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Law Student FAQs


1. What's "independent research" (also called "individual research") and when can that satisfy SAW?

UCLA offers three different categories of independent/individual research, which are the terms used to describe scholarly writing done under the supervision of a law faculty member.  These categories fall under the course numbers Law 340, Law 341 and Law 345.  Papers written under Law 340 and Law 341, if written for two or more units of credit, may satisfy the SAW; those written under Law 345 may not.  The Summary of Academic Standards, Section II(D), describes the three opportunities as follows:

Individual Research (Law 340/341) and Project (Law 345) Unit Rules— An upper division student may enroll in and receive credit for up to a combined total of nine (9) Law 340/341 independent research/Law 345 independent project units. In Law 340 (for a semester) or Law 341 (for a full academic year), students undertake legal research under the supervision of a faculty member resulting in an original scholarly paper analyzing a particular area of law.  In Law 345 (for a semester only), students undertake original research, usually involving empirical or field study, and produce a paper analyzing their findings.  Students seeking to enroll in a Law 340/341 or 345 course must submit a “Petition for Independent Research/Project form to the Records Office for approval; this form requires the student obtain prior written approval of the sponsoring faculty member, including approval of the proposed topic.  Consultation and supervision between the student and the sponsoring faculty member shall continue throughout the term(s) of enrollment.  Work may begin during the summer, if the professor agrees to this in advance, so long as a substantial portion of the work is undertaken during the term(s) in which credit is awarded.  All 340/341 units shall be graded for a letter grade, not on a P/U/NC basis.  The supervising faculty member shall determine whether Law 345 shall be graded for a letter grade or on a P/U/NC basis.

A student seeking to write an independent research paper is responsible for securing a faculty member willing to supervise the proposed project.   The student then needs to draft a brief description of the topic, obtain written confirmation (email) from the professor and fill out the Petition for Individual Research/Individual Project.   This needs to be submitted to the Records Office by the end of the first week of instruction; Records then processes the enrollment.  (The Dean of Students has discretion to extend the deadline through Week 4 of instruction; beyond that date, students must petition the Faculty/Standards Committee.)  Records processes enrollment for all independent research after the second enrollment pass; you cannot enroll yourself on MyUCLA.

2. How do I enroll in an independent research/project?

Please complete and submit a Petition For Independent Research/ Independent Project on MyLaw found at This petition requires a one to two paragraph description of the paper or project, not 1 or 2 lines. The description should include the location of any work conducted away from the Law School, the nature of any written product, and a general description of the schedule for research completion, rough drafts, and meetings with the supervising faculty member. You will also need to attach an email from the professor agreeing to supervise the paper/project for the proposed the number of units.

3. With Law 341, how are units allocated across semesters? What goes on the transcript after the first semester?

The allocation of units involves a judgment call for the supervising faculty member and the student, and depends on how the work is going to be distributed over the academic terms.  If the first semester is intended to be a time for research and topic development, with the second semester devoted to writing, then it could make sense (as an example, and again depending on the topic) to allocate one unit for the first semester and two units for the second semester.  At the end of the first semester, no letter grade is assigned.  Instead, a notation of “IP” is placed on the transcript, meaning “in progress.”  When the paper is complete and graded, the letter grade appears on the transcript for the second semester and the “IP” remains for the first semester.

4. How is the number of units for an independent research paper determined?

The supervising faculty member needs to make a judgment call on the issue of credit, taking into consideration the amount of work anticipated, the difficulty and breadth of the topic, as well as the anticipated length of the paper.  There is no official (or even unofficial) rule of thumb about pages required per unit of credit granted. To satisfy the SAW requirement, an independent research paper must be undertaken for a minimum of two units. Four units is the recommended maximum per paper/project. This equates to 12 hours per week of work for 15 weeks, or 180 hours of work. Faculty who wish to award more than 4 units for one Law 340/341/345 paper or project should provide an explanation as to the unusual nature of the research and why the additional units and hours of work will be necessary.

5. How long will it take for my petition to be approved?

The approval/enrollment process takes approximately one week during the first two weeks of classes and about 2 days after the first two weeks. 

6. May I earn units for being a research assistant?

For students who are not hired as a Research Assistant through the UCLA Law RA program and are therefore not being paid for their work as a research assistant, a student may receive academic credit in the following manner:  Students may only earn credit (via enrollment in Law 345 – Independent Project) for creating an in-depth student directed project in which the student frames the research question and research plan in conjunction with the professor.  Students are required to submit a comprehensive end-of-semester research memo which includes the research question, research plan and an analysis of the research results.  

Students can fill out this FORM and upload professor approval to add a Law 345 to their schedule by the add deadline. 

Minimally, the workload for the Law 345 units are:

1 unit = 42.5 hours of work for the semester (at least 3.5 hours per week for 13 weeks)

2 units = 85 hours of work for the semester (at least 7 hours per week for 13 weeks)

3 units = 127.5 hours of work for the semester (at least 10 hours per week for 13 weeks)

4 units = 170 hours of work for the semester (at least 13 hours per week for 13 weeks)

7. Can a paper count for SAW or the PR requirement?

Yes, an independent study paper may be used to satisfy the SAW Requirement provided complies with ABA Standards. Students should check with the Bar in the state they plan to sit for.

8. Can a 340 be used to circumvent the seminar grading curve rules?

Ideally, a 340 would not be used to circumvent the seminar rules. However, there is no rule expressly prohibiting this practice.

9. Can an independent study count toward the 64 class unit requirement?