Call for Submissions for Second Annual Student Essay Competition

The Virginia Law Review (VLR) Online is excited to announce the topic for our second annual essay competition. This competition is open to all current law students (including LLMs) and recent graduates (from the Classes of 2018–2021) 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).

Over the past year, we’ve experienced new and old threats to our democracy. While Congress upheld its constitutional duty to certify the election, there were also several unwritten legal norms that kept—or failed to keep—our democratic institutions intact. We are curious about how unwritten legal norms across all levels of government protect or fail to protect our democratic system of governance—not just in the past year, but in the past 234 years. This topic is intentionally broad, but submissions should focus on concepts or actions that have impacted, transformed, harmed, or protected American democracy despite lacking a solid legal or textual foundation in the Constitution or statutes. A non-exhaustive list of potential topics includes: the filibuster, cert requirements, the shadow docket, executive orders, the administrative state, actions of state attorneys general, 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Rules: Each individual may submit no more than one piece, and submissions must be previously unpublished.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 Elizabeth Adler ( 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’s Essay Competition are footnoted and must be no more than 5,000 words in length (including footnotes).

Deadline: All pieces must be submitted by September 10, 2021, 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:
    1. The title of the piece;
    1. An abstract of 250 words or less; and
    1. 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.
    1. Word 2010, 2013, 2016: Go to File, select “Info”, click on Check for Issues”, click on “Inspect Document”. In the dialog box, click “Remove All” and close box. Save document.
    1. Word for Mac 2016, 2018: Go to Tools, select “Protect Document” or select “Protect Document” button on Review tab. 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:
    1. Your name, phone number, e-mail address, and mailing address;
    1. The title of your submission; and
    1. A signed statement (an electronic signature will be accepted) that your piece was not heavily edited by anyone other than the author(s).

Please note that current UVA Law students whose pieces are accepted for publication will be extended invitations to join the Virginia Law Review.