The American Bar Association recently announced that Belmont law student Brandon Dragan won the ABA Journal/Ross Writing Contest for Legal Short fiction with his story “Advokat.”
The ABA Journal Board of Editors selected the Ross essay contest winner from finalists picked by ABA Journal editors and writers. The contest sought original fictional stories of no more than 5,000 words that illuminate the role of the law or lawyers in modern society. Entries were judged on creativity, plot exposition, legal insight and character development.
Dragan’s story “Advokat” follows the story of an immigration attorney who learns a lesson about acceptance after advocating for a pro bono client in a life and death situation. Perfecting this story involved the help of many. Dragan first enlisted the help of Nashville immigration attorney Divyash Gopal of Gopal & Pedigo, who assisted Dragan in learning more about legal barriers his characters would face and ways they would be able to get around them.
Later on in the writing process, Belmont College of Law Professors Kristi Arth and Lynn Zehrt guided Dragan in ensuring that his characters followed ethical guidelines.
“One of the best parts of writing this piece was participating in the College of Law’s workshop that was led by Professor Arth. My first three semesters of law school saw all of my creative projects get put on the shelf. This workshop, however, gave me the incentive and the structure which allowed me to prioritize working on a creative project during the semester, and that came as a very nice mental reprieve,” said Dragan.
Although “Advokat” was Dragan’s first legal fiction, he is no stranger to creative writing. Prior to deciding to go to law school, Dragan originally moved to Nashville to be a songwriter. However, after being in Nashville for a while, he quickly realized that the music industry was not for him.
“I found that I loved creating music, but the image-crafting, the networking and the need to have a certain sound didn’t appeal to me,” said Dragan.
After moving on from music, Dragan found a new creative outlet in fictional writing.
“I had always enjoyed writing fiction but had never been committed enough to actually finish anything substantial. Finishing my first novel, then, really became a personal challenge that I undertook with the idea that even if no one ever read it, it was something I needed to do for myself,” recalled Dragan.
In 2020, Dragan released his first novel Wages of Grace.
“I nearly gave up on it a couple dozen times, but something inside whispered ‘just keep going,’ that even if it was never read by a single soul, that it was a story worth telling, a story worth finishing. At the end of the day, I’m very proud of how it turned out and have been humbled by the positive response it’s received,” said Dragan.
Aside from his career as a writer, Dragan worked in the nonprofit sector and in film production. In 2018, Dragan suffered a back injury that left him reevaluating what he wanted to do long term. His desire to do work that matters led him to contemplating law school and becoming a criminal defense attorney.
“A big part of the appeal to that area of law for me is the idea that standing accused of a crime is one of the scariest positions a person can be in, and that every person–even those who may have done horrible things–deserve an advocate in their corner,” said Dragan.
“Advokat” along with a collection of other short stories and essays written by Dragan will be published by Quoir Publishing in early 2022. For now, Dragan’s debut novel Wages of Grace can be bought at thewagesofgrace.com and brandondragan.com.