Upper-level Writing Requirement: Check

One of the graduation requirements at BU Law is that each student has to write a paper of publishable quality certified by a professor. To satisfy this requirement, students go through a peer review writing process to complete a paper of over 7,500 words excluding footnotes. Students can choose how they want to complete the upper level writing requirement – most commonly through their journal note, a seminar course or an independent study. If you choose to meet this requirement through your journal note, you work with other students on your journal as well as a professor that you pick who specializes in your particular subject area. The process can be arduous, time consuming and an added stress to your law school experience. That is why when I found out last week that my journal note had finally been certified, I was very relieved that this weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

I made the decision last October that I would attempt to “cert” (shorthand for fulfilling the upper level writing requirement) through my journal note. I had picked a labor law topic of particular interest to me – whether or not police body cameras are mandatory subjects of collective bargaining. Without getting into the weeds of my topic too much, this paper was a novel idea in that there was not a lot of research and case law discussing this topic. I had to rely heavily on case law interpreting similar changes with surveillance cameras in the workplace. With the help of my advisers, I came up with different ways of researching this topic and organizing how to advocate for changes in the law. It was critical to keep in mind that I could not simply regurgitate other secondary sources discussing police body cameras because the paper had to propose a new idea in the legal community.

Meanwhile, the writing process began by composing a series of writing drafts broken up into portions of the paper. I was required to meet certain deadlines throughout the year which were then reviewed by the editors of my journal, the Public Interest Law Journal. By the end of the year, I had produced a draft of my paper which was enough to receive my journal credit. However, my advising professor who I had wanted me to keep working on a new draft to approve it for the upper level writing requirement. This meant that over the summer I met with this professor to review his comments on my draft. Because the paper was upwards to 35 pages at this point, including footnotes, most of the revisions had to do with the organization of my paper. A particular emphasis was also put on being as concise in my writing as possible. Finally, last week, my advising professor informed me that he had agreed to cert my paper with the registrar. And with that, I was one step closer to graduating.

I was fortunate to work closely with both the editors on my journal and my advising professor throughout this writing process. Throughout this experience, I was able to learn a great deal about the peer review process and writing scholarly work in general. First, I became incredibly grateful to get such detailed and focused feedback on my paper. When you review something as much as I had reviewed this paper, you eventually need a fresh set of eyes to point out the flaws in your analysis and writing. Second, I learned how important outlining is before you start to draft a paper of this length and magnitude. The more detailed your outline can be, the better it will help you write more clearly and succinctly. Finally, I learned how to closely follow revisions and use helpful feedback to my advantage – a critical part of any peer review process. While I am very relieved I have satisfied my upper level writing requirement, looking back, I am grateful with how much I took away from the process of completing this paper.

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