The Studies Committee oversees the implementation of the School of Law academic regulations in specific cases. The Associate Dean is the Chair of the Studies Committee.
The Academic Year consists of one session of two terms* covering a period of about thirty weeks. Please consult the faculty for final confirmation of start and end dates.
*There is a third term in the summer for Dalhousie Legal Aid Clinic students only, the dates of which are May 1 - August 31 inclusive.
Every full-time student must pass every subject, either by regular, special, or supplemental examination before advancing to the next year of study.
These Academic Regulations are also in the Academic Calendar: Dentistry/Law/Medicine Academic Calendar in web form via the Registrar's Office and in the Professional Programs Calendar 2017/2018 [PDF - 2.9 MB]
Students are registered for the whole session only and not for one or other of the terms. Late registration requires the approval of the Dean of the Faculty, and payment of an extra fee.
B. Class work and attendance
In order that their class work may be recognized as qualifying for a degree, candidates must conform to the following requirements:
- All students are expected to attend the classes of their prescribed courses regularly and punctually.
- They must appear at all examinations and prepare all essays and assignments satisfactorily.
- In determining pass lists the standings attained in prescribed class exercises and research work and in the various examinations are taken into consideration.
C. Class outlines
Students will be provided with a class outline by the instructor at the first meeting of the class. After the final course change date for each term, changes to the outline which affect assessment components, the weight of individual assessment components, or examination requirements with a value of ten percent or more must have the unanimous approval of all enrolled students in order to be valid. Within four weeks after the beginning of each term class outlines will be placed on file with the office of the Associate Dean, Academic.
D. Classes from another faculty for law school credit
Law students may take a university class from another faculty for credit at the Law School, if that class is sufficiently relevant to the student's law program. The non-law class should be at the graduate level, and may be the equivalent of no more than a total of 3 hours per year credit, as determined by the Associate Dean, Academic. The grades awarded in non-law classes will be on the basis of Pass/Fail, and a student's average will be computed on the basis of law classes only. Non-law classes cannot be included in a student's program to satisfy the major paper requirement. Students wishing to take non-law classes must obtain the written consent of the particular university department, and arrange to have the class description sent to the Associate Dean, Academic. Normally, students may take non-law classes in their third year only. (Please note that students registered in the combined JD/MBA, JD/MPA, JD/MLIS, and JD/MHSA programs are governed by separate regulations.)
E. Auditing classes
A second or third year law student may audit a course by sitting in on classes with the permission of the Associate Dean and the instructor, if there is room in the class. The instructor may require a student to keep up with class work and may record attendance. Only one course may be taken as an audit in each of second and third year, with permission. First year students are not permitted to audit. In most cases, only law students will be permitted to enrol in or audit law school courses. Occasionally, a professional in law or a related field may audit an upper year class with permission of the Associate Dean and the instructor, if there is room in the class. First year classes may not be audited. Students are not permitted to audit short, intensive courses such as the European Union Law Visiting Professorship, or clinical courses.
F. Pass requirements
The pass mark in any particular class is 50%, but an overall weighted average of 55% is required for advancement. A student who fails to attain the required average of 55% by regular and special examinations or assignments fails the year. Students must attain an overall weighted average of 55% and pass every subject, by regular, special, or supplemental examination, before advancing to Second or Third Year. A student who fails in more than two classes also fails the year regardless of overall average.
|Additional rules apply in the following specific situations:|
Applicable only to Third Year - The University “up-and-down” Rule: A Third Year student who, without recourse to supplementals, fails only one class and attains an average on the work of the year that exceeds 50% by twice as much as the failure in the class is below 50% is permitted to graduate. Please note this rule is not applicable to mandatory courses such as Legal Profession and Professional Responsibility.
A Part-time Rule for Those with One Failure: A student in Second or Third Year who fails only one class and, without recourse to supplementals, is not eligible for or does not opt for advancement or graduation under (a) may take the class again on a part-time basis and may write the next regular examination or assignment in the class. Where the failed class is optional, the student may petition the Studies Committee for permission to take a class or classes other than the one that was failed. This part-time year counts as one of the four years during which a student must complete the full-time JD course to qualify for the degree. For greater certainty, the choice is between writing a supplemental exam (where eligible) or re-taking the course, but not both.
Supplemental Privileges: Clinical Law, Clinical Class in Criminal Law
- The basis of a failing grade is the student's paper, in which case a written memorandum may be authorized as the mode of supplemental examination; or
- The failure is related to a specific assignment that can be replicated as a supplemental.
G. Supplemental and special examinations and assignments
Regular Examinations and Assignments: Final examinations are held immediately before the December vacation and after the completion of lectures in the spring. A student who does not sit an exam or a moot (whether regular, special or supplemental) as scheduled, without express prior permission of the Studies Committee, will receive a grade of zero in that exam or moot.
