William and Mary Law School

Writing Requirement

Legal writing, contrary to common thought, is actually just good writing.  To develop this skill is to develop an inherent responsibility of all lawyers.  Consequently, our law students are encouraged to write often.  They will begin writing legal briefs and memos in the Legal Practice Program.  As an upper-level student they are required to complete a paper of significant length and publishable quality.  All papers written to satisfy the major paper requirement should evolve through four major stages, each of which should occur in consultation with the supervising faculty member:

A.  Topic Development  

The student should produce a succinct, coherent topic statement that sets out the thesis of the proposed paper. 

The topic development should occur prior to registration in the Independent Writing course.  The statement should be attached to the Independent Writing form.  This form must be submitted to the Law School registrar to trigger registration in the course. 

B.    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 a comparable writing.

C.    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 10th week of classes.

D.    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.

How to satisfy the Paper Requirement

You can take an elective course for which the paper satisfies the requirement (these courses will be so noted in the curriculum and must be for three credit hours); by writing a note for a credit-earning journal; or by writing a two-credit independent legal writing paper.