Upper-Class Writing Requirement
This information is for the class of 2023 only. We will update the page with the new standards for the class of 2024 during the week of September 6th.
BU School of Law is committed to ensuring that our students graduate with a thorough understanding and ability to conduct legal research and writing. As a result, the School requires all students to complete the Upper-class Writing Requirement before graduation. You can find more detailed information on the requirement in the JD Student Handbook.
Please note: You cannot receive the JD degree or get certified to a state bar authority as having completed your requirements unless you have completed the Upper-class Writing Requirement by the time that all grades are due to our Registrar’s Office in the last semester of law school. In fact, if you do not complete the Writing Requirement in time for graduation, that information gets reported to the faculty, who in turn could decide to drop you from the school. Thus, completion of the Writing Requirement is necessary before the JD degree can be awarded.
Intent to Fulfill Requirement Form
Upper-class students must file an Intent to Fulfill the Upper-Class Writing Requirement form (Class of 2024 and after) no later than the last day of the add/drop period of the semester in which the students intends to satisfy the Requirement, and in any event no later than the last day of the add/drop period in the student’s fifth semester—even if the student intends to satisfy the Requirement in the following semester. Otherwise, the student’s attempted registration will not be effective.
First Draft Deadline – All students in their final semester who have not been certified as having completed the Requirement must provide a first draft of the Upper-class Writing Requirement to their faculty advisor no later than the last class day of the fourth week of the student’s final semester.
For any seminar, course, or writing project, the instructor’s signature is required. For an Esdaile, Stone, or Albers Moot Court problem and bench memo, the Director of the First-Year Writing Program must sign the form. For journal Note-based non-credit Independent Study projects, the supervising faculty member’s signature is required. Students working with part-time adjunct faculty must file a 1–2 page prospectus outlining the subject matter of the paper, the question that the paper will try to answer, and the plan of research to the adjunct professor. If the proposal meets the adjunct’s approval, they will forward it to the Associate Dean with their endorsement. Please note that BU Law cannot guarantee in advance that students will be admitted into a particular course or seminar. Students considering sixth-semester completion of the Requirement should keep this fact in mind.
Information below is for the class of 2023 ONLY! New language for the class of 2024 and later will be updates online shortly.
To satisfy this requirement, you must write a paper or combination of shorter papers that in the aggregate satisfies the length requirement of 7,500 words, not counting footnotes. All students are required to obtain advance written approval from a faculty supervisor, and must be sure to discuss the option with the professor as early as possible during the add/drop period. Students working with part-time adjunct faculty must file a 1–2 page prospectus outlining the subject matter of the paper, the question that the paper will try to answer, and the plan of research to the adjunct professor. If the proposal meets the adjunct’s approval, they will forward it to the Associate Dean with their endorsement.
You may satisfy the requirement in one of the following ways:
Course or Seminar
Each year the Course Selection Materials include specified courses or seminars that allow a certain number of students to write papers in satisfaction of the Upper-Class Writing Requirement. Keep in mind that some courses and seminars allow only a limited number of students to satisfy the requirement through that course or seminar.
Seminars and the Writing Requirement
Almost all seminars (and some courses) provide opportunities for fulfilling the writing requirement. Students should be aware of the following considerations:
- Not all students in a given seminar may be able to satisfy the writing requirement through that seminar. Advance approval of the instructor in writing is required for a student to undertake a paper of the type required by the upper-class writing requirement. In some seminars students will not be able to complete the writing requirement. This will be usually be noted in the seminar description.
- In seminars taught by an adjunct, additional approval of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs may be required.
- In seminars requiring papers, those who are submitting papers for the writing requirement may be required to write longer papers and to revise them more often. The paper may be turned in for a grade before it is ready to satisfy the writing requirement. With the permission of the instructor, the student may continue to work on the paper the following semester for purposes of the writing requirement. (This does not apply to third-year students in their final semester.)
- In seminars requiring multiple shorter papers, the student, with the instructor’s permission, may write a long paper satisfying the writing requirement. This paper may be written in addition to the shorter papers or in place of the shorter papers at the professor’s discretion.
- In seminars requiring multiple shorter papers, the professor may agree to supervise a longer paper independent of the seminar and to give additional credit for Supervised Research and Writing.
Note that a student may not take written work done for one professor and use it as the basis for satisfying the Writing Requirement with another professor without the advance permission of the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
You can satisfy the Upper-Class Writing Requirement with a paper written in conjunction with a clinical program.
You may fulfill the writing requirement through satisfactory completion of a paper based on a draft written for one of the law school’s journals, including a completed note draft, subject to the following requirements: In order to satisfy the requirement using a journal draft, you must obtain the approval of a faculty member to register for a no-credit independent study, in which the faculty member will review your draft and require at least one revision based on the faculty member’s comments. If the faculty member has already worked with you in development of your journal draft, such that the faculty member is satisfied that you have already done at least one revision under her or his direction and thereby produced a paper of sufficient quality to satisfy the Upper-Class Writing Requirement, then the faculty member may certify the completion of the independent study as if the earlier work had been done for the independent study.
Supervised Research & Writing Project (Independent Study)
A Supervised Research & Writing project (also known as an Independent Study) may satisfy the requirement and allow you to earn a maximum of 2 semester credits. Students interested in this option must file two forms with the Registrar’s Office: the Intent to Complete the Upper-Class Writing Requirement form, and the Supervised Research and Writing form. You may learn more about pursuing an independent study by consulting the Student Handbook.
Non-Credit Independent Study (Independent Research Paper)
You may fulfill the requirement by independently working on a paper with a School of Law faculty member. Students opting for this choice must file the Intent to Complete the Upper-Class Writing Requirement Form with the Registrar’s Office or Request an Advisor. You may learn more about pursuing an independent study by consulting the Student Handbook.
Moot Court Problem and Bench Memo
You may satisfy the writing requirement through a faculty-supervised moot court problem and bench memo based upon advanced moot court (Esdaile, Stone, Albers) or similar co-curricular work. To fulfill this requirement, you must complete a moot court problem and bench memo at least 7,500 words in length, not counting footnotes. If pursuing this option, your work must be supervised and the Intent Form must be signed by the Director of the First-Year Writing Program. Advanced moot court briefs do NOT independently satisfy the Upper-Class Writing Requirement.
Finding a Faculty Advisor
Students seeking a faculty advisor to supervise their satisfaction of the requirement through a journal note or independent study should begin by contacting individual faculty members who do research in the area in which the student is contemplating writing and who are not already overloaded with supervisory commitments.
If after approaching several faculty members, a third-year student has not been able to satisfy the Requirement he or she should complete and submit the online Find an Advisor form. A student should submit the form no later than the end of the add/drop period of the student’s fifth semester.
The form must indicate whether the student wishes to pursue independent study for credit, and the student must describe his/her proposed topic/area of interest. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs will assist the student in selecting a course or seminar or, if necessary, finding a faculty member to supervise a project that the student has identified. Students should realize that the preferred and ordinary methods for satisfying the requirement are those identified in Article III, sec. 6 of the Academic Regulations.
Failure to file the form or to obtain the supervising faculty member’s signature approving work under that person’s supervision will result in the Writing Requirement credit being denied.