1. Special Examinations and Assignments
Students must write their examinations and moots as scheduled unless they have express prior permission from the Studies Committee or the Student Accomodation Office in advance for alternate arrangements. Students are expected to submit assignments by their due date and time unless they have express prior permission from the Studies Committee or the Student Accomodation Office for an extended deadline. Individual instructors and faculty members cannot grant extensions in response to individual student requests, and all student requests for special accomodation must be directed to the Associate Dean’s office or to the Student Accomodation Office, depending on the circumstances.
Where it can be established that, for medical or personal reasons, a student's ability to write an examination is significantly hampered, the Studies Committee or the Student Accomodation Office may allow the student to write a special examination. Requests for special exams must be made as soon as possible, and before the exam is to be written. Where a student becomes ill during an exam, the student must immediately contact the Associate Dean's Office, before the end of the exam.
Where it can be established that for medical or personal reasons a student's ability to work on a major paper or other assignment has been significantly hampered, the student may request an extension on the paper or assignment. Such a request must be made as soon as possible, and in all cases before the paper or assignment is due.
2. Medical Withdrawal
A student may apply for a medical withdrawal from law school if substantiating medical documentation demonstrates that the student's ability to continue his or her studies is significantly hampered. If a medical withdrawal is granted, the time the student is absent from law school is not counted for the purposes of Regulation V. A) 1) (the “four year rule”).
A student wishing to be readmitted to law school after a medical withdrawal must provide substantiating medical evidence to the satisfaction of the Studies Committee of their ability to resume their studies.
Where the Studies Committee has received a request from a student in two or more consecutive semesters for deferral of exams or assignments due to an ongoing medical condition or other personal circumstances, the Studies Committee may require the student to provide further medical or other documentation regarding their ability to continue with their studies, and may determine that the only appropriate accommodation is a medical withdrawal from the academic year or term.
3. Supplemental Examinations and Assignments
A student who attains the required average of 55% by regular and special examinations or assignments and who has failed not more than two classes is entitled to write supplemental examinations or to complete supplemental assignments in the classes failed. The student must pass the supplemental examination(s) before advancing to the next year. If a student writes a supplemental exam, only the result of the supplemental exam will be taken into account in determining whether the student passes or fails the course, even if the course uses other evaluative methods (such as assignments, moots, presentations).
Students permitted to write special examinations or complete special assignments will be entitled to write supplemental examinations or complete supplemental assignments should they fail the special, provided they otherwise meet the requirements for entitlement to write supplementals. Moreover, a student who encounters medical or personal difficulties in preparing for or writing a supplemental assignment may, upon petition, be granted permission to complete the class requirements by supplemental procedures at a later date.
All special and supplemental exams are written in July of the same academic year as the regular exam. Special and supplemental assignments and papers must be completed by the date determined by the Studies Committee. Students are responsible for ascertaining from the professor the scope of the material to be covered in a special or supplemental exam, as special and supplemental exams serve different purposes and may cover different material.
Where a student fails a class and writes a supplemental examination, both the mark in the final examination and the mark in the supplemental examination appear on the record. Supplemental examinations and assignments are marked “Pass” or “Fail”. A student's mark in the regular examination or assignment is used for all purposes connected with the computation of the average, including class standing. Marks in supplementals are used only for purposes relating to the satisfactory completion of a particular class.
4. Application for Supplemental and Special Examinations
Application to write a supplemental examination must be made on a form to be obtained from the Office of the Associate Dean and must be accompanied by the proper fee.
H. Examination regulations
|1.||Students writing examinations in Schulich School of Law are expected to act honourably, in accordance with the spirit as well as the letter of these regulations. Invigilation is provided primarily to assist students with problems. Where there is no invigilation, and particularly in the case of supplementals, specials and other examinations not written in the normal course of events, these rules apply with such variations as are practically required.|
|2.||Time for Writing Examinations - All examinations in the Law School shall commence at the appointed hour and, in the absence of an extension of time granted to the class generally by the instructor who sets the paper, they shall end at the appointed time. In the event of a student being late for an examination for justifiable cause, he or she shall report this fact as soon as is reasonably practicable to the Associate Dean or his or her nominee, and the Associate Dean, or nominee, in consultation with the examiner, shall have authority to make immediate alternative arrangements for the student to sit the examination. The term “justifiable cause” includes, but is not restricted to, temporary illness, delay caused by a snowstorm or transportation difficulties.|
(i) Identification of Examination Papers - Examinations in the Law School are written by code number only and students must not write their names on exam papers or otherwise seek to indicate their authorship. Students will be provided with code numbers before the commencement of examinations and must record their code number on each examination booklet or submitted paper. Students should also indicate the name of the class, the professor's name and the date of the examination on the first page of the examination paper.
