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Law School Registrar

Law School Writing Requirements

 Writing Requirements: WIE and Capstone

            To qualify to receive the J.D. degree, a student must satisfy each of two separate writing requirements:

                        (1) The “writing intensive experience” requirement, and

                        (2) The “capstone writing” requirement, as follows:

Students are strongly encouraged to complete the “writing intensive experience” before undertaking the “capstone writing” project.

The following rules are applicable to BOTH the “writing intensive experience” (WIE) requirement and the “capstone writing” requirement:

The course or project must be undertaken for at least 2 semester hours of credit.

The student’s written work must demonstrate articulate, thoughtful, and well-structured analysis of the subject matter, based, where appropriate, on careful and competent research.

No one course, project, or written product may be used to satisfy both the “writing intensive experience” requirement and the “capstone writing” requirement.

Writing intensive experience 

The student must successfully complete a “writing intensive experience” [WIE]. This requirement may be met in any of three ways:

                        (a) The student successfully completes a course that has been designated by the Curriculum Committee as a “writing intensive” course. Courses will be designated as writing intensive courses only if they include substantial instruction or coaching, and feedback, on writing skills as a central component of the class, apart from any coverage of an area of substantive law.

                        (b) The student successfully completes a course in which the instructor certifies, upon completion of the course, that the student’s work in the course was a “writing intensive” experience. Work will qualify for this designation only if it includes substantial instruction or coaching, and feedback, on writing skills as a central component of the work, apart from any coverage of an area of substantive law.

                        (c) The student successfully completes an individual research project that upon its completion is certified by the supervising faculty member to have been a “writing intensive” project. Projects will qualify for this designation only if they include substantial instruction or coaching, and feedback, on writing skills as a central component of the project, apart from any coverage of an area of substantive law.

The course or project must be graded by a faculty member, and receive a grade of “C” or better; or a faculty member must certify to the Registrar that the student’s written work would, if graded, receive a grade of “C” or better.

What is “substantial instruction or coaching, and feedback, on writing skills”? It includes the following:

  • The professor will provide students with guidelines on the writing requirements for the course or individual research. These guidelines should include an overview of expectations for written work and should specify deadlines for submission of outlines, drafts, and final versions of course assignments.  
  • The professor will provide substantial writing instruction in-class, through written guidelines and handouts, and/or through conferences with students. This instruction could include topics such as organization, topic selection, pre-writing strategies, thesis development, persuasive writing techniques, style, and grammar. It could include having students review and evaluate sample legal documents on the same topic or in the same format as the student is producing. This instruction could also include structured peer reviews in which students provide written feedback on specific aspects of writing projects based on specific instruction from the professor about the focus and depth of peer reviewer comments.
  • The professor will provide substantial written feedback on student writing during the semester. This feedback should include comments on projects at the outline or draft phases and can vary in focus and purpose as the semester progresses. In addition, the professor should evaluate the extent to which a student has understood and incorporated the feedback provided.  Feedback may include, but is not limited to:
  • Margin or bubble comments identifying specific problem areas;
  • Endnotes noting overall problems; and
  • Grading rubrics showing whether assignment requirements are met.
  • The professor will conduct at least one conference with each student and, when appropriate, should offer additional optional conference opportunities. Conferences should include discussion of the student’s progress toward meeting the expectations for the course writing requirements. The professor may require students to prepare for the conference by creating a written conference agenda.

Capstone writing experience 

            The student must successfully complete a course or individual research project which, upon its completion, the instructor or supervising faculty member certifies was a “capstone writing” experience for the student. Courses and individual research projects will qualify for this designation only if they require a significant written product that demonstrates thorough research, the ability to synthesize and report on that research, the ability to engage in complex legal and critical analysis, and sophisticated writing skills.

Although many Capstones follow the format of a law review article or note, they are not required to do so. A student could undertake a survey and analysis of a legal doctrine in one or more jurisdictions, draft a mock merits or amicus brief for a pending case, or prepare materials that educate the public about a certain area of law. The specific form of the Capstone paper will emerge from discussions between the student and the supervising faculty member.

The written product must involve a mandatory rewrite after a draft has been reviewed and commented upon by the faculty member grading the written product; the final product must be reasonably responsive to the commentary and criticism received. The course or project must be graded by a faculty member and receive a grade of “C” or better.

A student may not write a Capstone paper for an adjunct faculty member without prior approval of the Associate Dean of Faculty.

 

Students who write their Capstone papers as an individual research project should consult the requirements for individual research, set out below and at the course descriptions webpage.

Allocation of Credits for a Capstone. Students who write their Capstone paper as an individual research project typically earn two credits, but some students write a three credit paper. Students who choose in advance to write their Capstones over two semesters may take their credits in either semester, or over two semesters, at their discretion. Students who write their Capstones over two semesters will receive an incomplete grade at the end of the first semester.

Individual Research

Individual research projects provide students with the opportunity to gain greater knowledge about a specific area of law that interests them. Students engage in individual research projects under the supervision of a faculty member. The project should involve a level of research, analysis, and writing that is similar to that of a WIE or Capstone project. Many individual research projects will satisfy the WIE or Capstone requirement.

An individual research project usually qualifies for one or two semester hours of credit. Individual research projects that satisfy the Capstone requirement typically qualify for two credit hours. Some students who use individual research to satisfy the Capstone requirement choose to write a three credit paper.

