In addition to the published curriculum, you may take up to 6 credits of non-law William & Mary course work (this option is not available to joint degree students) or undertake independent study with the supervision and approval of a full-time instructor at the Law School. With prior approval from the Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development, students may be supervised by an adjunct law professor when undertaking an independent study.
To be approved, students must be in good standing at William & Mary, both academically and judicially, in order to request or receive approval of non-law course credit; a non-law course must be approved in advance by the Law School; 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); and, should be intellectually and academically rigorous.
Students are required to explain how the non-law course is necessary for their career goals in law. A grade of 'C' or better must be earned before the credits (not the grade) transfer to the law degree. These credits are "pass" and are subject to the 25 percent limitation on ungraded academic credits allowed towards the law degree.
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 professor.
Students may study the topic as a directed reading. Up to 5 students may read and discuss the topic with a professor. Typically, this course is pure discussion. No written product is expected.
Students might, instead, choose to write a short (10 page) independent research paper or an independent writing paper equivalent to a law review article (in excess of 20 pages). Papers should evolve through four major stages, each of which should occur in consultation with the supervising faculty member:
- 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.
- The student should produce a reasonably 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 a comparable writing.
- 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 10th week of classes.
- 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.