(ii) It is a serious matter for a student to circumvent, either intentionally or otherwise, the anonymity of the examination process by identifying themselves on a Law School exam. An obvious case of self-identification is the placing of one’s name on the cover or on any other part of the exam paper. Self-identification may take an indirect form as where a student informs a professor after the exam that he or she has written the exam in a particular distinctive ink colour. Where a professor believes that a student has self-identified, they should report the matter to the Associate Dean. The Associate Dean shall then refer the matter to the Studies Committee.
Gratuitous references in an exam answer to personal identifying information shall constitute self-identification within the meaning of this regulation. However reliance on and reference to personal background or experience relevant to answering the question shall not constitute self-identification.
A student who is granted an accommodation by the Studies Committee which results in an exam written at a time or in a format which might identify the student will not be found to have self-identified within the meaning of this policy.
Where the Studies Committee determines that a student has deliberately or carelessly identified him or herself on an exam, the Committee shall impose a five per cent penalty. The imposition of the penalty does not depend on finding of intent to self identify. The fact of self-identification is sufficient to warrant the imposition of the penalty.
|4.||Use of Materials by Students - Unless otherwise specified by the instructor concerned, no printed or written materials may be consulted by a student during the examination. When reference to printed or written materials by a student during the examination is permitted the instructor or nominee will indicate this fact to the class in advance and will list at the beginning of the question paper all permitted materials. It is an academic offence to bring prohibited material into an examination. Students who bring prohibited material into an examination shall be referred to the Senate Discipline Committee.|
|5.||Prohibited Materials - Materials not permitted for reference in an examination must be left outside the examination room but not in the hallways or lavatories in general use during the examinations.|
|6.||Data Transmission Devices Prohibited - With the exception of computers being used for the purpose of writing an exam, data transmission or storage devices such as cell phones, smart phones, etc. are not permitted in the exam room.|
|7.||Communication Between Students - Students shall not communicate or attempt to communicate with other students during examinations.|
|8.||Smoking and Noise in the Examination Room - Smoking is not permitted in the Law School. Students are reminded that any noise is distracting to others writing an examination.|
|9.||Leaving the Examination Room During Examination - A student may, with the permission of the invigilator, but only then, be permitted to leave the room and return to the examination. Only one student may be excused at a time, and, when permitted to leave, must do so as quietly as possible. The only areas considered “in bounds” for students outside the examination room are the hallways adjacent to the room, and corridors and stairways connecting student lavatories. All other areas are out of bounds, including lockers.|
|10.||All examinations shall be typed or written in blue or black ink unless otherwise permitted by the professor in the particular course.|
|11.||Submission of Examination Papers to Invigilator at End of Examination - Students must submit their examinations promptly when the invigilator signifies that time has expired, whether the answers are completed or not.|
I. Late penalties
In order to ensure that all students are treated equally and that no student is allowed to profit from taking extra time to complete an exam, paper or assignment, late penalties will be imposed for work that is not completed on time. The quantum of penalty imposed will vary depending on the amount of time allowed for the student to complete the assignment, the degree of lateness, and in some cases the existence of any mitigating circumstances.
Please see "Policy on late penalties" at the bottom of this page, or contact the Associate Dean’s Office for specifics about how late penalties are calculated.
J. Academic accommodation for students with disabilities
Students seeking special accommodation with regard to course evaluation, such as exam deferral and extensions to deadlines, should consult with the Student Accomodation Office, or the Associate Dean, Academic as soon as possible and before an exam is scheduled to be written or an assignment is due. Requests for special accommodation for reasons such as illness or personal circumstances will require an application to the Studies Committee, or to the Student Accomodation Office, depending on the circumstances.
Students wishing to discuss arrangements for in-class study assistance should see the Faculty Advisor to Students with Disabilities.
NOTE: Where self-disclosure or prior arrangements have not been made with the University, Dalhousie is not liable to accommodate special needs owing to a physical, intellectual, or psychological disability.
K. Grading information and evaluation
Courses designated as exam courses must have a final exam worth at least 60% of the total evaluation. Courses designated as major paper courses must ensure the paper comprises at least 60% of the total evaluation.
