The Rigorous Writing Exercise is an independent study course that is required for all NSL students. This requirement is intended to satisfy Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 7, § 17.02(a)(1), which requires that students meet educational standards similar to those defined in the ABA Standards. To successfully complete RWE, students must produce a significant writing project that demonstrates substantial length and sophistication.

The project is completed in stages, and students are paired with a judge or attorney in Tennessee who serves as mentor and advisor throughout the process. RWE is graded on a pass/fail basis. Upon successful completion of their project, students earn two credit hours.

The following are some examples of potential project topics:

  • A detailed analysis of a recent court decision that discusses the decision’s effect the state of the law in Tennessee
  • An in-depth examination of a specific legal doctrine or principle that compares the doctrine and its application in Tennessee with the application of the doctrine in other jurisdictions
  • A scholarly comparison of state and federal law on a particular subject
  • An historical examination of a legal doctrine that traces the history and current state of the doctrine and its application in Tennessee

Recognition

Students who, in the opinion of the school, produce superior work will be recognized with the Robert Ballow Excellence in Writing Award. This recognition includes acknowledgment at graduation and in The Torch, publication of the work on the school’s website, and a monetary award endowed by the generosity of Nashville School of Law alumnus Robert Ballow.

Robert L. Ballow graduated from the School in 1963.  He is the founding partner of King & Ballow, a national law firm whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, more than 300 daily newspapers, and 100 radio and televisions stations.  Mr. Ballow has been listed in The Best Lawyers in America since 1982 and one of the best 150 lawyers in Tennessee.  He has served on the Media Law Reporter Advisory Board, the Labor Law Section of the American Bar Association, and the ABA Committee on Antitrust and Labor Relations.

Nashville School of Law’s Rigorous Writing Exercise would not be possible without the generous support of these mentors. The School and its students are indebted to these professionals in the legal field who have graciously given their time and talent to assist others in their pursuit of a career in the law.

The Rigorous Writing Exercise is an independent study program that spans approximately eleven months. 3L students begin the course after successful completion of LSVII and complete the course at the beginning of their 4L year.

Students propose their own topics and are expected to complete a research project of approximately 25 pages, not including citations.  The papers are to be law-related and, ideally, developed with the idea of serving as a practical resource for the bar. The students who submit the best projects of each RWE cycle are named recipients of the Robert Ballow Award for Excellence in Legal Writing, which includes a cash prize. You can read sample RWE projects here.

The Rigorous Writing Exercise has two primary goals. First, in keeping with Tennessee Supreme Court Rules, the course ensures that all NSL students are required to complete a substantial writing project during their studies. The second goal is to provide students with the opportunity to practice the skills of professionalism that they will need in their legal careers. Students accomplish this by being required to keep detailed research and time-keeping records and by demonstrating their competency in professionalism through their relationship with their school-assigned mentor.

The mentorship program is at the heart of the Rigorous Writing Exercise. Students are assigned a mentor with whom they meet to discuss their progress in research and writing. Mentors are a resource to provide feedback and guidance, but mentors are not intended to serve as editors. It is the responsibility of the student to schedule meetings with his/her mentor, to proactively seek advice, and to ensure that course requirements are met. Mentors evaluate students and make recommendations; the school determines whether a student passes RWE.

As with other NSL courses, a TWEN page is maintained, and students must enroll in the appropriate TWEN course. TWEN houses the course syllabus, other materials, and a FAQ page. Students also must remit all work through TWEN.

Mentor FAQs

What is the time commitment required of mentors?

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What if my student chooses a subject in which I have little expertise?

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More Mentor FAQs

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