The culmination of the LL.M. programs in Corporate and Finance Law, Labor and Employment Law, and Taxation is a master's thesis written under the supervision of a faculty advisor at the Law School. The LL.M. program in U.S. Law doesn't require a master's thesis. Set out below is a general description of the goals of the essay requirement, the expectations of what constitutes a successful essay, and various procedures relating to undertaking and completing this aspect of the LL.M. program.
- Goals – One of the goals of the thesis requirement is for students to pull together various strands of their legal education and work experience and bring these to bear on a legal issue at a highly advanced level. For many students, the master's essay is a springboard from the world of graduate school to the world of law practice, lawmaking and policy analysis. The expectation is that the master's essay will be undertaken with the originality and level of rigor characteristic of published work.
- Expectations – The essay should have a clear thesis and should be an original work of research. That is, the essay shouldn't predominantly be a summary of the existing literature. Although the student must demonstrate knowledge of the existing published work related to the essay's topic, the most important aspect of the essay is that it advance a significant idea or set of ideas that originates with the student. Successful essays can take several approaches. Some identify important legal problems and advance proposed solutions to these problems. Others offer insightful critiques of entrenched ways of looking at particular legal issues. Yet others are comparative in focus – shedding light on legal problems or legal cultures by showing similarities and differences in the ways in which such problems are understood and addressed in different legal communities. All of these approaches and others can be successful ways of approaching the master's essay, provided that the essay contains a clearly defined argument, a mastery of the existing literature, and a well-organized-and-edited manuscript. All master's essays must be submitted in English.
- Procedures – Students may undertake the master's essay at any time during their LL.M. studies, but most students complete the written portion of the project in the last semester of their studies. Students formally commence the master's thesis by registering for LEX 8999, but progress on the project should begin much earlier. Ideally, a student's choice of coursework, externships and directed studies should be made with an eye on the question or questions of most interest – questions to be dealt with in depth in the master's essay. With this in mind, students are encouraged to consult with the director of graduate studies and other faculty members early on in their studies. Such consultations enable faculty members to provide advice designed to assure that the student is fully prepared in terms of skills and knowledge to wrestle with the issues that will be the focus of the master's essay.
Prior to registering for LEX 8999, students must submit a completed form LLM-8999 to the director and then obtain the director's approval to undertake the proposed research under the supervision of a member of the Wayne State University faculty.
To satisfy the thesis requirement, the master's essay submitted by the student must, in the judgment of the supervising faculty member and the director, reflect work at the level of "B" or better. Beginning with the winter 2011 semester, all master's essays satisfying this requirement will be digitally stored in a collection maintained by the Wayne State University Law Library and made available to all users of the library.