Budding young lawyers will have a chance to state their case — or write it, actually — as part of the Santa Barbara County Bar Foundation‘s 2008 high school essay contest. South Coast students from grades nine through 12, or their equivalent, may enter the contest, and winners will be announced May 3 as part of the foundation’s Law Week celebration.

The theme of the contest is, “The rule of law: Why it is important for us as individuals, and for the communities and nation in which we live?”

The essays are limited to 1,000 words, and must be typewritten and double-spaced. They must be original work, and dated and signed by the author, who also must provide an address or contact information.

The Bar Foundation will judge the essays on adherence to the theme, content, originality and grammar. Any essay deemed offensive, or not adhering to the theme or rules of the contest may be disqualified.

Essay entries must be postmarked no later than April 11 and should be mailed to the Santa Barbara County Bar Foundation, c/o Christine Kopitzke, 21 E. Carrillo St., Santa Barbara 93101. All essays may be published and will remain the property of the Bar Foundation.

Winners will be announced May 3. The first-prize winner will receive $500, $250 will be awarded for second place and $100 for third place.

The nonprofit Santa Barbara County Bar Foundation is an arm of the 600-member Santa Barbara County Bar Association, which was established in 1909. Among the foundation’s objectives are ongoing support of the justice system, the development of legal education for area Bar Association members and assistance for the Santa Barbara County Law Library.