Letter grades are used for all purposes at the Law School; however, the numerical equivalent is used to determine the student's weighted average. The numerical equivalents to the letter grades are as follows:
|F||Below 50 (failure)|
The grade "INC" is a transitional grade and will be replaced by a letter grade upon the student completing the requirements of the academic year. Subject to writing supplemental examinations, a student must attain a grade of 'D' or better in each class, and in any event an overall weighted average of 55% to complete the work of any year. Pass or Fail grades are assigned to exchange courses, supplemental examinations and non-law classes for JD credit, as well as to some Clinical Law classes. Non-law classes (except classes by students registered in the combined JD/MBA, JD/MPA, JD/MLIS, and JD/MHSA programs) are not used to determine a student's average. Honours/Pass/Fail grades are assigned to Clinical Law and the Criminal Clinic. An Honours or Pass grade in these classes is not used in determining a student's average, except in certain circumstances where the student would otherwise fail the year, and a Fail grade in these classes is assigned a numerical value and is used in determining a student's average.
The grade of "Pending" is a temporary grade used when a student is awaiting the outcome of an academic discipline process, or in the case of a transfer student in which a final grade has not yet been received.
The following grade distribution scheme for First-Year marks has been adopted by Faculty Council. Any variation from the permissible range of marks must be approved by Faculty Council:
Permissible Grade Distribution
|A & B together||60-75%|
Median grade 70-72 for exam courses; for non-exam courses, although a grade distribution curve is not used, a median of 73-75 is enforced. Legal Research and Writingis now subject to the regular curve with a median of 72-74. Small group first year classes are subject to the curve and are now subject to a median of 72-74.
Those teaching second and third year classes should take note of the first year grade curve in their evaluation and use it as a guiding principle. The larger and more traditional (i.e. lecture method, examination) the class, the more likely it is that some rough concordance with the first year curve will emerge.
- The Studies Committee should perform an overseeing function with respect to second and third year grades. Prior to the Faculty marks meeting, the Studies Committee should be provided with a breakdown of the grades awarded in each of the second and third year classes and should make appropriate enquiries concerning any obvious anomalies. In the event that the committee is not satisfied with the explanation offered by a faculty member for an apparent anomaly, the committee should direct him/her to reconsider his/her marks and the Committee may bring the matter to the attention of the Faculty marks meeting.
- A full breakdown of marks awarded in individual classes should be available to members of the faculty at the Faculty marks meeting.
Excessive Disparity Between Sections
- A faculty member who teaches any class in which there is an examination, must provide a draft of the examination to colleagues for their comments.
- Before handing in his/her grades, a faculty member must provide to his/her colleagues the best, an average and the worst (including all failures, if any) papers for their consideration. (This also applies to those teaching major paper classes).
- The Studies Committee will have an overseeing role in the matter of grades.
- Before submitting grades to the administration, a faculty member teaching any non-sectioned class must provide a sample of his/her papers or examinations (i.e. the best, an average and the worst) to a colleague for review.
L. Dean's list
The Dean's List recognizes superior academic performance by Dalhousie students in each year at Schulich School of Law. Please check with the Associate Dean, Academic for details.
M. Major paper classes
Each second or third year student must take at least one class (and not more than two) which has been designated as a major paper class per year. Some classes are available on the basis of evaluation by examination, or by major paper, the difference being that when the class is evaluated by examination, two credit hours are earned, and where a major paper is written, three credit hours are earned. A major paper must comprise at least 60% of the total grade in a course that is designated as a major paper course.
N. Major paper guidelines
A "major paper" is a writing requirement worth not less than 60% of the final mark awarded in a class.
No method of evaluation in any class may require a major paper unless that requirement has received the approval of Faculty Council. While this constraint could be evaded by assigning papers worth only slightly less than 60%, assigning several papers, and so on, the wish of Faculty Council is that their spirit is to be respected.
1. Objective of Major Paper Requirement
The major paper requirement is intended to assist in the improvement of the legal research and writing skills the student already has. It is to be, in effect, an extension of the first year legal writing program. The topics upon which the written assignments are undertaken should be of a type suitable for in-depth research in a limited field of inquiry and substantial Faculty input is essential.
2. Performance Expectation
The aim should be writing of publishable quality. It is to be expected that most students will not achieve such a high level of quality, just as most students will be unable to achieve an A standing in other classes. Papers should exhibit at least some level of legal analysis and not consist of a more recitation of decisions and facts. Supervision should be sufficient to make the writing requirement a real learning experience. This necessarily involves feedback to the student during the preparation of the paper and after its completion.
3. Curve Does Not Apply
The curve does not apply as a guideline in the marking of major papers, although a median grade range of 73-75 is enforced.
The criteria of
(b) Organization: Logic/Coherence;
(d) Literary Style and
are adopted explicitly as the ones relevant to evaluation of major papers. The definition of these criteria and the alphabetical grade equivalents and weighs assigned to them as set out in the following table are adopted.
