Independent Writing FAQ

Introduction

I am delighted that we will be working together on your supervised writing project. Good, clear writing on complex topics is extraordinarily difficult. Only practice will make perfect. You should view this project as one of many during law school that will train you to become a better thinker and writer.

Semester Plan

First, create a general plan for the semester. There are only 15 weeks in the semester. Papers will be due on the last day of examination period, so you can figure in 2 additional weeks. But don’t forget about how absorbed you will be with exams during those weeks. So start counting back from Week 15 and try to create a reasonable schedule. Here’s a draft schedule to work with:

  • Week 2/3: Rough bibliography and brainstorming about thesis
  • Week 5/6: Complete literature review; Draft rough outline
  • Week 7/8: Focused research; Draft detailed outline
  • Week 9: Start writing
  • Week 11: Submit rough draft for review
  • Week 13: Submit complete draft for my review
  • Week 15: Finish final draft

This is just a draft schedule, and you are entitled to some flexibility. But remember that the earlier you show me your work, the faster I can respond with guidance. Historically, those students who have stayed on schedule and have provided early drafts for multiple editing turns have received the higher grades.

Continuous Contact

After you have produced a semester plan, let’s meet quickly to discuss it. Then, throughout the semester, I urge you to stay in close contact with me. You should arrange meetings at the milestones identified in bold above. Feel free to contact me also through e-mail with questions or updates (kang at law.ucla.edu).

Editing Turns

No matter how good a writer you are, I will mark up your drafts with a lot of red.  (By the way, please hand in drafts electronically in Word or PDF.) Do not be alarmed. This is the single best way to improve your writing—to have a heavy editor. You need not agree with everything I suggest, but you must be able to answer the concerns I raise in the margins.

If you’re not blessed with good grammar and style, I urge you now to refresh your basics. Reread Strunk & White’s Elements of Style, which is a cheap paperback and also available on the Web.  (It’s idiosyncratic at times, but still a big improvement for most writers.) Pull out your high school English book, and review your grammar. Whatever you turn in to me should—at the least—be free of spelling errors, typos, and basic grammatical errors.

Final Work Product

The goal is to produce law review-quality work. All drafts should be single-spaced, proportional font, with 1.5″ margins on both sides. Use footnotes, not endnotes. Although I won’t be a stickler about Bluebooking, get it roughly right. This too is a skill you need to learn.

The final draft should look clean and respectable, formatted to appear like a published law review article. Unless arranged otherwise, I will use the final draft principally to grade you, not to give you additional feedback. (You should have gotten that before.)

Conclusion

This is a generic memorandum, which may not apply to individual supervised writing arrangements, especially to those working with lawyers in the community. So if you have any questions, please ask. Good luck with your paper.