The State Bar of New Mexico invites all New Mexico high school juniors and seniors to participate in the annual State Bar Student Essay Contest. The State Bar has administered the contest since 1997. Written each year by a lawyer, the topic deals with a relevant legal issue targeted to students. Essays, judged by a panel of lawyers, judges, State Bar staff, and educators, will be evaluated according to content, originality, writing skills, and a public school essay scoring rubric. A panel of sitting judges will evaluate the finalist essays, picking three winners.

2018 Topic: Framework for Freedom
Students will discuss what "checks and balances" exist within New Mexico's three branches of government. The essay contest question will spark a debate regarding how "separation of powers" coupled with "checks and balances" impact the power of democratic majority over the minority. For the full essay prompt.

Thank you to the many students who submitted an essay and congratulations to the first, second and third place winners!

First Place: Max Sanchez, Centennial High School, Las Cruces
Second Place: Lorenzo Ortiz, West Las Vegas High School, Las Vegas
Third Place: Matilda Whitelock, Centennial High School, Las Cruces
First Place Teacher Sponsor: Mr. Joel Hutchinson, Centennial High School, Las Cruces

Click here to read the winning essays!

For more information, contact Breanna Henley at 505-797-6039 or

Sponsored by the Modrall Sperling Law firm

Modrall, Sperling, Roehl, Harris & Sisk, PA is proud to honor the late James E. Sperling through sponsorship of the State Bar of New Mexico Student Essay Contest. Mr. Sperling practiced law with the Modrall firm from 1946 until his death in 1991 and served for many years as the firm’s president. An avid outdoorsman, Mr. Sperling had a life-long interest in natural resources law, and he developed and managed the firm’s natural resources department.

Mr. Sperling also dedicated years of public service to the New Mexico legal community. He chaired the New Mexico Federal Judicial Selection Committee and the Admissions and Grievance Committee of the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico. He served for many years on the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission and numerous other state and federal committees. He also taught oil and gas law at the University of New Mexico School of Law and authored several scholarly articles on natural resources law.

Aside from the laurels associated with an extraordinary legal career, Mr. Sperling was a person of tremendous warmth, generosity and humility. He was a man of few words, but those he spoke were, as one of his colleagues put it, “nigh-on-perfect.” During the latter years of his practice, much of Mr. Sperling’s time was devoted to advising his law partners and training the new attorneys at the firm. His legacy to New Mexico lawyers and aspiring lawyers is his example of approaching law practice with unwavering integrity and complete dedication to the interests of one’s clients.

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