Student Written Work

Student Written Work

Student writing may be submitted in partial fulfillment for the requirements of scheduled courses and seminars, and also under the category of Supervised Research.  In addition, all J.D. students are required to complete both a Major Writing Project and a Minor Writing Project before graduating. All LL.M. students are required to complete an LL.M. Writing Project.   The distinctions among these categories are as follows:

  • Major Writing Credit.  The key feature of the Major Writing Credit is not additional length, but significant revision. Specifically, work submitted for Major Writing Credit must be a substantial and rigorous piece of legal writing, comparable to that required by a paper that serves as the primary basis of evaluation for a two-credit seminar. The student must submit a first draft to the faculty supervisor, receive comments on the draft, and then submit a revised version of the paper that is responsive to those comments.
  • Minor Writing Credit. Work submitted for Minor Writing Credit may be an ordinary course paper, brief, or other written work, and does not require a revision in response to the faculty supervisor’s comments. The expected length and scope of the paper, however, should be otherwise comparable to that required by a paper that serves as the primary basis of evaluation for a two-credit seminar.
  • LL.M. Writing Credit. The LL.M. writing requirement may differ from the Major and Minor Writing Credits required of J.D. students.  LL.M. candidates must complete and submit a research paper based on the student’s original legal research, and must be worth at least two points of academic credit.   This paper may be prepared for a seminar or as supervised research registered as “Research for the LL.M. Degree.”
  • Supervised Research.  Students wishing to earn academic point credit outside the confines of a regularly scheduled course offering should register for Supervised Research. Credit may be earned by writing a research paper or its substantial equivalent under the supervision of any faculty member, including visiting and adjunct faculty. The number of credits earned for supervised research should depend on the amount of work that the project entails. (For example, a paper that will require work comparable to that required by a two-credit seminar should be awarded two points of credit.
    Students registered for Supervised Research are expected to communicate regularly with the supervising instructor over the course of the project. Instructors should consult in advance with students and with the Dean of Registration Services on the appropriate plan of supervision in any particular case.

    In the past, some students have asked faculty, often in connection with outside externships or internships, to supervise them in earning credit without writing a paper. This is no longer permissible. Please tell students seeking academic credit of this sort that they must register for Supervised Research and write a paper sufficient to earn credit under that category.

It is entirely within the instructor’s discretion whether to accept applications for Supervised Research, Major Writing Credit, or LL.M. Writing Credit that go beyond the ordinary requirements for the instructor's course. If you feel you do not have time to supervise a student’s project, or otherwise lack interest in the proposal, please feel free to decline the student’s request. You may also wish to require the student to write up a formal proposal before deciding whether to serve as supervisor.

If you agree to supervise a student for research or writing credit, you will be asked to sign the appropriate Research and Writing Registration Form before their registration can be completed.  Students are responsible for obtaining the appropriate paperwork, but forms are available in the Office of Registration Services as well as online at

The faculty has by formal resolution expressed its collective sense regarding the ordinary scope of a paper that serves as the primary basis of evaluation for a two-credit seminar. Such a paper should range approximately from 6500 to 8000 words, although shorter papers reporting extensive empirical, archival, or like work could also be appropriate. We are aware that some of you do require more extensive work than this from your students and we stress that you should feel free to continue to do so if you think it appropriate, though you should be aware that your requirements will be more rigorous than average.

  • By resolution and vote of the faculty, students are required to affirm language of certification when submitting any examination or when submitting written work for credit. Individual faculty members are responsible for ensuring that appropriate certification is submitted in connection with all written work other than exams.  The text of this certification and certification forms available for download, can be found on the Columbia Law School website under the general category of “Academic Rules.”  Please note that all students were made aware of this policy and the implications of its violations at the beginning of their time at the Law School.
  • If you encounter a situation of potential academic dishonesty in the course of your teaching at Columbia Law School, please contact Yadira Ramos-Herbert, Dean of Students, who can advise you on possible courses of action.

Written work submitted as part of the requirements for a course or seminar is graded on the same basis as the course or seminar.  In addition:

  • For Major and Minor Writing Credit, grading is Credit/Fail only.  Instructors are asked to confirm that the student satisfied these degree requirements by entering the grade of CR
  • For Supervised Research, grading can be either by regular letter grade or by Credit/Fail. This is decided in consultation with the instructor at the outset of the project, and should be indicated on the Research and Writing Registration form that the student and the instructor complete.
  • For the LL.M. Writing Project, papers must be graded on the standard letter scale for Law courses, either as part of the requirements for a seminar or under the framework of Supervised Study. Credit/Fail or other non-evaluative grades are not permitted. For administrative purposes, however, students will additionally register in a zero-point offering entitled “LL.M. Writing Project,” for which the supervising instructor is asked to enter the grade of “CR” (credit) to confirm formally that the student satisfied this degree requirement.
  • For additional details, see J.D. Rules 1.4 and 1.5 or the LL.M. Degree Requirements
  • Students may sometimes request extensions to complete their coursework after the official Law School deadline. Whether to grant extensions is a matter of the instructor’s discretion, but please keep in mind that extensions can interfere with students’ work in other courses in subsequent semesters. Accordingly, please exercise judgment when granting extensions and do not grant them as a routine matter. Blanket extensions to an entire class are strongly discouraged. 
  • In order to qualify for an extension, students must obtain the instructor's signed permission and file the permission form with Registration Services before the end of the semester for which the extension is granted.
  • All extensions are subject to the following limitations: Students may carry no more than one incomplete grade into the following term of school, and must complete all outstanding work by October 15 of the following academic year. Graduating students must complete all outstanding work by April 1 in order to graduate in May, by October 1 in order to graduate in October, and by the last day of the December exam period in order to graduate in February.
  • Instructors should not grant any extensions beyond these final deadlines, and should strive to ensure that all grades are submitted in timely fashion (four weeks after receipt of all required work, and, in addition, two weeks before graduation for graduating students.) Please take into account your own availability for grading, as well as the student's graduation plans, when granting any extensions.