A dissertation is a body of research written by a candidate for an academic degree. Candidates for the Juris Doctor degree are not required to write a dissertation to obtain their degree. Rather, they are required to take rigorous legal writing courses as prescribed by the American Bar Association.

Requirements for Writing

The American Bar Association, which is the accrediting body for law schools, requires every law student to learn legal writing. This is in the form of a first-year course in rigorous legal writing instruction and at least one additional course after the first year.

First-year legal writing courses are designed to introduce law students to various sources of laws and how to cite them. First-year law students are also taught how to write standard legal documents, such as memoranda and trial and appellate briefs. In addition to the mechanics of writing, these courses typically introduce how to construct persuasive legal arguments.

Upper-level legal writing gives students the opportunity to refine the writing skills they learned in their first year of study. Many of these courses teach students how to write for particular practice areas and subject matter. Some common upper-level courses may include contract drafting, litigation drafting and advanced legal research.

Law Review Notes

Law schools provide additional practice in writing through law reviews, which are student-run publications that publish student legal research. Articles are typically written in “note” format, which is a discussion of a specific legal issue or problem in the law. A small handful of law schools require students to write a “note” as a prerequisite to graduation.

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