Law Essay Competitions

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Feeling like a winner?

There are lots of opportunities to try out your writing expertise throughout the year...sometimes for money (oh and prestige and worldwide fame of course...).

vLex Justis International Law & Technology Writing Competition

This annual competition centres around three themes, updated for 2020 as:

  • Money, Law and Technology
  • Influence, Law and Technology
  • Movements, Law and Technology

Excitingly the winner receives a whopping £1500 and a 3-month internship!

The guidance and inspiration page gives links to articles in each of the themes to get you thinking, and also lets you see the work of winners from the previous year's competition.

To enter you need to signup and receive the submission link - deadline is 7th December.

Times Law Awards

The biggest of these is The Times Law Award — with prizes of £10,000 on offer for 6 finalists for a 1000 word essay on a given topic.

This year's title is:

Stereotyping and unconscious bias: stumbling blocks for parties, witnesses and aspirant lawyers alike. How should the law and the profession respond?

Deadline is 30th November 2020 at 6pm.

Find out more on the One Essex Court/Times Law Award website.

We're very proud of the incredible number of City students and alumni who have performed so well in this competition over the years. In recent years we have seen the following successes:

GDL student Charlie Colenutt was runner-up in 2020, BPTC student William Beddows was runner-up in 2019 and BPTC student Katie Ratcliffe was 3rd in 2018. Genevieve Woods (1st) in 2017 and Joshua Brown (1st) and Gavin Dingley (2nd) in 2016. See all their essays online.

2014 saw first and third place taken by current City students, with second awarded to a BPTC alumnus. George White (1st) and Lara Hassell (3rd) are both BPTC students (Lara completed the GDL at City in the previous year) and James Beeton (2nd), a BPTC alumnus. The 2014 essay question was Morality versus legality: when is war justified?. All winning essays can be found online.

In 2013 City GDL students secured first and second place in the competition. Andrew Lomas won overall, with Lara Hassell taking second prize with their essays on Privacy and the press: Is state regulation in the public interest?

in 2012 both first and second prizes, as well as two runners-up prizes were won by lawyers with links to City. The title of the essay was as topical as ever: Cameras in court: justice's loss or gain? First prize was taken by James Potts, City GDL and BPTC alumni and now pupil barrister at 4-5 Grays Inn Square. Read James' essay. Second prize was taken by Thomas Coates, then a City GDL student. Read Thomas's essay.

In 2011 first prize was won by Anthony Pavlovich, from City's Graduate Diploma in Law course. Anthony addressed the question Justice under the axe: can the Government's cuts be fair?

In 2010 first prize was won by a City GDL student, Anita Davies, (who went on to take the BPTC with us). Anita addressed the question: Supreme Court UK: radical change or business as usual? This very prestigious award usually has a judging panel of gravitas; this one included Jack Straw; Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the President of the Supreme Court; Lord Grabiner; James Harding, Editor of The Times and David Cavender, QC, of One Essex Court.

Anita's winning essay, described by Jack Straw as "an engaging, erudite piece of prose". can be seen on the One Essex Court website.

In 2006, Amy Rogers, another City GDL student won the award with her essay on Terrorism v human rights: Where do you draw the line?, Sarah Love (City GDL), won joint first prize in 2005 with The shape of things to come? Will Clementi be good for consumers but bad for lawyers?, James Brilliant (City BVC) won it in 2004 with Constitutional reform: will the justice system benefit? Mathew Guillick (City GDL) in 2002 with International terrorists: what role should the law play? and finally in 2001, Jonathan Davey(City GDL) with Ethical dilemmas who should decide - lawyers, scientists or God?. Not a bad record eh?

All previous prize winners (including runner-ups) of The Times Award can be found on the One Essex Court site, who the awards are held in association with.

The Graham Turnbull Memorial International Human Rights Essay Competition

An annual competition named after Graham Turnbull, an English solicitor who did much to promote respect for human rights. Graham was killed in 1997, working as a human rights monitor on the United Nations Human Rights Mission in Rwanda.

Open to law students, trainee solicitors, pupil barristers and all solicitors/barristers within 3 years of admission/call.

The competition asks for essays of no more than 2000 words in length and awards the winner of this prestigious award £500 from the Graham Turnbull Memorial Fund.

