Student Writing

Types of Notes

Student Notes play an important role in legal scholarship. Academics and practitioners frequently read and cite them in articles, briefs, memoranda, and judicial opinions. Notes address unresolved legal issues, typically by presenting enough background information for a non-expert to understand the discussion and then providing a solution or resolution to the issue.

Notes are shorter and narrower in scope than faculty-written Articles. Instead of presenting new frameworks or approaches to areas of law, Notes typically provide in-depth analysis of discrete legal problems that may have been neglected by professional authors. Most Notes fall into one or more of the following categories:

Jurisdictional Conflict or “Circuit Split”

In this type of Note, the author discusses an issue about which two or more jurisdictions disagree and gives her own opinion about how the disagreement should be resolved. Because a Note must address a live controversy, the jurisdictions should ordinarily be in a parallel, rather than hierarchical, relationship. For example, a Note might address conflict between Circuit Courts of Appeals (a “circuit split”), between intermediate state appellate courts, or between the supreme courts of multiple states. A closely related type of Note, the Comparative Legal System, discusses conflict between two are more sovereign nations.

Notes addressing jurisdictional conflicts have the advantage of being relevant. Practitioners in the area addressed will often find them useful.

  • Neel K. Chopra, Valuing the Federal Right: Reevaluating the Outer Limits of Supplemental Jurisdiction, 83 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1915 (2008).


Here, the author describes a problem that requires legal analysis and then provides a normative, legislative, or judicial solution. These Notes can advance the debate about an issue and perhaps even influence decisionmakers by gathering the relevant data and arguments and framing them in a persuasive manner..

  • David Kamin, What Is a Progressive Tax Change?: Unmasking Hidden Values in Distributional Debates, 83 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 241 (2008).
  • Benjamin S. Kingsley, Making It Easy To Be Green: Using Impact Fees To Encourage Green Building, 83 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 532 (2008).

Impact of X on Y

The author applies existing law to new facts or a new law to existing facts and examines the results, often emphasizing any unexpected effects. Because the law and the facts are always changing, the possible topics are endless.

  • Ian James Samuel, Warrantless Location Tracking, 83 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1324 (2008).

Theory and Unique Application

The author applies a distinctive legal theory (e.g. queer theory) to a legal problem (e.g. statutory rape law).

  • Matthew S. Miller, The Costs of Waiver: Cost-Benefit Analysis as a New Basis for Selective Waiver of Attorney-Client Privilege, 83 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1248 (2008).


A Note may also present historical research, but it should demonstrate how that research is relevant to an unresolved legal issue.

  • Christopher Terranova, The Constitutional Life of Instructions in America, 84 N.Y.U. L. Rev. (forthcoming 2009), available at


Interdisciplinary Notes import insights or analytical tools from other disciplines to examine a legal issue. This type of Note may be an attractive option for people with specialized backgrounds.

  • Matthew J.B. Lawrence, In Search of an Enforcement Medical Malpractice Exculpatory Agreement: Introducing Confidential Contracts as a Solution to the Doctor-Patient Relationship Problem, 84 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 850 (2009).


These Notes analyze a big-picture question or propose a new way of understanding the law. They are unlikely to be preempted because the issues they address cannot be resolved by a new judicial decision or statute. On the other hand, it can sometimes be difficult to find a topic that is creative and relevant and that addresses broad philosophical issues yet fits within the narrow scope of a Note.

  • David Kamin, What is a Progressive Tax Change?: Unmasking Hidden Values in Distributional Debates, 83 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 241 (2008).

Empirical Research

Some Notes present original empirical research. While empirical pieces can be incredibly useful to practitioners and other scholars, they can also be very difficult and time-consuming to write.

  • Sean R. Nuttal, Rethinking the Narrative on Judicial Deference in Student Speech Cases, 83 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 1282 (2008).


The author compiles all of the materials covering a subject and gives a comprehensive overview of the subject.

Current Events

The author focuses on controversial issues or cases from recent headlines. These Notes must still include legal analysis, though. They have the advantage of covering important and cutting-edge issues, but they need to be timely or they may no longer be relevant.

  • Dmitri Portnoi, Resorting to Extraordinary Writs - How the All Writs Act Rises To Fill the Gaps in the Rights of Enemy Combatants, 83 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 293 (2008).
  • Margarita K. O’Donnell, New Dirty War Judgments in Argentina: National Courts and Domestic Prosecutions of International Human Rights Violations, 84 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 333 (2008).


Comments are often distinguished from Notes as a separate category of student scholarship. They focus on critiquing a single case, often one that the author believes is representative of a particular legal regime, and offer alternative legal or policy-based solutions to the problem that the case presents.