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 Assistant Dean for Student and Academic Affairs 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 Affairs 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 at least 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 first year JD curriculum.

    1. Standards and Procedures for Fulfilling the ULWR
      1. ULWR Declaration
        1. Declaration is due by the fourth (4th) week of the semester during which the ULWR will be completed.
      2. This project must be supervised, reviewed, and approved by a full-time Law School faculty member or by another faculty member who has been approved in advance for this purpose by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and the Curriculum Committee.
      3. The requirement can be satisfied through the following:
        1. Completion of a substantial research paper (at least 7,000 words excluding citations and endnotes). Students who opt for this option may satisfy the requirement through:
          1. Seminar course (listed on the course schedule with a "U" for ULWR):
          2. Directed Study course;
          3. Law Review program or other College of Law sponsored law journal.
        2. Completion of a series of shorter papers or practice documents (equivalent in effort and skill development to a research paper of 7,000 words excluding citations and endnotes). This option is available only through enrollment in specifically designated courses (listed on the course schedule with a "U" for ULWR).
      4. The following criteria will ally with respect to the evaluation of each of the ULWR models described above.
        1. Substantial research paper
          The paper must
          1. Demonstrate an accurate analysis of the subject matter thereof;
          2. Be organized around a clearly stated and original thesis;
          3. 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; and
          4. Be supported by references reflecting the student's research for the paper.
        2. Shorter papers or practice documents
          Work products must
          1. Demonstrate thorough and accurate analysis of the relevant legal issues;
          2. Be properly directed at the interests and need of the intended audience;
          3. Rely on substantial independent research; and
          4. Include original analysis and drafting (cannot be boilerplate).
      5. No student may satisfy the ULWR with a paper that was prepared in any significant degree either prior to the completion of the first year or in connection with a student's previous or present employment.
      6. No student may satisfy the ULWR with a paper that is the collaborative work of two or more students.
      7. 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.
      8. Students are strongly encouraged to plan ahead and complete their ULWR well before their last semester of law school.
    2. 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.

Curriculum: Graduate Programs

The required curriculum for all graduate programs is described on the MSU Registrar website, as updated from time to time.

Amended: 5-14-2014

Updated August 23, 2023