Advanced Research and Writing Requirement

All students must write an Advanced Research & Writing (“ARW”) paper as a requirement for graduation. Students are required to complete this requirement after their first year and are strongly advised to complete it before their final semester.

Purpose & Content

The ARW requirement is consistent with American Bar Association accreditation standard 302, which requires a “rigorous writing experience” after the first year. It is designed to reflect two key aspects of the practice of law identified in the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Responsibility. First, a lawyer is a counselor who is expected to “exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice.”[1] Second, a lawyer “is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.”[2]

The ARW paper furthers five competencies essential to law practice:

(1) Legal research;

(2) Fact Investigation;

(3) Writing, including organization, grammar, and style;

(4) Strong personal work ethic and time management; and

(5) Creative problem-solving.

Although many ARW papers will take the form of a law review-style essay, other kinds of writing may also satisfy the requirement. In each case, the focus is on using the competencies identified above to identify and solve a problem of the sort confronted by lawyers. Description and regurgitation are not enough.

Here are some illustrations:

Unlikely to satisfy ARW requirement Likely to satisfy ARW requirement
Essay describing a new case about the rights of homeless people Essay assessing current homelessness and proposing new legislative approach
Business agreement based entirely (or nearly so) on a model or form document Business agreement requiring substantial transactional analysis and problem- solving
Clinic brief reusing legal arguments made in other clinic cases; moot court brief relying on facts supplied by competition organizers Clinic brief or amicus brief requiring development of facts and presenting novel legal arguments

Permission & Credits

The paper should be written under the supervision of a full-time faculty member. Supervision by an adjunct faculty member is permitted only if the paper is completed as part of an ARW-designated course taught by that adjunct faculty member.

ARW-designated Courses
Some courses are designated by the Curriculum Committee and the instructor as satisfying the ARW requirement. If a student wishes to write the ARW paper in conjunction with such a course, the instructor should provide the student with any course-specific requirements. Students completing their ARW papers in these courses receive the number of credits normally assigned to the course.

Law Review
Papers written as law review notes require the advance permission of the Law Review Editorial Board. A student satisfying the ARW requirement through law review writing must obtain advance permission of the Law Review Editorial Board. Such a paper receives the credit normally associated with law review service.

Independent Research Project
A student may write an ARW paper as an independent research project (see additional information under Independent Research in Course Descriptions found in the Student Web portion of the Mitchell website). If the paper is to be completed in conjunction with independent research, the requirements and deadlines for independent research apply. The College ordinarily grants up to two credits for such projects.

No Credit Option
The student may write the paper under faculty supervision but outside of a course or Independent Research Project, in which case a student will receive no course credit. The student must discuss the paper requirements with the supervising faculty member before commencing work on the paper.


Regardless of form or genre, ARW papers shall ordinarily be at least 8,500 words, excluding footnotes. This requirement is meant to ensure that the project is substantial enough to measure and develop the five competencies identified above and to provide a summative writing experience for the student.

Beyond the length requirement, formats will vary according to context and should be appropriate to the genre of the writing project. So, for example, essays should generally adhere to law review style conventions, while briefs must adhere to good citation practices and the relevant jurisdiction’s filing rules. Prior to the first draft, the student and supervising faculty shall identify the appropriate format for the paper.

Writing Process and Deadlines

Unless the supervising faculty member requires otherwise, the paper is required to be written in the following stages:

  • outline;
  • research plan;
  • partial first draft covering one or two parts of the paper;
  • full draft of all elements of the paper;
  • second full draft of all elements; and
  • final paper.

Students should expect significant feedback from their faculty supervisors at each of these stages.

Deadlines are set by agreement and must be honored. In the case of an Independent Research Project or a paper in partial fulfillment of course requirements, missed deadlines may be taken into account in grading, particularly if the student does not obtain an extension until after the deadline has passed. Final papers are due no later than the last class meeting. An extension of the final due date must be requested in advance and must be approved by the instructor and the Dean of Students.

A Request for Extension of Grade Due Date form can be obtained here.

After the ARW paper is completed, the student should fill out and have the supervising faculty member sign an Advanced Research & Writing Certification form. The signed form must be submitted to the Registrar in order for the ARW requirement to be satisfied. In the case of an ARW-designated course, the student does not have to submit a form, as the instructor indicates on the grade sheet the students who have satisfied the ARW requirement.


[1] ABA Model Rules of Prof’l Conduct R. 2-1.

[2] ABA Model Rules of Prof’l Conduct pmbl.