Supervised Research and the LL.M. Essay
Supervised research entails writing a research paper independently of any course under the supervision of a Columbia Law School faculty member (including clinical, visiting and adjunct faculty) who agrees to supervise the work and evaluate/grade the paper. The paper must be worth at least two points of academic credit, or at least 20-25 pages in length. Students can earn an additional point for each additional 10-15 pages written. LL.M. students register for supervised research by completing the LL.M. Research and Writing Registration Form and selecting the category “Research for the LL.M. Degree” (L6691).
A student is expected to communicate regularly with her Faculty Supervisor, and depending on the agreement with the supervisor, may proceed through any or all of the following stages:
- Topic selection: The student and supervisor agree on a subject matter area, and discuss possible research topics within that general area.
- Preliminary research: Following selection of a topic, the student conducts research aimed at narrowing and refining the project and the supervisor provides feedback that assists the student in formulating a research and writing plan.
- Project outline: The student prepares and submits a written outline of the research project and the supervisor responds with substantive feedback.
- Paper draft: The student submits a preliminary draft of the paper or its equivalent and the supervisor provides written or oral comments on the draft.
- Final paper: The student submits the final paper for the professor's evaluation.
The LL.M. Essay represents a larger undertaking than supervised research. Students who select this option typically are seeking to produce a work of publishable quality, more along the lines of a Master’s thesis. The principal difference between the two options lies in the formality of presentation required for an LL.M. Essay. The LL.M. Essay must be placed before the Faculty Supervisor well in advance of the final due date so that it can be reviewed and revised before it is finally submitted. A copy of the final Essay is deposited in the Law School library, and its title appears on the student’s transcript. By agreeing to deposit the LL.M. Essay with the law library, the student consents to its being made available for library use, reproduction, distribution, and display in any regularly employed format, which may include microfiche or electronic forms. Other uses, such as derivative work use, remain the sole property of the student.
An LL.M. Essay must fulfill all of the following conditions:
- It must be a substantial and rigorous piece of legal writing based on research on a topic approved in advance by a faculty member (including clinical, visiting and adjunct faculty) who has agreed to act as Faculty Supervisor. The Faculty Supervisor must approve the scope and title of the LL.M. Essay;
- It must be submitted in draft form to the Faculty Supervisor, who will provide comments on the draft, and a further version of the paper which responds to the Faculty Supervisor’s comments must be produced; and
- It must earn a B or better grade.
The length of the LL.M. Essay must be determined in advance of registration by the student and the Faculty Supervisor, and is typically worth between 2 and 8 points. LL.M. students register for the LL.M. Essay in consultation with the Dean of Graduate Legal Studies. The due date for the final, approved LL.M. Essay is specified on the Law School’s Academic Calendar.
Additional LL.M. Essay information:
- One unbound printed copy in final form and one extra copy of the title page must be deposited by May 1 with the Office of Graduate Legal Studies for submission to the Law School Library.
- The LL.M. Essay should be double-spaced, using a font conventional for formal presentations. All text must be kept within margins of one-and-a-half inches at left and top and one inch at right and bottom.
- The title page should contain only the following information in the following order:
Title of LL.M. Essay centered in upper one-third of page.
Full name of author (two spaces below title).
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Master of Laws in the
School of Law
(Do not include the month, year, or other information.)
- The LL.M. Essay should include a Table of Contents with page references at the front; a Table of Cases at the end; and, in some instances, a Table of Statutes or Bibliography at the end.
- All pages, including tables, bibliography, and appendices, should be numbered consecutively in Arabic numbers in the upper right hand corner (outside of the margin at the top). Prefatory pages, however, should be numbered in small Roman numerals.
- Footnotes and references may appear at the bottom of the page to which they refer, at the end of each chapter, or at the end of the Essay. Citations should conform to the style of the Columbia Law Review.