Updated September 2011
This document serves as a supplement and guide to selecting courses based on the Law School’s writing credit requirements. The writing credit rules can be found on the law school website at the Student Resources page and click the link for Academic Rules & Regulations.
The 3-writing credit requirement, generally
Before speaking specifically about course selection, a few words about the writing credit requirement. Students must complete 3 writing credits prior to graduation, one of which must be an intensive writing experience. You may earn writing credits by taking courses that offer optional or mandatory writing credits, including seminars and directed research projects. In some cases, law journal students and pro bono research project students may earn one non-intensive writing credit at the discretion of the supervising professor.
Although there is no limit on the number of writing courses you may take, you may only count 2 writing credits in any given academic year (i.e. fall-spring sequence) toward the graduation writing requirement. You may take and count towards graduation one writing credit per summer if you take courses during our summer sessions. In order to earn your required intensive writing credit you must have successfully completed the first-year LAWR sequence (or equivalent, in the case of transfer students).
Intensive versus non-intensive writing credits
Writing credits are designated either with a W or with a WI, depending on the nature of the writing project. Generally, a course confers a W (non-intensive) writing credit if the work is supervised by a professor, and if students complete at least 5,000 words of writing, other than in the case of certain lawyering documents.
A course carries WI (intensive) writing credit when the writing assignments have as one goal the development of writing proficiency. In a WI course the professor will provide individualized feedback to the students. In those courses, the students complete multiple drafts of one or more assignments. Alternatively, the WI experience may be the development of writing proficiency through a sequence of writing assignments. In either case, the final product must demonstrate a facility in legal writing appropriate to upper level law study.
Overview of available writing course options
Numerous courses offer students the ability to work on their legal analysis, research and writing skills at a variety of levels. You can build your doctrinal knowledge and also work on your writing skills themselves in a variety of different ways at the law school.
Professors have some latitude in how they offer writing credits, whether optional or mandatory, and whether intensive or not. The types of writing projects vary greatly within courses and reflect the different creativities and pedagogical goals of our faculty. Some professors have students write short research or reflection papers. Other professors may have students work on legislative drafting projects or simulation scenarios. Others use a modified seminar paper model. Writing credits for courses are clearly indicated on the Alpha schedule for each semester and the summer session.
There are a number of specialized courses and opportunities that regularly offer writing credit:
Seminars provide students with the ability to work in depth in a particular area of law. The small class size of seminars offer students the unique opportunity for more extensive and thorough interaction with the professors. Depending the particular course, students will work closely with the professor on drafts of an academic-style or response paper. Those paper topics are often generated individually by the student, with professor input. Students in seminars often have the opportunity to present their work to their classmates.
Upper level writing courses are, by design, heavily engaged in the writing process itself. Many of these courses discuss writing in the practice-based context. Several will focus on a particular writing skill in practice (Advanced Brief Writing, Advanced Legal Research, Transactional Drafting). Others may allow students to reflect on previous writing experiences and to completely rewrite those documents using the particular skills taught in the courses (Advanced Legal Writing). Some courses may involve strengthening practice-based writing with overlays of interdisciplinary persuasive theories (Persuasion in Legal Writing, Applications of Legal Narrative). Each of the upper level writing courses are writing-intensive courses, meaning they will involve multiple drafts of documents, with opportunities for students to receive feedback from the professor on drafts.
Clinics, selected externships and selected pro bono research projects. Some skills courses are also writing courses. The best examples are the clinical courses, which involve a great deal of practice-based writing. Clinical courses also may offer optional writing-intensive credits. Some externship placements may also award writing credits at the discretion of the Externship Director. Students completing a detailed pro bono research project may also be awarded a writing credit (W or WI) after the fact, at the discretion of the supervising directors.
Directed research projects are individual projects taken on by students and supervised by a professor. There are limits to the number of students any one professor may supervise in a given semester or year. Because of these limitations, students are advised to seek out a professor with expertise in the area of research as soon as possible.
Law Journals. Finally, some students will elect to receive writing credit (W) by virtue of their law journal note or comment. Law journal writing involves in-depth research and analysis of a student-chosen topic, similar in some ways, to directed research projects. Students on law journals have the opportunity to submit their completed work for publication consideration in their journals. In order to receive writing credit for law journal, a journal advisor must certify the work as having met the writing credit requirement. A student must be enrolled for at least two semesters in order to receive a writing credit, assuming all other requirements are met.
Students earning dual degrees. Students who successfully complete the requirements towards a dual degree will earn one writing credit (W) by virtue of completing their other degree’s required course work.