The University of Texas at Austin   School of Law

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Writing Seminar

The writing seminar serves several important purposes. First, it develops students' research skills. Second, it provides each student with an intensive writing experience in preparing one or more papers of an analytical nature. Third, the writing seminar provides students with a valuable opportunity for small group discussion and close faculty contact regarding matters of legal significance.

  1. Requirements: For an offering to qualify as a writing seminar, the student is to prepare one to three original papers, based on directed and supervised research, addressing one or more law-related issues. The paper or papers are to be primarily of an analytical rather than descriptive nature. Ordinarily, thirty to fifty double-spaced typewritten pages, including footnotes, in the aggregate, will satisfy the length requirement. The instructor will closely review the paper(s) and provide written and oral suggestions for improvements in style and substance. The student will then prepare a revised version of the paper(s) in light of the instructor's and, if appropriate, fellow students' comments. The paper requirement is not satisfied by pleadings, motions, by-laws, documents, agreements, and other drafting exercises.
  2. Size: Writing seminars are limited to twelve students, unless the instructor agrees to admit additional students up to a maximum seminar size of sixteen students.
  3. Meetings: Writing seminars will ordinarily meet regularly as a group with the instructor present for the designated number (typically 28) of hours. Writing seminars may meet less often than 28 hours but in no case for fewer than 20 hours total, in order to provide additional time for meetings by the instructor with individual students and for student research and writing.
  4. Grading: Aside from the rule that the "A+" grade may not be awarded to more than 15 percent of the students in a writing seminar (which translates into one student for seminars of twelve or fewer students), there is no mandatory grading curve for writing seminars. Nevertheless, the full range of grades (down through F) is available. Differences in the ambition and quality of work are to be recognized by differences in grading; poor papers should be given low grades.
  5. Notice and procedure:
    1. The instructor shall provide a Course Description or otherwise provide in writing the basic information about the writing seminar, such as subject matter, prerequisites (if any), and criteria for deciding which students have priority. Instructors offering writing seminars are to be available to answer questions about the course.
    2. At the first meeting, the instructor should set forth in writing the rules by which the writing seminar will be conducted, such as the minimum length and format of papers, permissible subject matter, grading criteria (including what, if anything, other than the paper(s) will be considered), due dates of drafts and final submissions, and the consequences of late submissions (such as failing grade, reduced grade).
    3. The rules applicable to writing seminars are to be included in student registration and early registration packets and are to be issued to the instructors prior to the first meeting.
    4. Writing seminars shall be regularly and systematically evaluated to assure compliance with these rules.