Please see "Major paper guidelines" at the bottom of this page.
a) Research involves the ability to find, select and use effectively all primary materials (case, statutes, regulations) and secondary sources (books or articles) relevant to the topic. In many classes, a comparative analysis of material from other jurisdictions (e.g. Britain and the United States) is appropriate or even essential. Students should not rely exclusively on secondary sources, but should read the original text of major cases and statutes referred to in the literature. Research materials should include, where appropriate, non-legal sources. Empirical research by students ought to be encouraged.
The table adopts the following descriptors for research (horizontal axis):
|(i)||Outstanding - as defined above|
|(ii)||Thorough- no important area of research has been missed but there are a few loose ends or other sources that ought to have been explored.|
|(iii)||Not quite thorough - an important area of research has been missed or there are both loose ends and other sources to be explored.|
|(iv)||Serious but unsuccessful canvass of sources contains the failings of (iii) only more so.|
|(v)||Mere attempt to consider sources - distinguishable from (iv) as being cursory rather than serious in considering main sources or there are clear errors in research, e.g. student fails to check for appeals of relevant decisions, and bases much of the analysis on a court of appeal case that has been reversed by the Supreme Court of Canada.|
|(vi)||No serious research effort - self explanatory|
b) Organization: Logic/Coherence relates to the logical and coherent presentation of the subject matter, so that it is readily intelligible to the reader.
The introduction should assist the reader by providing both a clear statement of the problem that the student has chosen to analyze, the goal she/he seeks to achieve and a brief overview of the subjects she/he intends to discuss. The conclusion should play a similar role at the end of the paper, except that it should also summarize the student's conclusions. Topics should appear in a logical sequence. Legal and factual material that provides the foundation for discussion of a particular issue should be set out before that issue is reached. The student should use headings to structure the paper and indicate when she/he is moving to a new topic or subtopic. There should also be transitional text to justify the shift to a new topic, explain its connection to issues previously discussed, and the like.
The table adopts the following descriptors for Organization (vertical axis):
|Well Organized: A few minor flaws, but generally good logical flow|
|Moderate Disorganization throughout, but paper is generally intelligible|
|Substantial Disorganization: paper hard to follow|
|Incoherent: Disorganization is so great that paper is unintelligible|
c) Analysis-Insight-Synthesis: These criteria relate to the evaluation of the student's ability to understand and utilize effectively the materials that she/he has found through research. They require an understanding of the subject matter that goes beyond the ability to merely recite the rationales of cases, the conclusions reached by other authorities or bare statistics.
Analysis relates to the student's detailed use of cases, statutes, and secondary sources within the paper to explore particular issues that she/he has identified. Good analysis will assist the reader to achieve a sophisticated understanding of the issues and relevant legal authorities without the need to read all the various sources that the student had identified through research. The student should provide a factual background adequate to permit the reader to understand the context in which legal problems arise. She/he should describe relevant legal material (cases/statutes) and important policy analysis (for example, Law Reform Commission materials) in sufficient detail to provide the reader with a clear view of any legal controversies that exist and reasoning that has been put forward to support the various positions. There are a wide variety of analytical weaknesses that may be displayed by students. Examples include missing a relevant issue or legal argument, identifying legal problems but not exploring available legal principles that may have a bearing on their solution, or stating the conclusions of cases significant to analysis of an issue without setting out the reasoning that the court used to justify its conclusions.
“Insight” involves an in-depth understanding of the fundamental issues. Good “Synthesis”, which usually demonstrates this understanding, reflects the ability of the student to integrate the diverse material that she/he has found into a conceptual framework that is clearly explained to the reader. Insight and synthesis would probably show up in a strong statement of thematic material at the outset, its use as an organizing device in the paper, and a serious attempt in the conclusion either to determine whether the initial hypothesis had been proven or to assess the conceptual apparatus for its explanatory power. Weak insight and synthesis may be demonstrated by a student's failure to integrate relevant authorities for some or all of the paper.
A better paper will draw inferences from the digested material as to the present state and future development of the law in the area researched, as well as formulating recommendations for legal changes that might improve the situation and serve appropriate policy goals. Good analysis without much insight or synthesis may be average depending on the complexity or the novelty of the topic or research method. For instance, good analysis of an original topic (see Originality infra) may be as much as can be expected and should be rewarded highly. The same quality of analysis of a topic on which there is already a body of published critical writing that provides a framework or platform for the student's paper would have to show its own insight and synthesis to rate equally highly. A paper that sets out numerous cases or articles or otherwise merely describes the results of the student's research efforts, however extensive, without attempting to extract common principles or create an analytical basis is likely to be judged as poor.
The table adopts the following descriptors for analysis-insight-synthesis (vertically within each box in the table):
d) Literary Style: This criterion relates to the linguistic style in which the paper is written. Most Dalhousie law students do a competent job with grammar and spelling and many have excellent literary style. The stylistic problems present in papers are of two sorts. Legal writing should be formal but clear and straightforward. Some students tend to be too colloquial, using slang or contractions such as “won't”. Other students try too hard to be formal, producing convoluted sentences, making excessive use of the passive voice, and the like.
