Law student wins first-place in national ABA writing competition

Victoria Nguyen

It was Victoria Nguyen’s first time entering a national writing competition – and the first time winning one. The third-year law student submitted the article, “Donation Detour: Donor-Advised Funds in Higher Education” to the American Bar Association’s Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law and received first place in its 2020 Student Writing Contest. 

Nguyen, who has a concentration in Business Law and is operations editor of the Oregon Law Review, says the paper was inspired in-part by her long-standing interest in higher education.  

“Before law school, I worked in state and federal government and for a nonprofit,” Nguyen said. “Most of those roles involved higher education. The research I conducted for the paper allowed me to dig into topics I had previously encountered, such as endowments and fundraising.”  

Her paper explores the unique topic of donor-advised funds ("DAFs") and their impact on higher education philanthropy.  She discusses why DAFs have become so popular in recent decades and how they can delay donations from reaching universities. Finally, she recommends changes to the Internal Revenue Code that would motivate account holders to make grants from their DAFs.  

Susan Gary, the Orlando John and Marian H. Hollis Professor at the law school, teaches courses on trusts and estates, estate planning, and nonprofit organizations. She encouraged Nguyen to participate and served as her mentor during the process. Gary says that Oregon Law students are highly competitive at national writing competitions because the law school ensures that each student has a substantial writing experience with quality feedback on their writing. 

“This is the second time a UO student has won the competition, and Victoria’s first-place win speaks well of our Legal Research and Writing Program as well as her hard work and skills,” Gary said.    

Nguyen has special thanks for her professors at the law school.  

“I wouldn't have entered the competition without Professor Gary’s encouragement,” said Nguyen. “And I drew upon the techniques and strategies we practiced in Legal Research and Writing to draft and edit the paper. When in doubt, I asked myself ‘What would Professor [Elizabeth] Frost suggest?’ and revised accordingly.”   

In addition to the accolades of winning first place, and receiving $2,500 prize money, Nguyen’s work will be published in the Spring 2021 issue (Vol. 56, No. 1) of the ABA Real Property, Trust & Estate Law Journal. The award also includes a full-tuition scholarship to the University of Miami School of Law's Heckerling Graduate Program in Estate Planning or Robert Traurig-Greenberg Traurig Graduate Program in Real Property Development, among other prizes.  


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By Rayna Jackson, School of Law Communications