Nashville School of Law

Rigorous Writing Exercise


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Our Mentors

The Rigorous Writing Exercise (RWE) is an independent study course that is required for all NSL students. This requirement begins during the third year of law school and 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


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.

2023 Winners

2nd (Tie) – Daimon Duggar – Fiat Justia: The Development and Challenges of Prosecutorial Discretion in Tennessee (Mr. Eddie Herbert, mentor)

Thanks to Our Mentors

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.

Cathryn Armistead

Melissa Baker

Charlie Baldwin

Douglas T. Bates, III

Christopher Beauchamp

Ben Bennett

Ellison Berryhill

Michael W. Binkley

Jeffrey S. Bivins

Michelle Blaylock-Howser

Diana Bradford

Amanda Bradley

Kevin Bragg

Thomas W. Brothers

Joe Brown

Rhea Bucy

James F. Butler

Jack Byrd

Jacques Cabell

Chuck Cagle

Colin Calhoun

Jeff Campbell

Donald Capparella

Connie Chadwick

Cornelia A. Clark

Richard L. Colbert

Darwin Colston

Aaron Conklin

Amanda Conklin

Dixie W. Cooper

Thom Corley

Patricia Cottrell

Larry Crain

Robert Allen Dalton

Terry Dicus

Richard H. Dinkins

Jacqueline B. Dixon

Tom DuBois

Nichole Dusche

Julie-Karel Elkin

Sam D. Elliott

Kimberly Faye

Henry D. Fincher

Patrick A. Flynn

Brooks Fox

Jennifer Free

Patrick Frogge

Patti B. Garner

Elizabeth Garrett

Amanda Gentry

Michael Giaimo

Brandon O. Gibson

C.J. Gideon

Grant C. Glassford

William R. Goodman, III

Divyesh Gopal

Jeremy Gourley

Sharon Tyler Guffee

Rachel Harmon

Donald P. Harris

Emily Harvey

Robert H. Hassell, II

Jeremiah Hassler

Jennifer Hedge

Kim R. Helper

Eddie Herbert

Jack Hinson

Krisann Hodges

Jamie Hollin

Tim Horne

Brad W. Hornsby

Derek Howard

Jill Hudson

Georgina K. Hughes

Thomas M. Hutto

Stephan Karr

Suzanne Keith

Clint Kelly

Lauren Kilgore

Randall L. Kinnard

Stephen Chapman Knight

David Kozlowski

Walter C. Kurtz

Edward K. Lancaster

Melanie Lane

Tom Lee

Eric Lehman

Billy Leslie

Suzanne M. Lockert-Mash

Dana Looper

Teresa Luna

Ellen Hobbs Lyle

Roger A. Maness

Rick Mansfield

Jennifer A. Marlow

James G. Martin, III

Sharon T. Massey

Neal McBrayer

Carol L. McCoy

Kevin McGee

Richard McGee

Laurence M. McMillan

Michael Richard Meise

James Melton

Robert Mendes

Craig Monsue

Robin C. Moore

Roger Eric Nell

Nathan Nichols

Venus Niner

Thomas B. Norris, Jr.

Len Ogden

Talley Olson

Roger A. Page

Laurie Parker

Tamika Parker

Jeff Peach

Doug Pierce

Scott Pilkinton

Erika Porter

Michelle Poss

Alison Prestwood

William T. Ramsey

Melinda Rigsby

Lisa Rippy-McGuffey

Helen Sifkas Rogers

Stephanie Roth

Dan Rudloff

Anne Russell

Maria M. Salas

Edward Schell

Carrie Searcy

Siew-Ling Shea

Jennifer Sheppard

Edward P. Silva

Gregory D. Smith

Jerry L. Smith

Brandy Spurgin

Brittany Stevens

Jeff Stewart

Virginia Lee Story

Wayne Sutter

Matthew J. Sweeney

Thomas Harwell Swink

Timothy L. Takacs

Russell Anne Swafford-Talley

Neil Thomas, III

Barry R. Tidwell

Woody Trondsen

Andy Tucker

William Underhill

Jake VanAusdall

Donnavon Vasek

Larry J. Wallace

DarKenya Waller

Ashley Waters

Monte D. Watkins

Robert C. Watson

James L. Weatherly

Eleanor K. Wetzel

Alysse White

Thomas V. White

Lacy Wilber

Marie Williams

Tad Wintermeyer

Thomas A. Wiseman, III

Tamera Womack

Thomas T. Woodall

Sharon Woodson

Luther Wright, Jr.

For Students

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.

Rigorous Writing Mentor Signup