Option 1 is one of two ways to satisfy the J.D. Written Work Requirement. Click here for information about Option 2.

Format and Scope

To satisfy Option 1, students must complete a substantial research paper of publishable quality written either:

(a) in conjunction with a course, seminar or workshop and in close consultation with the HLS instructor (1, 2 or 3 writing credits); or

(b) through independent study in close consultation with an HLS faculty supervisor (2 or 3 writing credits).

An “in conjunction” paper is generally an expansion of the required seminar or course paper. If you choose to write a longer seminar or course paper than is required to complete the course or seminar, you will receive writing credit in addition to the HLS classroom credits you receive for the seminar or course itself.

The substantial work involved in these papers typically produces a final product of 30-60 pages for a two-credit effort. A small number of students pursue a larger project for three credits and aim for 100-200 pages. These papers can take the form of academic scholarship, policy analysis, or professional legal analysis and must be a substantial undertaking at least comparable to the time demanded by a semester-long course or seminar. A project involving empirical research and analysis may require many fewer pages for the same number of credits as a traditional research paper. Check with your faculty supervisor to get specific length requirements for your paper.

The format of an Option 1 writing project, and the sources on which it draws, may vary within a wide range. Possible types of writing include:

  • Paper publishable as a scholarly journal article
  • Analysis of an empirical study
  • Proposal for law reform with supporting explanation and commentary
  • Dialogue or series of hypothetical judicial opinions
  • Brief, memorandum in support of a complaint, legislative analysis, or any other vehicle appropriate for presentation of your themes

You should work with your faculty supervisor to determine what type of writing best fits your goals for this project. Students submitting papers to satisfy Option 1 should seek to make a significant scholarly contribution regardless of the format chosen.

Some guidelines to use when writing your Option 1 paper:

  • The topic should be sufficiently novel, important, or interesting to be suitable for inclusion in a law journal.
  • The project should reflect research of sufficient substance to provide a reader familiar with the issues or the field with valuable knowledge and insights.
  • Research may draw on clinical experience, case and statutory law, historical or philosophical materials, empirical data, material from other disciplines, or a combination of the above.
  • The project should analyze the material and issues presented; and the presentation should be clear and finished.

See the J.D. Written Work Requirement FAQ for more details.

Faculty Supervisors

HLS faculty actively support student writing, and are available to supervise papers. Students may ask any Law School faculty member or instructor with a Law School teaching appointment to supervise written work. Faculty on certain types of leave may not be available in a given term, and visiting faculty may supervise only during the term(s) of their appointment.

J.D. Winter Writing Program

Students may use the Winter Writing Program (WWP) to focus exclusively on an Option 1 paper. To register for the WWP, complete and submit the WWP registration form and proposal forms, by November 8, 2013.

Human Subject Research

Students are responsible for the ethical implications of their research. If a student’s project involves interviews, surveys, or obtaining information about individuals by other means, it may require review by the Committee on the Use of Human Subjects in Research (IRB). Please contact the Law School liaison at the IRB, Rebecca Holmes Farley, IRB Research Officer (6-1185;cuhs@fas.harvard.edu) to determine whether your project requires review.

Option 1 Deadlines

Fall: October 3, 2014 (2Ls and 3Ls)
Winter: November 7, 2014
Spring: February 2, 2015 (all students)
(1Ls must get permission from the Dean for Faculty and Academic Affairs before registering for Option 1 in addition to enrolling in a spring upper-level elective of 2-4 classroom credits)
Submission Unless the faculty supervisor sets an earlier date, all Option 1 papers are due on April 24, 2015.


To register for Option 1 complete and submit the required registration form.

Contact the Registrar’s Office, registrar@law.harvard.edu, 617-495-4612, with questions.

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