Ross Writing Contest

Ohio associate with a love of writing wins ABA Journal's 2020 Ross essay contest for legal fiction

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Dan Best

Daniel M. Best. Photo by Joshua A. Bickel.

A short story about the first lawyer in a close-knit Black family has been named the winner of the 2020 ABA Journal/Ross Writing Contest for Legal Short Fiction.

The author is Daniel M. Best, an associate at Gallagher Sharp in Columbus, Ohio, who is devoted to writing. He will receive a $3,000 prize for his winning story, “The Family Lawyer.”

Best’s story is about the lawyer’s visit home during a trying time. He says he came up with the idea partly because he missed visiting his own family while maintaining social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Themes of Best’s story include the duties of attorney-client privilege, the responsibilities of being a role model and lawyer, and the legal system’s role in changing society for the better.

Best is the first practicing lawyer in his family. Having a family member who is a lawyer makes the law a little more accessible and can be a bridge for building trust in the law, he told the ABA Journal.

As a minority, Best says, he can bring a unique viewpoint to his writing. Like the character in his winning short story, Best thinks the law can help change society for the better.

“I think the law is definitely a vehicle for pushing things forward, but I don’t think it’s a magic bullet,” he says. “It really starts with the people.”

Ross Essay Logo

Best received an honorable mention in last year’s Ross contest for a story about an associate struggling with the stress of law practice. He has also published a short story in the “Columbus Noir” anthology, part of the Akashic Books noir series of short story collections.

Best says he usually devotes two to three hours after work to his writing.

“You have to be kind of dedicated to it,” he says. “I put my butt in the chair, and then I find the time to write.”

Even when he is practicing law, Best thinks of ideas for his fiction.

“When I do have those thoughts, I usually text them to myself or jot them down,” he says.

Best sees parallels between legal writing and short-story writing. The Ross contest had a 5,000-word limit, and Best had to structure the story so it could be told within those limits. Writing a brief must also be done within limits.

The Ross contest rules require entries to be original works of fiction that illuminate the role of the law or lawyers in modern society. plans to publish Best’s story the week of Thanksgiving.

Best’s next project is a science-fiction fantasy novel for young adults. He plans to enter the novel in a contest in September.

Best is a 2013 graduate of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Before joining Gallagher Sharp, Best was a litigation counsel for Geico.

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