Working As A Research Assistant for a Law School Professor
Faculty members may offer students the opportunity to work as research assistants (RAs) for monetary compensation or, if the professor deems it appropriate based on the nature of the work, for academic credit. For details, review information on serving as a research assistant for faculty.
To undertake Directed Research, students contact individual instructors and agree on a research project. To register, a written proposal must be approved and signed by the instructor, and then submitted to the Office of Graduate Affairs. The written proposal should be at least 1000 words and describe the subject matter of the Directed Research and the issues the student intends to explore in the paper. While any full-time faculty member or visiting faculty member may supervise the research, Adjunct Professors may supervise only with the permission of Vice Dean Hertz.
Directed Research credit may be added through Monday, October 2 for Fall 2023, and Monday, February 5 for Spring 2024.
The usual allocation for Directed Research is two credits. A student may write a one-credit Directed Research. A two-credit Directed Research project should conform to the requirements for an Option A paper; a one-credit Directed Research paper should be at least 5,000 words, exclusive of footnotes. A three-credit Directed Research project is highly unusual and requires the approval of Vice Dean Randy Hertz. Students considering a 3-credit Directed Research should contact the Office of Graduate Affairs to discuss.
For non-tax students no more than four of a student's 24 credits may consist of directed research. Tax students may take a maximum of two credits of directed research.
Regardless of the type of project involved, students are, of course, expected to submit original, non-duplicative work. When in doubt about proper use of a citation or quotation, discuss the issue with the instructor. Plagiarism is a serious offense that may merit severe discipline.
Requests to add Directed Research after the deadline stated above require approval of Vice Dean Hertz. Such requests should be initiated by contacting the Office of Graduate Affairs and will only be considered if your credit load (not including the Directed Research credits) does not drop below minimum requirements after the add/drop period. Students who are granted permission to late-add Directed Research will not be permitted to drop courses if the result is inconsistent with the above; please plan your schedule accordingly. After March 15, the Vice Dean may allow a student to add Directed Research only in exceptional circumstances. No more than two credits can be earned in this manner.
Read further about Requirements for Directed Research
Directed Research During the Summer Semester
Students may register for Directed Research during the summer semester. The summer registration deadlines is July 1, unless there is approval by the Vice Dean to add at a later date. Please note that full-time students will be charged per credit for Directed Research during the summer. All work must be submitted by September 1 or by an earlier deadline established by the supervising faculty member.
In seminars, colloquia, and courses that offer the option to add an additional writing credit, students may earn one credit for writing a substantial paper (at least 10,000 words in length exclusive of footnotes). To earn the additional credit, students must register for the writing credit section of the course within the same semester the course is offered. The deadline for registering is Monday, October 2 for Fall 2023, and Monday, February 5 for Spring 2024.
LLM Thesis Option
LLM students have the option to write a substantial research paper, in conjunction with a seminar or Directed Research that may be recorded as a "thesis" on their transcript. At the onset of the seminar or Directed Research, the student must obtain approval from the professor that the paper will be completed for a "thesis" designation.
It should be substantial in length (at least 10,000 words exclusive of footnotes) and, like the substantial writing requirement for JD students, must be analytical rather than descriptive in nature, showing original thought and analysis. Please note the thesis designation is for a single research paper agreed upon in advance.
The student is required to submit an outline and at least one FULL PRE-FINAL draft to the faculty member in order to receive the thesis notation. When submitting a final draft of the thesis to the faculty member, the student must give the faculty member an LLM Thesis Certification form. The faculty member is required to return the signed form to the Office of Records and Registration when submitting a grade for the course.
Please note that the student will not receive additional credit for writing the thesis, but will only receive credit for the seminar or Directed Research for which he or she is registered.
International Legal Studies Students should review their program requirements for further information about writing an LLM thesis within their program.