Previous winners include Niall Coghlan (2013 competition) and Nick Jones (2019 competition), both on the GDL programme at City. You can read the winning entries all the way back to 2010...

Find out more about the deadline for the current year's competition, as well as the competition rules, via the Law Society Human Rights Community.

Deadline is 31 March 2021, with this year's entrants asked to address the following question:

“What improvements, if any, should be made to the Human Rights Act 1998? Why are they needed?”

Bar Council Law Reform Essay

Sponsored by the Bar Council Scholarship Trust, this competition is open to students and pupils and requires entrants to write a piece of less than 3000 words proposing the case for a law reform which is desirable, practical and useful. Top prize is £4000 which could come in very handy for funding some part of your legal education.

City GDL students have won in previous years: Daisy Ricketts (2011) and Calum Docherty (2010) were both successful. Calum proposed the reform of copyright law in Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Reforming Fair Dealing in English Copyright Law and Daisy with Strengthening the Rule of Law: Reforming the Scope on Parliamentary Privilege. In 2012 City student Mek Mesfin was runner-up in the CPE category and in 2013 Ross Beaton, a City GDL alumni won the overall prize. You can see all previous winners and read their essays via the Bar Council website.

Phoebe Whitlock won in the GDL category for 2016's competition with an entry entitled Rivalling Silicon Valley: The case for the reform of Software Patents. Take a look at the CityNews story about this. For the 2017 competition, GDL student Clarissa Wigoder won first prize with her essay Spare the rod: Why the law on corporal punishment needs to be reformed, and Daniel Fox was named runner-up with his piece: I hate being idle: Asylum seekers and the right to work. In 2020 BPTC alumnus Oliver Brewis won for his piece: Unravelling the Sleeve of Care: Fair Remuneration for Employer-contracted Sleep.

Take a look at their entries (and all other winners) via the Bar Council website. The information usually comes out in April and the deadline for entries is always late September.

JLD Essay Competition

Open to its members, the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society, have an annual competition for those registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority. This includes LPC students and those qualified and working as paralegals. The deadline is normally around the end of November each year and they generally ask for essays of no more than 2000 words.

For inspiration you might wish to look at the winners from previous years, these are linked to below, along with the essay titles for that year.

Is there a role for the legal profession in environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations? 2020 Winners

What’s in a name? Is the title of solicitor still relevant?? 2019 Winners

How will the rule of law be affected by advances in legal technology? 2018 Winners

Where is the line between legitimate accountability and calling judges ‘enemies of the people’? 2017 Winners

How do you think Brexit will affect junior lawyers? 2016 Winners

UKELA Andrew Lees Prize

Named for a former Friends of the Earth Campaign Director (Andrew Lees, a leading environmental campaigner who died unexpectedly in 1994) this prize has been going many years. You can view previous winners on the site and the winner normally receives support for travel and attendance at the UKELA annual conference as well as see your work published in their members' journal.

The deadline for submissions is usually around early April of each year.

Find out more about the competition and associated rules on the UKELA website.

The 2018 competition pivoted around the following statement: ‘The right to a healthy environment is a fundamental human right’

ARDL Marion Simmons QC Essay Competition

Annual essay competition from the Association of Regulatory and Disciplinary Lawyers. Students (undergraduates and postgraduates, trainee solicitors and pupil barristers) are asked to write no more than 3000 words on a topic. The 2019 competition asked applicants to submit an essay on a regulatory law or disciplinary law topic of their choice.

First prize winner takes home £2000, second prize winner £1000 and third prize £500. Details of the competition are normally released in February, with a deadline for submission in May.

CEPLER Student Essay Competition

The Centre for Professional Legal Education and Research at Birmingham Law School (CEPLER) launched its national law student essay writing competition in 2014. The winner (City GDL student Chris Richards) received an iPad mini and the opportunity to have their essay published on the CEPLER website as a CEPLER Working Paper. He had just 1500 words to tackle the following title: “In an age of austerity, access to justice is a luxury", and received comments like this from the judges:

"Chris' submission was a beautifully written, well-argued and original essay which all three of us chose as the best in a competitive field". (The Chief Executive of Birmingham Citizen's Advice Bureau Service)

In 2015 students were asked to tackle the following question:

"A 'brexit' would be a serious threat to London as the centre of globalised legal services. Discuss" Deadline was 19th November 2015. The winning entry can be seen via the CEPLER website.

