Vanderbilt Lawyer - Volume 36, Number 1


Encouraged by Professor Don Hall, Steve Feldman turned an early failure into a career success

by Steve Feldman, '78

As a rising second-year student at the law school, I entered the Law Review competition. I submitted a paper that would double as my senior writing paper, which was a pre-requisite for graduation. The topic was selective prosecution in criminal cases. My advisor, Professor Don Hall - known to be a tough grader - had given me an "A" on the paper, so I was hopeful for success.

I wasn't selected for the Review, and I was greatly disappointed. I believed that my paper was publishable and asked Professor Hall for guidance. He encouraged me to submit it to other law journals. A classmate, Ted Brown, who was on the editorial board of the Law Review, also gave me excellent advice about dealing with the law journals. In short order, I received several publication offers. My paper eventually became the lead article in the Spring 1978 issue of the Syracuse Law Review.

With the excitement of seeing my first article in print, my disappointment of being passed over faded. Sparked by this success and my genuine enjoyment of researching and writing about legal issues, I started publishing articles on a regular basis. To date, I've written 31 articles on subjects ranging from criminal law and procedure to torts to legal ethics to civil practice and procedure, administrative law, and federal government contracts. My work has been published in the Tennessee Law Review, West Virginia Law Review, University of Cincinnati Law Review, University of Memphis Law Review, Tennessee Bar Journal, the Public Contract Law Journal and many other journals. Off-duty legal writing quickly became my avocation.

As I gained experience as a working attorney, my writing interests became less theoretical and more practical. In 1984, I became ambitious enough to write a treatise. I researched the market and came up with what I believed was an original subject: Criminal Offenses and Defenses in Tennessee. I had no idea how to get started, except to send unsolicited proposals to legal publishers. The Harrison Company, a law book publisher based in Atlanta, gave me a contract to write the 750-page treatise, which was published in 1988. Only later did I learn how unusual it is for a law book publisher to accept an unsolicited proposal.

Buoyed again by this success, I sent out other unsolicited proposals in 1991 to write a text on the award phase of federal government contracts. Thomson West, the nation's leading law book publisher, released my three-volume treatise on federal procurement law, Government Contracting Awards: Negotiation and Sealed Bidding, in 1996. In 2002, Thomson West accepted another unsolicited proposal for a treatise on Contract Law and Practice for the Tennessee Practice Series; this two-volume treatise was released in April 2006. Over the years, I've also contributed chapters and updates to Thomson West's Federal Administrative Practice and its Federal Forms series.

Although my royalty checks will never be confused with John Grisham's, the substantial recognition I've received for my legal writing brings its own rewards. My works have been cited many times in decisions rendered by state and federal courts, and in national treatises, law school textbooks and leading law journals. Ironically, that first article in the Syracuse Law Review is my most frequently cited work.

My treatises have received favorable reviews in the law journals, including a recent book review by Don Paine in the Tennessee Bar Journal about my volumes on Tennessee Contract Law. In 2001, the Chief Counsel of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, my employer, personally presented me with the Ramon J. Powell Legal Scholarship Legacy Award, which honors a Corps attorney who has accomplished "thoughtful and principled legal scholarship" throughout his or her career. I am a regular speaker for local and national bar associations. I have served a term on the editorial board of the American Bar Association's Public Contract Law Journal.

I'm currently working with Ralph Nash, a professor emeritus of George Washington University Law School who is the leading authority in the United States on federal government contracts, as co-author of the third edition of his multi-volume treatise, Government Contract Changes. This work was released by Thomson West in February 2007. Thomson West recently asked me to be the replacement author of its flagship treatise on federal government contracts, the Government Contract Guidebook, which will come out in early 2008.

I fit my work on all these publications around my full time job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Huntsville, Alabama, where I advise Federal contracting officers on the procurement statutes and regulations, and represent my agency in bid protest and contract dispute litigation.

This story would not be complete without giving credit to my late wife, Ann, who passed away from stomach cancer in April 2007. My dear spouse of 25 years always encouraged me to pursue my scholarship interests, even when she was quite sick and battling her disease. This article is another opportunity for me to express my appreciation to a wonderful helpmate. My life has also been enriched by the friendships I've developed with some very fine editors at Thomson West.

Still inspired by Professor Hall's encouragement, I've helped younger attorneys to pursue their writing ambitions. I get as much pleasure from seeing their articles in print as I do my own. I recently assisted an attorney in our office publish a paper in the Santa Clara Journal of International Law, and he has since published a second article. Not only was he very appreciative of my aid, but I think he will take up my suggestion to encourage a young attorney in the next generation to write and publish a paper.

Trite as it may sound, my story shows that as one door closes, another may open. My books and articles have greatly enhanced my abilities as a lawyer and helped me stay current in my field. I have contributed to the legal profession, and in some instances, influenced the courts in their decisions.

Yet none of this might have happened had I not been turned down for membership on the Law Review all those years ago.