Independent Projects, Non-Law, & Student Arranged Courses

Students may take a maximum of 6 credits of non-law William & Mary course work (this option is not available to joint degree students) or take supervised independent projects with the approval of a full-time Law School instructor. Supervised independent study with an adjunct Law School instructor requires approval from the [[knchavis, Vice Dean]]

Independent Projects

When students become interested in a specific topic within an area of the law they are encouraged to pursue this topic, either one-on-one or in a small group, under the direction of a full-time faculty member, obtain the professor's permission on the Directed_Independent Project form, and submit it to the Law School Registrar for administrative registration. Independent projects include:

  • Directed Reading: A maximum of five students may read and discuss the topic with a professor. Typically, this course is pure discussion and is an examination of a specialized subject that generally is not offered as a course within our curriculum on a regular basis. This course is arranged between an individual student or group of students (maximum, 5) through readings selected in agreement by the directing faculty member and students. Prior approval by the Vice Dean is required. Students are limited to one Directed Reading credit per year. Graded on a pass/fail basis. No written product is expected. Students may earn credit for no more than one Directed Reading project per academic year (summer through spring). Course earns one credit hour and is pass/fail. 
  • Directed Research: The student will conduct research on specified legal topics and will report on the research to a supervising faculty member. Reports may be written or oral. The student’s reports may be in written or oral form. Activities such as formatting documents for publication, Bluebooking, and the like do not qualify. The faculty member will provide feedback to the student. The total amount of faculty-student interaction and the student’s independent work must equal at least three hours per week. No more than two credits of Directed Research may count toward graduation. Only full-time faculty may supervise. Permission of the faculty member and the Vice Dean is required. Maximum of two credits during student's entire academic career may be earned in Directed Research. Course is pass/fail. 
  • Independent Legal Research: This course requires the completion of a short, ten-page, scholarly research paper on a subject selected by the student, under the supervision of a faculty member. Does not satisfy the writing requirement. Student's may earn an unlimited number of Independent Legal Research throughout their studies. Course is one credit hour and standard letter graded.
  • Independent Legal Writing: An independent writing paper equivalent to a law review article (in excess of 20 pages); does not meet the upper level writing requirement. This course does not fulfill the second year writing requirement. Student's may earn no more than four Independent Legal Writing credits in total, or may enroll in this course and/or Law 705 no more than twice. Course earns two credit hours and is standard letter graded.
  • Independent Legal Writing Requirement: An independent writing paper that requires completion of a significant research paper of at least 30 pages and meets the upper level writing requirement. This course will meet the second year writing requirement. Students may enroll in this course and/or Law 705 no more than twice. Course earns two credit hours and is standard letter graded. 

Both independent legal research and independent legal writing should evolve through four major stages, each of which should occur in consultation with the supervising faculty member guidelines: 

  • Topic Development
    • The student should produce a succinct, coherent topic statement that sets out the thesis of the proposed paper, and should occur prior to registration in the Independent Writing course. The statement should be attached to the Independent Writing form and submitted to the Law School registrar to trigger registration in the course. 
  • Outline
    • The student should produce a reasonably comprehensive outline of the paper, including a statement of the basic steps in the argument, the major sources used, and the tentative conclusion or comparable writing. 
  • First Draft
    • The student will produce at least one draft of the paper.  The drafts should be submitted with sufficient time for the supervising faculty member to make comments and for the student then to respond to those comments in the form of a subsequent draft.  Normally the first draft should be submitted to the supervising faculty member by the end of the tenth week of classes. 
  • Final Draft
    • The student will submit the final draft by noon on the last day of exams for the registered semester, or earlier as designated by the professor.
Non-Law Courses

Approval requires that a student is in both academic and judicial good standing at William & Mary. After obtaining faculty permission on the form, the student must submit a Non-Law School Course Request to the [[knchavis, Vice Dean]] in order to request or receive non-law course credit. A student must explain how the non-law course is necessary for their law career goals.

 An approved non-law course:

  • may not involve essentially the same material covered in a course previously taken by the student
  • must be offered at a graduate, or advanced undergraduate level, except for good cause shown (e.g. an introductory course in a foreign language)
  • should be intellectually and academically rigorous
  • significantly advances the student’s legal and/or professional training

Students must earn a grade of C or better before the credits transfer to the law degree. Please note that credits transfer to the law degree, not the grade. The credits are "pass" and are subject to the 25 percent limitation on ungraded academic credits allowed towards the law degree.