Because most students are competent in terms of literary style, this criterion is used to make adjustments in the grades produced by the table set out above only in extreme cases. The professor may increase or reduce the alphabetic grade result produced by the table set out above by one grade level for exceptionally strong or exceptionally weak literary style as described below:
Descriptors for literary style:
|Excellent: Literary style is significantly above the norm for Dalhousie Law students.
Raise table mark by one alphabetic grade level, e.g. B to B+
|Average: Literary style is consistent with that demonstrated by the majority of Dalhousie law students, i.e. some stylistic weaknesses but basically competent
No change in table grade level as determined above
|Weak: Student's literary style falls significantly below the norm for Dalhousie Law Students and demonstrates serious, persistent weaknesses in grammar, spelling, or style
Reduce table mark by one alphabetic grade level, e.g. B to C+
e) Originality: A highly prized, all-too-rare quality that cannot be easily defined, is used in the Table to raise the alphabetic grade that would have been assigned otherwise by a maximum of two grade levels. A paper may demonstrate good “analysis-synthesis” but still be lacking in originality. There are two different kinds of originality: topic originality and substantive originality.
The first sort of originality relates to the topic itself. This kind of originality exists when the student selects a topic where no research has been previously undertaken in Canada (i.e. there are no Canadian secondary sources that deal with the issue that the student has selected). There may or may not be articles or books that have been published on the topic in foreign jurisdictions (e.g. the United States or Britain), but even when such foreign sources do exist, a significant degree of creativity and extrapolation is required on the part of a student who undertakes to write on a topic where no previous Canadian research is available to help with all or part of the topic. This kind of originality may exist in major papers that display weaknesses in other areas. indeed, some kinds of analytical or organizational problems may be attributable precisely to the fact that the student is working in an area where no guidance is available from previous research carried out by more experienced scholars. The professor may recognize this kind of originality relating to topic by increasing the alphabetic grade produced by the table above by one level (e.g. from a B to a B+).
The second kind of originality may appear in the way the research is approached or in the understanding that the writer has gained of the topic and is able to convey to the reader, or in the form of new and convincing insights that are unique to the student author. This kind of originality, which is the hallmark of a paper of “publishable quality”, is not mere novelty although in other contexts the word may have that meaning: the new position advocated by the student must be credible, as well as novel. A major paper may demonstrate this kind of originality, even though the topic has been previously considered by other researchers in Canada. Originality of this kind will normally be associated with good “insight- synthesis- analysis”. The professor may recognize this kind of substantive originality by increasing the alphabetic grade produced by the table above by either one or two levels depending on the extent of the originality demonstrated by the paper (e.g. from a B+ to an A, or from a B+ to an A+ grade).
The cumulative effect of increases for originality is restricted to a jump of two grade levels. In other words, a professor cannot award a student an originality increase of three grade levels by accumulating an award of one grade level for topic originality, and two grade levels for substantive originality.
5. Guidelines for Major Paper Classes
a. Normally the paper will not be shorter than 25 pages.
b. At the beginning of the course, the professor should give the class an indication of the expectations regarding length. The professor might say “the minimum page length is 25 pages; while there is no maximum length, my expectation is that most papers will between 25 and 40 pages long.”
c. Normally a paper of a general descriptive nature will not meet the standards.
d. Normally the topic undertaken will be suitable for in-depth research with legal emphasis in a limited field of inquiry.
e. Normally the supervisor should approve the topic and the outline or draft of the paper.
f. Faculty members should make themselves available to meet with students to discuss the graded papers.
g. At each stage of the supervision of major papers, both the supervising faculty member and the student should pay explicit attention to each of the criteria relevant to the evaluation of the paper.
h. Copies of the major paper guidelines should be made available to students.
O. Appeals process
The following appeal regulations, passed by Faculty Council in October 1980 and amended March 1987, March, 2001 and May, 2006, are now in effect.
The Studies Committee, chaired by the Associate Dean Academic, is delegated by Faculty Council to perform an oversight role in administering the Appeal Regulations. In these regulations, reference to the Associate Dean Academic may include a person who, in the particular circumstances, has been designated by the Associate Dean Academic to act in his or her stead.
NOTE: There are several procedures in place at Schulich School of Law to ensure fairness in evaluation and consistency in grading. All exam questions are vetted by a faculty member teaching in the same area. Selected exams (including all failures) are co-read after marking is complete, but before the marks are submitted. Because of these checks, the Appeal Regulations do not provide for appeals which amount merely to seeking a second opinion. Students bear the burden of establishing the elements of an appeal. No appeal can be based upon the fact that a grade was lowered by Faculty Council in order to comply with the Grade Distribution rules.
