Academic Policies Guide

Substantial Writing Requirements

Students are required to complete either one Option A paper or two Option B papers.

Option A

  • IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to register for the appropriate credits to satisfy the Option A requirement. A limited number of seminars may restrict the number of students that may write a substantial paper in a seminar. (i.e., not all students that win a seat in a seminar will be able to satisfy Option A.  Please check course descriptions. A professor may require permission to register for the writing credit of their seminar. Therefore, you should take this into account.)
  • If you will satisfy the Option A in a seminar or course (as opposed to directed research), once you have received faculty approval, you must register through COURSES during the add/drop period for the additional Writing Credit associated with the seminar/course by the stated deadline. After COURSES closes for add/drop registration, you must submit an add/drop form to the Office of Academic Services by the stated deadline. No retroactive registration is permitted.

For all Substantial Writing Requirements: 

  • Regardless of the type of project involved, students are, of course, expected to submit original, non-duplicative work for each and every course. When in doubt about the proper use of a citation or quotation, discuss the issue with the instructor. The reuse of work you did for another class for law school credit without approval is a serious offense that may merit severe discipline. (See Procedures for Offenses Requiring Formal Discipline in the Student Handbook for a definition of plagiarism).
  • Any writings, whether Option A or Option B, must be faculty-supervised in order to qualify for the writing requirement.
  • PLEASE NOTE: Substantial Writing credit may not be earned for work a student does for pay.

Option A is described as follows:

  • The writing requirement: In order to graduate, a student must produce an original analytic paper of substantial length (ordinarily at least 10,000 words in length and undergoes a comment and draft process) under the supervision of a faculty member, who may augment these requirements.
  • The character of the paper: The paper must be a sustained piece of writing and not purely descriptive. It should be thorough, well-written, properly documented, and anticipate and address opposing arguments.
  • The form of the paper: The paper may be a traditional journal note; the author’s empirical research with analysis; a proposal for law reform with defense and commentary; a memorandum of law or a brief addressing a substantial legal issue: or an equivalent project showing original thought and analysis.
  • The scope of faculty oversight: Students should present an outline of their paper to the supervising faculty member for approval before doing substantial work. After approval, the student must prepare a first draft of the paper and, after faculty review, and discussion, the student must prepare a rewritten second draft that is responsive to the instructor’s criticism and acceptable to him or her.
  • The time for completion of the paper: A student should have completed his or her first draft no later than January of the student’s final semester to ensure adequate time before graduation for the supervising faculty member to critique the paper, the student to rewrite the paper, and the faculty member to review the second draft and determine whether to approve it or request further work. Seminars with writing credits will satisfy the Option A requirement automatically since an Option A paper is required in order to earn the additional writing credit.

A student may satisfy the Option A requirement under the supervision of a faculty member either through a two-credit Directed Research or as part of a seminar or other classroom activity. In the case of a seminar with an optional one credit writing component, students who write such a paper can earn an additional credit for the seminar by registering for the writing credit portion in addition to the seminar itself. For example, if you are registered for Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium (LAW-LW.10787) for four credits, you should register for Tax Policy and Colloquium and Seminar Writing Credit (LAW-LW.10609) for the additional credit. You may add the Option A Writing Credit on Courses during the add/drop period, or in person at the Office of Academic Services with an add/drop slip until the deadline posted in the registration calendar. Option A Writing Credit courses are listed in the Schedules of Classes.

For lecture courses, satisfaction of the course requirements through completion of the Substantial Writing/Option A paper will be awarded the number of credits that the course normally carries.

Option B

  • Students may satisfy the writing requirement by completing work in two different classes (“Option B”) that can take a variety of forms, including for example, a brief, motion, contract or transactional document, policy analysis, or a series of short papers. Accordingly, it is difficult to set an across-the-board measure for the writing like a specific number of pages or a word count.  As a general matter, and subject to whatever specialized requirements are set by the teacher of the course or Directed Research, B writing credit should normally involve a total of 5,000 words of writing, which corresponds to roughly 15 double-spaced pages in print (which might be spread across several different short documents), exclusive of footnotes. If projects are co-written, an individual student must have contributed at least 15 pages or 5,000 words.
  • Writing done in a clinic or externship may also qualify for Option B (including, for example, a series of pleadings).  Please note that per ABA Interpretation 303-1, students may not use one course to satisfy more than one requirement; clinics and externships by default count towards the experiential learning requirement.

Find out more about Student Writing.