Writing Requirement for J.D. Students

Every J.D. student must complete at least two writing projects beyond the work required in the first-year course in Legal Research and Writing. At least one of these writing projects must be a substantial research paper (SRP).

Substantial Research Paper (SRP)

An SRP is (1) a careful, extensive treatment of a particular topic; (2) certified by a member of the faculty (including Visiting Faculty, Senior Lecturers at the Law School and tenured University of Chicago professors who have permanent offices at the Law School, but excluding Bigelow and other Fellows as well as Lecturers in Law) who is in full-time residence at the Law School and was the instructor for the course or independent study for which the paper was written; (3) submitted by a student who has taken advantage of one or more opportunities to respond to suggestions and criticism in producing the paper; and (4) not largely derivative of work undertaken for another academic degree, for a summer job, or in some other environment outside the Law School. A publishable comment or note written for a student journal will satisfy the SRP requirement if it is (a) nominated for this purpose by the editor-in-chief of the journal, and (b) approved by the Faculty Supervisor prior to the authoring student’s final term of study at the Law School.

SRPs are typically 20-30 pages in length, but revisions and opportunities to rework arguments and writing are more important than length. Faculty members certifying such projects must approve the paper topic and agree to supervise the project prior to the student’s undertaking substantial research and writing. SRP credit will not be given for response or reaction papers (that is, where significant legal research is not required), although a faculty member may certify a project that combines reaction papers into a larger paper that reflects faculty-supervised revisions and substantial research. Similarly, if substantial research and supervision by a faculty member (as described in (2) above) are elements of a writing project that produces a brief or a model statute, that too may qualify as an SRP. Work undertaken in the form of independent research, supervised by a faculty member in full-time residence at the Law School, may, of course, also satisfy the SRP requirement.

Writing Project (WP)

A student’s second, or other, writing project (WP) can, but need not, be of the SRP form. It can be (a) a paper, series of papers, brief or other substantial writing prepared as part of a course or a seminar supervised by a faculty member or a Lecturer in Law so long as the instructor’s expertise and guidance inform the writing process; or (b) a comment or note prepared for one of the student-edited journals, and nominated and approved as above, or (c) a brief prepared for the semifinal or final round of the Hinton Moot Court Competition and approved for credit by the Hinton Moot Court faculty Judges; or (d) a brief or series of writings undertaken in one of the Law School’s clinical programs, or in a professional skills course offered at the Law School, so long as the instructor’s expertise and guidance inform the writing process; or (e) an SRP. Again, work submitted in satisfaction of either of the two writing requirements may not largely be derivative of work undertaken in pursuit of another academic degree or in a summer job or other environment outside the Law School.

Students are required to complete at least one of their required writing projects during their 2L year. They are strongly encouraged to begin the SRP in a quarter that is not the final quarter of study and to turn in a first draft by the conclusion of Spring Break 3L year.

If a student is concerned that any work done for credit at the Law School might duplicate work done for another Law School course or another academic program or job, that student should consult with the Dean of Students in order to be sure that academic standards are not violated. The Dean of Students is also available to discuss any questions regarding the originality of work submitted, or the requirement that work done by others not be copied or plagiarized.