Call for Submissions for Third Annual Student Essay Competition

The Virginia Law Review (VLR) Online is excited to announce the topic for our third annual essay competition. This competition is open to all current law students (including LLMs) and recent graduates (from the Classes of 2019–2022) from any ABA-accredited American law school. We will choose up to three winning submissions, each of which will be awarded a $300 cash prize (subject to any applicable tax reporting and withholding requirements). Current UVA Law students whose pieces are accepted for publication will be extended invitations to join the Virginia Law Review.

Prompt: In recent years, the language of police and prison abolition has become increasingly salient in popular discourse. Yet, as many modern-day abolitionists argue, jails and prisons are far from the only sources of harm in our society; non-carceral institutions, systems, and legal regimes also restrict individuals’ liberty and autonomy, often reproducing racial, social, and economic inequities. We would like both to learn more about the ways in which systems outside of formal incarceration operate to the detriment of marginalized individuals and communities, and to gather your novel thoughts on the possibilities and limitations of using the law to address these harms. This topic is intentionally broad, but submissions should focus on first explaining how a non-carceral system, institution, or legal regime restricts liberty and produces inequitable outcomes, and then discussing the way(s) in which the law (either alone or in conjunction with other forms of advocacy and action) might contribute to the creation of a more just system. A non-exhaustive list of potential topics includes: the child welfare system, conservatorships, zoning laws, occupational licensing laws, sex offender registries, terrorism watchlists, mental health institutions, etc.

Rules: Each individual may submit no more than one piece, and submissions must be previously unpublished. Jointly-written pieces up to three authors will be accepted. Pieces do not need to be exclusively submitted to VLR Online during the competition window; however, if you choose to publish the piece elsewhere, you must inform VLR Online by emailing Online Development Editor Sydney Stanley ( within 24 hours of accepting. Students may not receive advising from VLR Online or Notes advisors on their pieces. Pieces may reflect conversations and light comments from professors and other students. They should not, however, be heavily edited by anyone other than the author(s).

Length: Pieces published as part of the VLR Online Student Essay Competition are footnoted and must be no more than 5,000 words in length (including footnotes).

Deadline: All pieces must be submitted by November 1, 2022, at 11:59 p.m. 

Submission: Pieces must be emailed to in .docx format. The document must abide by these guidelines:

  1. The document should include a cover page containing:
    • The title of the piece;
    • An abstract of 250 words or less; and
    • A word count for the piece, both with and without footnotes.
  2. The file must be the [Piece Title], and the subject line of the email must be “VLR Online Essay Competition Submission”.
  3. Any identifying information must be removed from the body of the document as well as the personal information embedded in the digital file by following the instructions below. This includes removing identifying information typically included at the beginning of a Note in a * footnote. Correctly following all instructions will maintain each author’s anonymity.
    • Word 2010, 2013, 2016:
      1. Go to File, select “Info”
      2. Click on “Check for Issues”
      3. Click on “Inspect Document”
      4. In the dialog box, click “Remove All” and close box
      5. Save document.
    • Word for Mac 2016, 2018:
      1. Go to Tools
      2. Select “Protect Document” or select “Protect Document” button on Review tab
      3. Save document.
  4. In addition to the document above, all submissions must include the following information in a separate document, which is to be attached to the same email in .pdf format. The PDF should be titled “[Piece Title].Confidential”. This separate document should be a single page and include:
    • Your name, phone number, e-mail address, and mailing address;
    • The title of your submission; and
    • A signed statement (an electronic signature will be accepted) that your piece was not heavily edited by anyone other than the author(s).

Any questions should be directed to the Online Development Editor, Sydney Stanley (