Thomas Jefferson School of Law Professor Steve Semeraro has won the first ever Journal of Legal Education Fiction Contest (JLE), sponsored by Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles and judged by very prominent writers.
Southwestern Associate Dean Molly Selvin, the managing editor of the JLE and coordinator of the contest said, “The quality of entries for this competition proves there is a plethora of creativity, wit and skill in the legal writing community. The judges were delighted by so many entries from talented writers, legal scholars and practitioners.”
Professor Semeraro’s story, “The Birds They Sang at the Break of Day” was selected as the best entry from among 129 entries, from writers across the U.S., and several other countries.
“I’m thrilled,” said Professor Semeraro about winning the contest. “As practitioners and law professors, attorneys are always performing for judges, juries, clients, and students,” said Professor Semeraro. “The legal fiction writing contest is a welcome chance for us to get off the stage for a while and create the characters that we wish we could be.”
The panel of prominent judges included best-selling authors such as Michael Connelly and Denise Hamilton, television writer Marshall Goldberg and author and television-movie consultant Charles Rosenberg.
"I was honestly blown away by the level of creativity and craft in these stories,” said Connelly, author of bestselling legal-themed novels such as The Lincoln Lawyer, The Brass Verdict, The Fifth Witness, The Reversal and The Drop. “These writers delved into all facets of the law but more importantly they dug down deep into characters. It's a winning combination. ‘The Birds They Sang at the Break of Day’ is a wonderful story that should be read widely. And it’s not the only one. Many, many of these stories should be published and read. These writers certainly have something to say."
The story, in Professor Semeraro’s words, is about “a recent law school graduate, Greg Gramchi, who happens to play in a live karaoke band. He gets some advice from a homeless former street lawyer and decides to pursue a career representing only criminal defendants charged with DUI. Gramchi’s wife and family might not understand why he decided to defend exclusively DUI cases. But as the pieces of his law practice fall into place, Gramchi learns that the concepts of winning and losing at law aren’t exactly what he expected them to be. In fact, they aren’t even close.”
The story is based on Eric Ganci '08, who has established himself as one of the top DUI attorneys in San Diego.
"It's an honor, a complete honor," said Ganci of being the inspiration for the story. "It's a playful tale of someone working and strategizing day and night to fulfill his dreams, and I just hope I come anywhere close to him!"
How did Professor Semeraro’s story come about?
“I was thinking about writing a pilot for a TV show based on these characters, and I was hunting around for a class to teach me how to do it,” said Professor Semeraro. “When I went to the AALS convention in January, I saw a flier for the fiction writing contest. I thought that putting together a short story would be a way to move the project forward. And although I hadn’t written a short story, at least since high school, I knew they were publishing 20 stories. So I figured I had a shot. I asked a few friends with writing and editing experience to comment on an early draft. I took what they said seriously and made a lot of changes. I couldn’t be happier that it all worked out.”
In addition to Professor Semeraro’s first place story, the following writers were among the top ten winners:
• Peter Brennan, an engineer and writer living in Philadelphia, “The Lizard, the Justice & the Drunk”
• Gerald T. Hendrickson, Esq., a lawyer from St. Paul, Minnesota, “No Defense”
• Leslie Gielow Jacobs, Professor at McGeorge School of Law, “Snow White”
• Kyle Mallinak is a third-year law student at University of Virginia, “Prague Spring”
• Melissa F. Miller, a lawyer and published writer from Pennsylvania, “Black Thursday”
• Patrick C. O’Reilly, a lawyer and faculty member at SUNY Buffalo School of Law, “Lunch at MacDougal’s
• Risa Peris works in business and is a published writer from Phoenix, “She Wore Blue”
• John Power, a lawyer in Chicago, “Trusts”
• Marc Weitz, a lawyer in LA and Southwestern alumnus, “The Jirga”
All of the top ten stories, including Professor Semeraro’s story, will be published by JLE in February 2013.
Congratulations to Professor Semeraro from everyone at TJSL!