Dorothy E. Roberts Public Interest Essay Competition

Dorothy E. Roberts Public Interest Essay Competition


Announcing the University of Pennsylvania Law Review Volume 172 Dorothy E. Roberts Public Interest Essay Competition

The University of Pennsylvania Law Review is pleased to announce its ninth annual Public Interest Essay Competition. The Competition has been renamed the Dorothy E. Roberts Public Interest Essay Competition, in recognition of Professor Roberts’ immense, pervasive impact on not only the Penn Law community but communities around the country. Professor Roberts takes a unique interest in advancing public interest discourse, and her willingness to mentor and advise public interest students adds unparalleled value to our community.

The Competition is a national writing competition for student-authored articles on the topic of social justice and public interest law. The winner will be awarded a $5,000 grant to implement a public interest project related to the article and a $1,000 cash prize. The Law Review is committed to improving the surrounding community in Philadelphia and the national legal community as a whole. Through this Competition, the Law Review seeks to serve this mission by publishing serious legal scholarship focused on social justice and public interest law.

Competition Details


The winning essay will be published in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online. The author will receive a $5,000 grant to support their related public interest work or the work of a non-profit organization or pro bono clinic. In addition, the author will receive a $1,000 cash prize. If the winning essay is co-authored, the authors will split this cash prize.


Submissions must focus on a specific legal issue within the realm of public interest law, including any issue relating to social justice or advancing the general welfare and good of the public. In addition, the author must include a brief grant proposal for $5,000 to support public interest work related to the essay topic. Topics can be local, state, national, or international in breadth or impact.

Deadline for Submission:

The University of Pennsylvania Law Review is no longer accepting submissions for its Ninth Annual Dorothy E. Roberts Public Interest Essay Competition. The deadline for submission was February 29, 2024, via the online submission portal.


The competition is open to all current law students (Classes of 2024, 2025, and 2026) from any ABA-accredited American law school as well as recent graduates of such institutions from the classes of 2016 – 2023. Submissions are limited to one per person and must be an original, unpublished academic essay.

Essay and Grant Proposal Requirements:

Essays must be submitted in PDF format and include footnote citations. Submissions must have a title and be no longer than 6,000 words, including footnotes. All submissions will be considered anonymously. Therefore, authors must ensure that their essays do not contain any identifying information, such as name or institutional affiliation.

The grant proposal must be 500 words or less and request support for a non-profit organization, a pro bono clinic, or for the author’s own public interest work. The cause supported must relate to the essay topic and the best proposals will be designed to implement the novel legal thinking argued for in the essay. The proposal must include contact information for the primary recipient of the funds. If the author proposes to support a non-profit or clinic, the author must also include a brief description of the organization’s activities and mission.

Judging Process and Notification of Winner:

The Law Review Public Interest Committee will consider all submissions anonymously. The best submissions will demonstrate originality and superior literary effort that advances the interests and understanding of a specific topic within the broad arena of public interest and the law. That submission will include a thoughtful proposal for how the grant could help to implement the theory proposed. The winner will be announced in the spring of 2024 and will be published in Volume 172 of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review Online.


All questions can be submitted to Emily Gabos, the Volume 172 Philanthropy Editor, at

Past Winners

Volume 171: Devontae Torriente, Policing the Police: An Analysis of the Citizens Police Oversight Commission

Volume 170: Audrey Youn, Collateral Consequences in Custody: Pennsylvania’s Burden in Re-entry Parents and Their Children

Volume 169: Lucy J. Trieshmann and Maya R. Goldman, The Breaking Point: A Critical Disability Analysis of Abolition

Volume 168: Ben Schwartz,  Problems with Pinkerton Liability in the Juvenile Context: A Case Study of Pennsylvania

Volume 167: Christen Hammock, Recording the Pain of Others: Lethal Injection’s Visibility Problem.

Volume 166: Blair Bowie, Who Defines Corruption? The Supreme Court’s Self-Declared Supremacy.

Volume 165: Ryan Snow, Legislative Control Over Redistricting as Conflicts of Interest: Addressing the Problems of Partisan Gerrymandering Using State Conflicts of Interest Law.

Volume 164: Peter Johnsen and Elia Robertson, Protecting, Restoring, Improving: Incorporating Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Restorative Justice Concepts Into Civil Domestic Violence Cases.