More info and the competition rules can be found via the CEPLER website.

Want inspiration? Read Chris's winning entry via the University of Birmingham's ePapers repository.

FIDE Essay Prize

The UK Association for European Law also run an essay competition, with the winner securing a bursary to attend the biennial FIDE CONGRESS Conference, which usually takes place in May.

Last year students were asked to write no more than 2000 words (including footnotes) on the following:

The future EU-UK relationship will be like no other – a bold and bespoke new model is therefore needed. Discuss

Submissions are judged by a panel from the UKAEL committee, who will award the winner registration at the conference in addition to £600 towards accommodation and travel. The winner of this prize in 2018 was William Spence, GDL student at City. In 2014 another City student (BPTC) took the prize, Niall Coghlan. You can read both their essays via the UKAEL website. Niall has had a great year for developing his European Law expertise - he was also part of the team that won the European Human Rights Moot in Strasbourg.

Commonwealth Law Student Essay Competition

This competition happens every two years, and is open to all students registered on an undergraduate degree course.

In 2018 the organisers, the Commonwealth Legal Education Organisation (CLEO), asked for 2500 words maximum on the following:

In the context of the Commonwealth Principles, how can the law achieve a balance between the freedom of the media to report and criticise the government and/or judiciary, and the need for respect, responsibility and regulation in reporting?

Find out more and access the rules online.

Future Legal Mind Award

Launched in 2014 by the National Accident Helpline the winner of this competition will get to take part in a mentoring session with one of the firm's experienced in-house lawyers, as well as a substantial monetary prize.

Entrants need to submit an essay of up to 650 words - the 2020 title is as follows:

Achieving a qualification in Law provides a great foundation for careers today. Tell us about your legal aspirations and what the future of Law looks like to you. What area of the Law do you feel passionate about? Is there an area of the Law or legal system you would like to see changed for the better?

Find out more via the National Accident Helpline competition website. Deadline is 28th February 2020.

The 2015 winner in the postgraduate category was Lukas Hamilton-Eddy (City GDL student). The 2016 prize was again won by a City GDL student, Tom Phillips. He wowed judges with his essay on the future of legal services for firms and consumers. Another City student, Pavlos Artemios Xagoraris also made the finalists stage. Pavlos is in the first year of his Graduate Entry LLB. Katherine Strange (GDL) was a finalist in 2017.

Property Bar Association Essay Competition

This competition was launched in November 2015 and asks students each year to write a 1000-word essay, with the winner taking home £1000, a copy of Megarry & Wade AND their essay published in the Estates Gazette.

The question for 2019-20 will be released on the 1st November. Deadline will be 3rd January 2020.

Arabella Adams (City GDL) won the 2017 competition.

Legal Cheek Blogging Prize

For 2018 the focus of this competition was Privacy Law. For 2019, this changed to a vlogging competition with participants given just 60 seconds to impress and creatively condense their thoughts into a short video detailing who their US legal icon is, and why. You can see the Top 5 via Legal Cheek.

Who knows what 2020 will bring! Details are likely to be released in April with a deadline the following month.

Entrants are been asked to write no more than 1000 words on the topic, with a return transatlantic flight on offer for the winner! The sponsor is BARBRI International.

ELSA Amicus Essay Prize

This competition asks entrants to address a question in no more than 1500 words. For 2018-19 the title was The role of the jury: should individuals who are not experts be able to decide whether someone is sentenced to death?

Amicus ALJ, with assistance from ELSA UK and ELSA Ireland, compiles a shortlist of essays on the recommendation of the Panel. This shortlist will be sent for consideration by the final judge and Amicus ALJ Trustee, Mark George QC, who will declare the winning essay and the runner-up essay.

First prize is a Work Experience Placement in Amicus ALJ’s London office, duration and date to be decided between both parties. Additionally, the winning essay shall be featured in the upcoming edition of the Student Comparative and European Law Review (SCELR). The author of the runner-up essay will be awarded a prize of £150 worth of OUP books or a Law Trove module, at their discretion, courtesy of Oxford University Press. Both entrants will be awarded complimentary membership of their respective ELSA national group for the upcoming term.

