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Curriculum: Juris Doctor (J.D.) Program

The academic policies of the Law College are established by the faculty.

The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Associate Dean for Student Engagement are responsible for the administration of the rules. Any questions regarding the academic policies can be directed to these administrators or the Office of Student Engagement staff

  1. First Year Curriculum

  2. Required Courses

  3. Upper Level Writing Requirement (ULWR)

    Lawyers and other members of the legal profession are commonly called upon to communicate their expertise in writing. The faculty of the Michigan State University College of Law has instituted an upper level writing requirement (the ULWR) in order to assure that every student who graduates from the College of Law has the experience of researching, analyzing and writing about legal issues on a more sophisticated and in-depth level than is generally possible during the first year of law school.

    American Bar Association (ABA) requires law school curriculum to offer one additional rigorous writing experience after the first year of study.

    The benefits of the ULWR are twofold. Each student will acquire enhanced research, analytical and writing skills, but also will produce a paper that may be used as a writing sample for job interviews and/or that may improve the student's credentials if the paper is published in a law review or bar journal.

    The ULWR requirement must be satisfied before the J.D. degree can be conferred.

    A student may only begin to fulfill the ULWR after completion of twenty-nine (29) credits are earned.

    1. Standards and Procedures for Fulfilling the ULWR
      1. ULWR Declaration Form
        1. Be sure to complete both sides of the form.
        2. The form must be signed by the student's ULWR instructor, agreeing to supervise the students ULWR paper.
        3. The form is due by the fourth (4th) week of the semester during which the ULWR will be completed.
      2. The ULWR paper must be on a topic of law approved by the supervising professor.
      3. Satisfaction of the ULWR entails:
        1. an outline and a rough draft, which are critiqued by the supervising professor; and
        2. a final draft approved by the supervising professor.
      4. The paper must be typed in a double-spaced format on 8 1⁄2 x 11 paper and must contain at least 7000 words (approximately 25 pages long), not counting endnotes.
      5. The paper must:
        1. Demonstrate an accurate understanding and analysis of the subject matter thereof;
        2. Require the student to engage in substantial research to identify relevant authorities and to marshal those authorities in support of propositions advanced in the paper;
        3. Be supported by endnotes reflecting the student's research for the paper; and
        4. Demonstrate the ability to present one's idea in a clear and organized manner.
      6. Satisfaction of the ULWR through such programs as a school-sponsored moot-court program, or the Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Program shall be by an additional paper beyond any work submitted as part of those programs and shall be the individual student's work product.
      7. No student may satisfy the ULWR with a paper that was prepared in any significant degree either prior to the completion of twenty-nine (29) credit hours or in connection with a student's previous or present employment.
      8. No student may satisfy the ULWR with a paper that is the collaborative work of two or more students.
      9. Fulfillment of the ULWR will be indicated by a notation in the student's record upon written notification by the supervising faculty member to the Registrar that the student has successfully completed the ULWR workshop.
      10. There will be no separate award of academic credit for completion of the ULWR. Credit is often attached to the vehicle used to fulfill the ULWR, but not required.
      11. Students are strongly encouraged to plan ahead and complete their ULWR well before their last semester of law school.
    2. Vehicles for Fulfilling the ULWR
      1. Seminar course – listed on the course schedule with a "U" for ULWR in the far right hand side;
      2. Directed Study course, provided the paper is at least 7000 words (25 pages) not including endnotes;
      3. Law Review program or other College of Law sponsored law journal program (example: International Law Review, Journal of Law and Medicine); or
      4. College of Law sponsored moot court program or the Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Program (see paragraph 5 above).
    3. Faculty Supervision for the ULWR

      Alternative 2(a) shall be supervised by either full-time or adjunct faculty members of the College of Law.

      The last three alternatives listed above (b, c, d) shall be supervised only by full-time College of Law faculty members (including RWA faculty). 

      Exception for alternative (b): Approval by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. For this exception, the student will need to:

      1. If the area of research is better supervised by an adjunct faculty member a full-time faculty member must also both agree to oversee the directed study in order to earn ULWR credit. Both faculty members must sign off on the ULWR Declaration Form.
      2. Complete the Directed Study form available from the Registrar's Office (309).
      3. The Directed Study form will require the following four (4) signatures:
        1. Student signature
        2. Adjunct faculty member's signature, if applicable
        3. Full-time faculty member's signature
        4. Associate Dean for Academic Affairs signature

      Under alternative 2(c) acceptance of a case note or comment for credit by an official journal's editorial board fulfills the ULWR requirement.

    4. Additional Notices

      Students are strongly cautioned from completing their ULWR requirement the last semester before graduation. Often the demands of course work, bar application requirements, current job, and/or future job search prove to be too much. The student will not be conferred his/her J.D. degree on time if the ULWR requirement is not completed in a timely manner.

      Students should not assume a faculty member will grant an extension to complete the ULWR. Students should seek permission for an extension far enough in advance so that if permission is denied, the student will be able to complete the paper.

      Students should not allow their ULWR paper to lapse past the set deadlines. Students must take the ULWR requirement seriously. Students are also strongly encouraged to review the "Plagiarism Policy" before undertaking completion of their ULWR paper.

      Students are reminded that substantial additional work is required beyond any work submitted as part of a program or other course to receive ULWR credit.

      If a student is unable to complete their ULWR paper on time he/she will be withdrawn from the class. This may adversely affect the student's visa status, if applicable, and graduation. This could require registering for another semester and the student will incur additional tuition expenses.

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