Capstone Projects are intended to be intensive, active learning projects, requiring significant effort in the planning and implementation, as well as preparation of a substantial final written work product. For approval of a Capstone Project, interested students must submit a written proposal to Professor Kathryn Bradley detailing:
- The specific area of study (including substantive area, core courses that were taken or will be taken in preparation for the project, additional materials to be consulted, etc).
- The faculty resources the students will seek and whether the students have already recruited or consulted with any members of the faculty about assisting with the project.
- The number of students involved in the project.
- What the project will entail and how it will be implemented (e. g., what is planned, what the work will involve, how the work will be structured, and the time frame for the different phases of the project; and, for groups, how the work will be divided among the members); the number of credits sought (up to a maximum of 4 credits per semester) and justification for the credit.
- What the final written work product will be and, for groups, how responsibility for preparing the final product will be allocated among the members.
Professor Bradley, assisted by members of the Capstone Year Committee, will review the proposed project, solicit appropriate input from the faculty, and offer suggestions for revisions and modifications of the proposal where necessary. At a minimum, a member of the Governing Faculty must serve as a supervisor for any approved project. Additional mentors for the project may be recruited from other schools within the University, or may be practicing lawyers, judges, legislators, or other relevant professionals as appropriate for the particular project.
Participating in a capstone is ideal for students who want to explore interests that go beyond what is discussed in the classroom or build on the experience they’ve gained in the workplace or in law school. “A capstone project can be a perfect way to bring things together, often resulting in publishable work or in a deliverable that has practical use to laypersons or lawyers.” – Professor Kathryn Bradley
The final written work product may be in the form of a scholarly article of publishable quality, a seminar-type paper, a model bill and the supporting memorandum, a draft complaint or petition and supporting memorandum, the formal documents and supporting memorandum for a transactional project, or a brief (on the merits or as an amicus), to name just a few examples. In all cases, students will be required to defend their final work product before a review committee composed of the faculty advisor and others recruited by him or her.
The course credits approved for a project will be based upon, among other things, the scope of the project, the estimated time frame (one or two semesters), the number of hours devoted to the project, the number of students undertaking the project, and the nature and complexity of the final written product. Credits will be allocated between the written work and all other work. The presumption will be that the credits assigned to the final written product will receive ordinary Law School grades, and the remaining credits will be pass/fail; however, depending upon the project, this division may be altered with the permission of the faculty advisor and the Capstone administrator.
A critical component of the project, and one that should further differentiate it from most traditional law school courses, will be the substantial individualized feedback provided to the students. The feedback anticipated should be a learning tool in itself. We hope to eventually put in place a system by which students will be given explicit criteria for evaluation, regular feedback on all aspects of the project and its implementation, as well as opportunity for self-assessment. The feedback process will begin with the interactive design phase of the project, wherein students will receive significant input from their advisors on both the project design, and the quality of the written proposal. Students will be required to give at least bi-weekly written updates to their advisor and to attend periodic face-to-face review sessions with the advisor and/or mentors, all of which should ensure a continuous open dialogue throughout the project.
Defense of the Final Work Product
Finally, students who carry out projects will be required to defend the final work product orally, by presenting the project to a review committee assembled by the faculty advisor, by giving a talk on a scholarly article or seminar-type paper to members of the faculty, or through some other comparable process. The review committee will provide a comprehensive critique of the project, noting accomplishments and areas for improvement.