A. Informal Review
A student who believes there is an error in a grade received in a class or in a component of a class should discuss the grade informally with the faculty member responsible.
A faculty member who, as a result of the informal review, acknowledges that an error in grading exists must, within five (5) working days of the informal review, inform the Studies Committee in writing of the nature of the error, and should indicate how the error should be rectified.
Upon receipt of such notification from a faculty member, the Studies Committee shall review the written explanation and shall decide whether amending the grade is appropriate in the circumstances.
B. Formal Request for An Appeal
General (Applicable to All Formal Appeals)
1. Any student who is considering launching a formal appeal is strongly encouraged first:
a. to go through the informal review outlined above; and
b. to speak with the Associate Dean, Academic, to ensure that the student has a clear understanding of the substantive and procedural requirements for a formal appeal.
2. There are two types of formal appeal available under these regulations:
a. Appeals based on a demonstrable error in grading (“Part I appeals”); and
b. Appeals relating to unfairness, impropriety or incompetence (“Part II appeals”).
3. Any formal Request for an Appeal shall be made by letter to the Associate Dean Academic
a. in the case of a final grade received in a winter term course or on a supplemental or special exam written during the summer by a student who is returning to Schulich School of Law the following September, not later than fifteen (15) working days following the first day of classes that September; or
b. in all other cases, not later than fifteen (15) working days after the final grade is made available through the University online distribution system;
4. The written Request for Appeal shall be accompanied by a cheque in the amount of $50.00 (refundable if the appeal succeeds). The Studies Committee may waive the $50.00 fee where it can be demonstrated that the payment would cause exceptional financial hardship.
a. the Appeal Regulations stipulate a time period for a student, faculty member, or Appeal Board to take any action, and
b. in the opinion of the Associate Dean Academic, circumstances exist that would justify an extension of that time period and the extension could be granted without imposing an undue burden on other parties, the Associate Dean Academic may, upon written request, grant an extension.
Part I Appeal: Demonstrable Error in Grading
1. A student, having received the final grade in a class, may request a formal appeal of the grade given in any written component of the class, including the result of a special or supplemental examination, on the basis that an error has been made in grading.
2. An error in grading must be a demonstrable error, as opposed to a general sense that the exam or assignment deserved a higher grade. Example: Where a student can demonstrate prima facie that his/her answer accorded with the faculty member's marking guide but the faculty member gave insufficient credit for it, an error in grading may be alleged.
3. A Request for an Appeal under this Part shall contain the following information:
a. The student's name and exam code number;
b. The name of the course and of the faculty member(s) who taught and/or evaluated it;
c. A reasonable explanation of the nature of the error in grading which the student believes affected the mark received; and
d. A copy of the assignment or exam questions.
4. Where the appeal involves exam booklets or a paper or assignment not already in the possession of the office of the Associate Dean Academic, the student shall ensure that the Request for an Appeal is accompanied by the exam booklets, paper or assignment originally submitted by the student.
5. Upon receipt of a Request for an Appeal under this Part, the Studies Committee shall
a. where the Studies Committee is of the opinion that the student has not, prima facie, demonstrated an error in grading in accordance with section 2, notify the student that the appeal has been terminated; or
b. where the Studies Committee is of the opinion that the student has, prima facie, demonstrated an error in grading in accordance with section 2, permit the appeal to proceed.
6. Where the Studies Committee permits an appeal to proceed further, the Associate Dean Academic shall
a. notify the student involved; and
b. forward to the faculty member who assigned the grade in question the student's Request for an Appeal.
7. Within ten (10) working days of receiving the Request for an Appeal under paragraph 5(b), the faculty member shall
a. advise the Associate Dean Academic whether he or she agrees that an error in grading occurred and shall recommend to the Studies Committee that
i. the grade or mark remain unchanged,
ii. the grade or mark be lowered, and by how much, or
iii. the grade or mark be increased and by how much;
b. give the reasons for his or her recommendation; and
c. indicate the mode of grading used for the exam, assignment or paper in question.
8. Where in the opinion of the Associate Dean Academic it is impossible or impractical to obtain the recommendation of the faculty member referred to in subsection (1) within a time frame that would not prejudice the student, the Studies Committee may forward the appeal directly to an Appeal Board constituted in accordance with section 8.
9. The Studies Committee shall review the recommendation received from the faculty member under Section 6 and where the faculty member recommends raising the grade in the same amount requested by the student in his or her Request for an Appeal, the Studies Committee may
a. make the recommended change in the grade, or
b. forward the matter to an Appeal Board constituted in accordance with section 8.
