brazilian Journal of International Law.

“I think the experience of trying to publish makes actual publishing so tremendous.”

Despite the intensity of the writing experience, students like Kaitlyn recognize its long-term value.

“This turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences I have had in law school because it pushed me to improve both my writing and research skills,” she said.  “I consider publishing this article one of my most significant accomplishments.”

Students also have the opportunity to develop their writing skills through the school’s law journals, which have also experienced growth over the past several years.

Jack Nowlin, associate dean for faculty development, has pioneered Academic Legal Writing, a legal writing class for law journal students.  The class has increased both the number of students publishing notes in the Mississippi Law Journal and the quality of those publications.

“Students in Academic Legal Writing confront real-world disputes dividing judges, lawyers and legal commentators,” Nowlin said.  “The students sharpen their legal writing, argument and research skills while writing articles for publication which will advance debate and serve the legal community.”

In addition to helping students contribute to the academic discussion and develop their writing skills, these seminars and journal experiences also allow them to create writing samples for job interviews, a particularly important item.

“The publication credential is very impressive to employers because of what it says about the quality of the work and the skills of the student who produced it,” Nowlin said.  “The published article can also serve as an ideal writing sample in an increasingly competitive job market.”

Students who published articles include: Michael Anderson, Ryan Becker, Stephanie Bennett, Jeffrey Brown, Alissa Castro, Victor Cobb, King Farris, Nicole Griffin, John F. Knox, III, Cullen Manning, Casey McKay, Lesley Mitchell, Arman Miri, Bethany Noto, Anna Outzen, Evan Parrott, Ryan Pulkrabek, Wesley Shelley, Caroline Shepard, Benjamin Sloan, Bailey Smith, Matthew Stross, Michelle Tomes, Kaitlyn Tucker, Matthew Watson and Nathan Zahrt.