Find full details of the competition via the SCELR website but any questions should be directed to Deadline usually end of January.

SCL Student Essay Prize

The Society for Computers and Law annual essay competition asks entrants to write a maximum of 2000 words in order to be in with a chance of winning a free place at the annual SCL Conference, publication of your essay in the SCL Computers and Law magazine and £250.

The 2020 competition asks students to address the following question in fewer than 2500 words:

At the start of the 2010s, two billion people used the Internet, MySpace rivalled Facebook as the most popular social network, iPads did not exist and few people had swapped their trusty Nokias for iPhones. Peer to peer networking was seen as an existential threat to copyright industries and net neutrality was not yet the law anywhere, while cloud computing was unknown to the general population. The future was unpredictable.” What, where, how, and when will the greatest regulatory challenges for the Internet of 2030 be? Justify your answer with reference to existing laws, regulation, and government policy documents.

Find full details of how to enter and the rules on the SCL website. Deadline is 22 May 2020 at 5pm.

Michael Mustill Essay Prize

This biennial prize was established by The International Dispute Resolution Centre (IDRC), in association with St John’s College, Cambridge, to commemorate the life and work of Lord Mustill, one of the great figures of arbitration.

It is open to all postgraduate students (not just students of law) and asks for submissions of no more than 6000 words. The prize is £10,000. Uniquely students are given free reign; asked to write on any aspect of the law and practice of arbitration in England and Wales.

Find out more about the prize via the IDRC website, where you can also find out who won in 2018 and read the accompanying speech by Michael Payton.

Deadline is 15 Jan 2020.

The European Centre for Space Law Essay Competition

Bit different this one! The ECSL's competition challenges students to think critically about a particular topic in space law and policy and to present cogent arguments in support of a position.The 2017/18 competition asked students to address 'The Rescue and Return Agreement in times of non-governmental spaceflights'.

First prize winners will receive a trip to attend the ECSL Practitioners’ Forum and Young Lawyer Symposium (at the European Space Agency HQ), an annual ECSL Membership and see the publication of their essay on the ECSL website.

Find out more and read the winning entries from previous years on the ECSL website

Unfortunately this competition hasn't run for a couple of years now...

The Sir Henry Brooke Essay Prize

Started in 2019 in honour of Sir Henry Brooke, former Court of Appeal judge, this competition is organised by the Young Legal Aid Lawyers. Sir Henry was well-known for his involvement in access to justice issues, being Chairman of BAILII and also involved in significant portions of the Bach Commission report on access to justice. He was also a big fan of technology and penned a hugely engaging blog during retirement.

The 2019 title was as follows:

"Technology has the capacity to enhance, empower and automate, but it also has the potential to exclude vulnerable members of society" – Sir Henry Brooke, September 2017

Discuss, with examples, how technology can be used to advance access to justice in the UK.

The 2020 essay title has not been announced yet but you can get inspired by the 2019 winners via the competition website.

LGBT+Lawyers Division competition

Last year's competition had a deadline of end of March 2019, so we should hear more about this one soon. The organisers ask for no more than 2000 words.

Title last year was:

What remaining legal barriers exist for the LGBT+ community in terms of equality, including any issues with the application of the current law?

The winner will receive a cash prize of £750 and their essay will be published on the Law Society website.

The competition is open to GDL and LPC students, GDL and LPC graduates, paralegals, trainee solicitors and solicitors.

Shamnad Basheer Essay Competition on Intellectual Property Law

This competition was launched in 2020 by SpicyIP, in honour of their founder Professor Shamnad Basheer. Excitingly this competition asks for submissions on anything related to intellectual property rights – the more creative the better.

The word limit for submissions is 5,000 words (inclusive of footnotes) and the deadline for submissions is June 30, 2020 (23:59 IST).

All submissions and any queries should be e-mailed to

The competition is open to students currently enrolled in any LLB program (or its equivalent – meaning students enrolled in J.D. programs can take part) across the world.

For more information (including prize money, rules, judges etc) please take a look at the SpicyIP website.

UK Centre for Animal Law Essay Competition

The details of the 2020 competition will be released in November 2019.

Last year's competition title was:

Explain the potential significance of granting legal personhood to animals in the UK and was won by City student (GDL and now BPTC) Sam Groom.