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2.7 Writing Requirements for J.D. Students

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

An SRP is:

  1. a careful, extensive treatment of a particular topic;
  2. entirely original work and written independently by the student;
  3. certified by a member of the tenured or tenure-track faculty at the Law School, or Visiting Faculty, Emeriti,  or faculty members holding the title of Clinical Professor of Law, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Professors from Practice, or Senior Lecturers at the Law School, and tenured University of Chicago faculty with permanent offices at the Law School (but excluding Bigelow and other Fellows as well as Lecturers in Law), who are in full-time residence at the Law School and the instructor for the course or independent research for which the paper was written. Assistant, associate, and full University of Chicago professors who do not have permanent offices at the Law School may also certify an SRP in connection with a course or seminar they are teaching at the Law School, but not through independent research;
  4. submitted by a student who has taken advantage of one or more opportunities to respond to suggestions and criticism in producing the paper;
  5. not largely derivative of work undertaken for another academic degree or program, for a summer job, or in some other environment outside the Law School; and
  6. not written as part of a class that satisfies another ABA requirement (e.g., professional responsibility, experiential learning, etc.).

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. Faculty supervision of student comments or notes may sometimes be less extensive than for an independent research project, since the students journals also are engaged in editing.

SRPs are typically 6000 to 9000 words in length, but revisions and opportunities to rework arguments and writing are more important than length. Faculty members may impose their own requirements for certification. 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 (3) 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, also may satisfy the SRP requirement.

A student’s second, or other, writing project (WP) can, but need not, be of the SRP form. As a rough guide, the project should involve around 3500 to 4500 words in total, although the ultimate length of the project will be determined in consultation with the faculty member. 

The WP can consist of many forms, including, but not limited to:

  1. an original paper, series of original papers, brief or other substantial writing written independently by the student and 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
  2. a comment or note prepared for one of the student-edited journals, and nominated and approved as above; or
  3. an SRP; but
  4. a WP cannot be written as part of a class that satisfies another ABA requirement (e.g., professional responsibility, experiential learning, etc.).

Students strongly are encouraged to complete at least one of their required writing projects by the end of their second year. In addition, students strongly are encouraged to begin the SRP in a quarter that is not the final quarter of study and to turn in a first draft no later than the conclusion of Spring Break of their third year.

Please follow these steps to register for an SRP or a WP:

  • Discuss the project with the faculty member;
  • Obtain the faculty member’s written consent to supervise the project via his or her signature on a properly completed Writing Requirement Petition (available online at http://www.law.uchicago.edu/students/academics/petitions); and
  • Submit the form to the Office of the Registrar by the deadline listed in the Academic Calendar.

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, in a summer job or other environment outside the Law School, and may not be written as part of a class that satisfies another ABA requirement (e.g., professional responsibility, experiential learning, etc.  If a student is concerned that any work done for credit at the Law School might duplicate work done for another Law School class 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 also is available to discuss any questions regarding the originality of work submitted, or the requirement that work done by others not be copied or plagiarized.