Wednesday, January 26, 2022

UM Government Law Student Association Hosts Inaugural Policy Competition

Staff Report

University of Mississippi

Samuel Taylor Rayburn (center) is announced as the first-place winner of the UM Government Law Student Association’s inaugural policy competition at the Nov. 2 meeting of the Oxford Board of Aldermen. Submitted photo

The Government Law Student Association at the University of Mississippi School of Law recently hosted its inaugural policy competition, where students demonstrated legislative writing, oral advocacy and lobbying skills.

GLSA was founded last spring as space for law students interested in pursuing legal careers in government or public service. 

“GLSA’s policy competition committee worked really hard over the summer to create something unique and impactful for our student body,” founder and co-director Teresa Jones said.

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 Susan Duncan, the school’s dean. “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, from Oxford, was awarded first place at the conclusion of the event. 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.”

During the competition process, Rayburn learned about many issues that he not previously considered, ranging from the wording of the ordinance language so that it is clear and unambiguous to ensuring that it can be implemented and enforced in a reasonable and cost-efficient way, he said.

GLSA was recognized by Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill at the Nov. 2 Board of Alderman meeting, where she announced Rayburn as the 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 given a sample issue with two weeks to research and draft a 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. 

Judges for the competition included Jarvis Dortch, former state representative and executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; Christopher Green, UM professor of law; Pope Mallete, city attorney for Oxford and founder of Mayo Mallette PLLC; and Heather McTeer Toney, former Greenville 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 to garner support for their policy. The organizations and representatives that participated in this “lobby day” included the 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 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. The organization remains active throughout the academic year by hosting guest speakers and workshops for its members.

For more information about programs in the School of Law, visit https://law.olemiss.edu/.


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