To avoid giving an undue advantage to students who are taking particular 2L/3L classes (such as First Amendment law) or who have covered particular topics in their 1L classes that not all sections cover (such as the right of publicity or the disclosure of private facts tort in Torts), I'm hoping to have some statutory scheme that is highly unlikely to be covered in a California law school, whether in a 1L or a 2L/3L class.
Unfortunately, all my ideas so far come either from my First Amendment teaching, writing, and litigation, or from my past teaching of criminal law, tort law, or copyright law, so they're not optimal. Yet I'm sure that there must be something out there that would make a perfect closed problem: Perhaps a state statute or two (preferably relatively simple) and three to five cases, to which I would add a fact pattern and ask the students to write a brief.
It would be best of all if the topic were interesting but not so controversial that students will be unduly distracted by the politics. A case involving a state right of publicity statute, for instance, would have been good if it weren't for the fact that some of our students have studied that in Torts or in First Amendment Law, and others haven't.
My sense is that many of you, as practicing lawyers, have run across plenty of such examples—topics that are basically never covered in law school (or at least in a California law school), but that raise interesting legal questions in close cases, as so many topics do. If you have some suggestions, please e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org (but of course please don't post them in the comments here).
The goals of the competition, by the way, are
- to let the students who do well show their writing ability, in a way that employers (firms, judges, and others) will view as a good signal,
- to give those students a good writing sample,
- to give all the participants extra experience with writing, and
- to do this without the long-term commitment required by moot court and law review; the plan is to have the competition last a week, and to have the output be a short brief.
Of course, none of this is a substitute for law review, moot court, seminars, and other important writing opportunities; but I hope that it will be a helpful supplement. And if any of you have seen similar competitions at other law schools, please let me know as well (you can post that in the comments), since I'd love to borrow good organizational ideas from others who have done this.