Independent Study

Please review the faculty Guidelines for Independent Study.

Eligibility to Enroll in Independent Study

Students in the JD program or dual-degree program are not permitted to undertake an independent study project in the third semester of law school.  Independent study proposals should be developed out of engagement in upper-level coursework as an advanced research project on the subject matter of interest.  Faculty members may supervise independent study projects undertaken in a student’s fourth semester or thereafter.

Students wishing to earn credit for a note-length paper in their third semester may do so only by

  1. enrolling in an regularly-scheduled seminar that has a research paper component, or
  2. enrolling in the Scholarly Writing Workshop (Law 473), subject to normal enrollment procedures.

The independent study option is designed to serve students who have significant research interests that cannot be explored in the context of regularly-scheduled seminars with a research paper component.  Students may earn one or two credits per independent study project[1] with the following limits on cumulative independent study credits based on degree program:

  • JD students may count up to three (3) credits of independent study toward the number of credits required to graduate.
  • Dual-degree students earning a master’s degree outside the Law School may count up to three (3) credits of independent study toward the number of law credits required to graduate.
  • LLM students in the one-year program for foreign law graduates or the Law & Entrepreneurship program may count three (3) credits of independent study toward the number of credits required to graduate.
  • JD-LLM students in International & Comparative Law may count up to four (4) credits of independent study toward the number of credits required to graduate.  (Law School Rule 3-12)

Project Planning and Obtaining a Faculty Supervisor

Students interested in independent study should have a reasonably well-defined topic, including some level of background research on the subject matter, before approaching a faculty member to discuss the faculty member’s interest and availability to supervise the independent study.  When seeking a faculty supervisor, there a couple of things to keep an open mind about:

  • Who your faculty supervisor might be.  There could be more than one faculty member who is a good fit for you and your topic.
    • Proposals for independent study projects supervised by faculty other than members of the governing faculty, full-time visiting faculty, or emeritus faculty must be approved by Academic Affairs.
  • When you might do the independent study project.  There are limits to how many independent study projects a faculty member can take in any given semester, when balanced with their teaching and research responsibilities.  As with any regularly-scheduled course, there is a slight chance that you may not be able to enroll in an independent study for the current semester, and may have to plan the project for a subsequent semester.

Once a faculty member has agreed to supervise your independent study project, he or she will provide the guidelines to establish expectations for the project.  Unless the faculty supervisor sets an alternate deadline, independent study projects are due on the last day of final exams of the semester.  Students undertaking an independent study project in their final semester of law school should work with the faculty supervisor to set a deadline that will permit the faculty member to certify the student for graduation.

[1] Faculty may very rarely approve a three-credit independent study project, usually limited to projects that necessarily include significant empirical research and analysis, and/or are otherwise highly complex topics.