In addition to satisfying the Written Work Requirement for each degree, all students have the option of doing optional written work for writing credit. If you have already completed the Written Work Requirement, but are interested in doing more research and writing while at HLS, an optional paper is a good choice.

Format and Scope

For J.D Students:

You may do an optional paper either (a) in conjunction with a course, seminar or workshop and work with the instructor as your faculty supervisor, or (b) as an independent paper with an HLS faculty supervisor of your choice.

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.

Consult with your faculty supervisor in advance about the number of writing credits you will earn for your optional paper. Keep in mind, as you think about your paper, that an optional paper is expected to be of the same scope and length as a comparable paper written to satisfy Option 1 of the JD Written Work Requirement (e.g., a 2-credit optional paper must be of the same scope and length as a 2-credit Option 1 paper).

For LL.M. Students: Contact the Graduate Program for information about writing an optional paper.

Faculty Supervisors

HLS faculty actively support student writing, and are available to supervise optional papers. Click for a list of faculty supervisors by subject matter or name.

Winter Writing Program

Students may use the Winter Writing Program (WWP) to focus exclusively on an optional paper.

Optional Written Work Registration


To register for Optional Written Work in fall or spring term complete and submit the JD Written Work registration form.


Fall: October 1 (2Ls and 3Ls)

Spring: February 1 (all classes)

Independent Written Work In Connection with Summer Work Experience

Contact the Registrar’s Office,, 617-495-4612, with questions.

Note: Optional papers may be used as one of the two pieces of writing required for Option 2. However, students who have not yet completed the J.D. Written Work Requirement, and are planning to write an optional paper, should consider instead using the same paper to satisfy Option 1 of the Requirement. Contact the Registrar’s Office ( for more information.