Students may choose to do a two or three credit Individual Research project over one or two semesters. Students who choose the two-semester option may take their credits in either semester, or over two semesters, at their discretion. Students who choose the two-semester option will receive an incomplete grade at the end of the first semester. Once the paper is complete and graded, the student’s transcript will reflect that grade when grades are posted following the second semester. Students who choose individual research to write a Capstone paper are strongly encouraged to choose the two-semester option.

 

Other Details

Registration Deadlines: Students must sign up for an individual research project by the end of the add/drop period, unless they are signing up for an individual research project that begins the following semester. After confirming your plans with a professor, submit the Individual Research Registration form to begin the process. When it is received, the Registrar’s office will confirm the submitted details with the professor and register you accordingly.

Incompletes: A student who does not finish an individual research paper by the end of the semester in which it is due will receive an incomplete. To avoid an incomplete, the student must submit the final version of the paper in time for the advisor to grade it before the relevant deadline for the submission of grades. (Note that the deadline for graduating students is earlier than the deadline for students who are not graduating). 

A student who receives an incomplete must complete the paper by the end of the next semester (or by the end of the summer if the original deadline was in the spring semester). A student who fails to complete the paper within this timeframe must seek approval for an additional semester from the faculty advisor and the Associate Dean for Student Affairs. A student who fails to seek such approval will receive a final grade of W (withdrawn) for the paper. (A student who receives a W on an individual research project will have to register for a new individual research project, and pay tuition for the new registration, in order to complete the project.)

Faculty retain their discretion to penalize late papers.

The following additional rules apply to individual research projects:

a. The individual research project must be approved in advance by the full-time or adjunct faculty member who is responsible for supervising and grading it. If the supervising faculty member is an adjunct professor, the project must also receive the prior approval of the Associate Dean of Faculty.

b. The individual research paper must be graded. It cannot be undertaken for pass/fail or ungraded credit.

c. The amount of credit to be awarded for an individual research paper will be based on standards set by the supervising faculty member, consistent with ABA requirement. The determination of such standards is within the discretion of the faculty member, and will take into account such factors as the size of the paper, the anticipated number of hours to be spent on it, and the complexity of its topic.

d. An individual research paper for more than two credits requires approval from the faculty supervisor, as well as from either the Associate Dean for Student Affairs or the Associate Dean of Faculty.

e. A student may register for no more than two individual research or tutorial experience projects in a single semester.

f. Unless the Dean otherwise approves, a student may not use more than eight hours of credit for individual research or tutorial experiences towards the requirements for graduation. The Dean’s approval will be granted only under extraordinary circumstances.

 

Students engaged in an individual research project must also follow the following one or two semester syllabus, unless their faculty supervisor chooses a different structure. Note that faculty supervisors have discretion to add or delete requirements from the default syllabus. Note as well that the requirements for WIE and Capstone papers, available in What’s What, also apply where relevant.

One Semester Syllabus for Individual Research

Weeks 1 and 2 – initial meeting(s) with faculty supervisor

Week 2 – writing workshop – attending the live presentation or viewing a recorded writing workshop is required for all students unless the faculty supervisor provides otherwise. The workshop will be presented by a member of the Lawyering faculty and/or the Writing Specialist.

Week 3 – research workshop – attending the live presentation or viewing a recorded research workshop is required for all students who have not taken an advanced legal research class, unless the faculty supervisor provides otherwise. The workshop will be presented by a Boley reference librarian.

- must also consult with a reference librarian by Week 7, unless the faculty supervisor provides otherwise or unless the student already has taken an advanced legal research class.

Week 4 – turn in thesis statement and receive timely feedback from faculty supervisor

Week 6 – turn in outline and receive timely feedback from faculty supervisor

Week 11 or 12 – turn in paper, receive timely feedback from faculty supervisor, and meet to discuss feedback

Last day of final exams – rewritten paper due, unless faculty supervisor requires a different date

Two Semester Syllabus for Individual Research

First semester: 

Weeks 1 and 2 – Initial meeting(s) with advisor

Week 2 – writing workshop – attending the live presentation or viewing a recorded writing workshop is required for all students unless faculty supervisor provides otherwise. The workshop will be presented by a member of the Lawyering faculty and/or the Writing Specialist.

Week 3 – research workshop – attending the live presentation or viewing a recorded research workshop is required for all students who have not taken an advanced legal research class, unless the faculty supervisor provides otherwise. The workshop will be presented by a Boley reference librarian.

- must also consult with a reference librarian by Week 9, unless the faculty supervisor provides otherwise or unless the student already has taken an advanced legal research class.

Week 6 – turn in thesis statement and receive timely feedback from faculty supervisor

Week 9 – turn in detailed outline, reflecting research-based organization and analysis, and receive timely feedback from faculty supervisor

Week 12 or 13 – confer with faculty supervisor to address questions posed by research, whether to narrow or expand focus of the paper, and to make sure support exists for student’s thesis

Second semester:

Note: in addition to the requirements below, students must make an appointment with the Writing Center to discuss their paper at some point in the semester, unless the faculty supervisor provides otherwise. The student and supervisor may wish to discuss the best timing for visiting the Writing Center.

Week 5 – turn in paper to faculty supervisor, receive timely feedback, and meet to discuss feedback

Week 9 – faculty supervisor may require the student to turn in a rewritten paper at this point in the semester, with the expectation that the student will revise this version before turning in the final rewritten paper

- if so, then the faculty supervisor will provide timely feedback and will confer with student about the feedback

End of reading period – turn in final rewrite of paper unless faculty supervisor allows a later date

How to Register for an Individual Research

After confirming your plans with a professor, submit the Individual Research Registration form to begin the process. When it is received, the Registrar’s office will confirm the submitted details with the professor and register you accordingly.