KU law student wins national writing prize

LAWRENCE – A University of Kansas law student took second prize in a national writing competition for his paper on the atrocities of forced labor in international trade.

Elliott Brewer, a third-year student at KU Law, finished second in the 20th annual Andrew P. Vance Memorial Writing Competition, which encourages students to explore current issues relevant to customs and international trade law. The competition is sponsored by the Customs and International Trade Bar Association and Brooklyn Law School.

Brewer’s paper investigated forced labor in corporate supply chains following the repeal of the consumptive demand exception. 

“It’s an issue that is important to me,” he said. “I think a lot of times we take for granted where our goods come from and who is making them. The world is waking up to the atrocities of forced labor, and I want to be a part of the system that helps to correct those.” 

Brewer is the fourth KU Law student in 11 years to take first or second place in this national competition. He received a $500 prize, and his paper will be considered for publication in the Brooklyn Journal of International Law. Brewer was honored in person at the United States Court of International Trade in New York. 

“It was validating that the issue was being addressed and that people cared about the topic,” he said. 

A Parsons native, Brewer decided to study international trade law at KU after earning his undergraduate degree in social welfare from KU.  

“KU has been like a second home to me. I got my undergrad here. I knew a lot of people here,” Brewer said. “It’s the best law school in Kansas, so it was an easy choice for me.” 

Brewer has done three internships that dealt with forced labor issues in recent years. He interned at Verité in Amherst, Massachusetts, during his time as an undergraduate, where he researched labor issues pertaining to the Malaysian electronics industry and conditions of forced labor. Last fall, he interned at the Corporate Accountability Lab in Chicago, where he looked into forced child labor issues on the Ivory Coast. Last summer, he advocated for workers’ rights at the International Labor Rights Forum in Washington, D.C., as the recipient of a prestigious Peggy Browning Fellowship. Among his most notable experiences was writing a complaint to the International Finance Corporation regarding forced labor violations.

Brewer hopes to practice international trade law upon graduation. 

“Ultimately, I would like to work for customs and improving enforcement of blocking the importation of forced labor goods,” Brewer said. “I’m also open to a lot of different paths.” 

Past KU Law winners of the Andrew P. Vance Memorial Writing Competition:

  • 2016: Cody Wood, Class of 2017, first place
  • 2007: Justin Waggoner, Class of 2008, first place
  • 2007: Owen Grieb, Class of 2008, second place.