10. Where the Studies Committee does not change the grade or forward the matter in accordance with subsection (1), the Studies Committee shall forward the faculty member's recommendation to the student making the appeal. Within five (5) working days of receiving the faculty member's recommendation, the student shall notify the Associate Dean Academic in writing as to whether or not he or she intends to continue with the appeal.
11. Where in accordance with subsection 7(2) the student notifies the Associate Dean Academic of his or her intention to continue with the appeal, the Associate Dean Academic shall appoint two faculty members, preferably with expertise in the subject, as an Appeal Board, to review the grade assigned and to determine whether an error has been made in evaluating the student's work.
12. The Associate Dean shall provide the Appeal Board with the following:
a. the student's Request for Appeal;
b. the recommendation of the faculty member provided under section 6;
c. the exam booklets, paper or assignment being appealed; and
d. copies of exams, assignments or papers from the same class that
i. received a grade five (5) or more marks higher than that obtained by the student making the appeal,
ii. received a grade five (5) or more marks lower than that obtained by the student making the appeal, and
iii. received the highest grade in the class.
• Where the exam or assignment under appeal offered choice as to questions or topics, care should be taken to ensure that as far as possible the papers chosen for comparison reflect similar choices.
• Where the student is appealing the grades received on only one or several of the questions on the exam or assignment, as far as possible, the grade variations set out in paragraph 9(d) should relate to the question or questions under appeal.
13. The members of the Appeal Board shall independently review the grade assigned to determine whether, in their opinion, an error has been made in grading the work of the student in the context of the mode of grading and the grades assigned the other students whose work is being used for comparison.
14. The members of the Appeal Board, after completing their independent review, shall meet and determine whether:
a. the mark should remain unchanged;
b. the mark should be lowered, and by how much; or
c. the mark should be increased and by how much.
15. The Appeal Board shall report its decision, with reasons, to the Associate Dean Academic within fifteen (15) working days of its appointment.
16. Where the Appeal Board is unanimous that there was an error in grading, the mark under review shall be changed in accordance with the recommendation of the Appeal Board. Otherwise, the grade shall remain unchanged.
17. The Associate Dean Academic shall provide a copy of the decision of the Appeal Board to the student and faculty member involved in the appeal.
C. Reconsideration of a Studies Committee Decision
1. Where a student has received a decision of the Studies Committee made under these Appeal regulations, he or she may request a reconsideration of that decision where the student has new information that
a) was not and could not reasonably have been available to the student at the time of the appeal; and
b) is sufficient to persuade the Studies Committee to change the decision.
2. A request for reconsideration must be made as soon as possible after the further information becomes available.
3. Where the Studies Committee is of the opinion that the student has met the requirements set out in subsections (1) and (2), the Studies Committee shall reconsider the matter and shall communicate the new decision in writing to the student and any others who might be affected by the decision.
D. Finality Clause
Except to the extent that the decision made under these Appeal Regulations may be appealed to the Senate Academic Appeals Committee,
a) a decision of an Appeal Board is final; and
b) subject to the section on reconsideration, any decision of the Studies Committee is final.
E. Appeals to Senate Academic Appeals Committee
The attention of students of the Faculty of Law is directed to the Terms of Reference of the Senate Appeals Committee, as available on the Dalhousie University Senate website.
Major paper guidelines
Faculty Council designates which courses are to be taught as paper courses.
Guidelines for Major Paper Classes
- Normally the paper will not be shorter than 25 pages.
- At the beginning of the course, the professor should give the class an indication of the expectations regarding length. The professor might say “the minimum page length is 25 pages; while there is no maximum length, my expectation is that most papers will between 25 and 40 pages long.”
- Normally a paper of a general descriptive nature will not meet the standards.
- Normally the topic undertaken will be suitable for in-depth research with legal emphasis in a limited field of inquiry.
- Normally the supervisor should approve the topic and the outline or draft of the paper.
- Faculty members should make themselves available to meet with students to discuss the graded papers.
- At each stage of the supervision of major papers, both the supervising faculty member and the student should pay explicit attention to each of the criteria relevant to the evaluation of the paper.
- Copies of the major paper guidelines should be made available to students.
Download the School of Law Major Paper Guidelines [PDF - 199 kB]
Dalhousie University expects all students to be responsible learners.
All students must read the University policies and regulations on plagiarism and academic honesty. Learn more about Dal's regulations regarding plagarism from the University Secretariat's site on Academic Integrity.
The law school's policy on plagiarism
Any exam submitted by a student at the Schulich School of Law may be checked for originality to confirm that the student has not plagiarized from other sources. Plagiarism is considered a serious academic offence which may lead to loss of credit, suspension or expulsion from the law school, or even revocation of a degree. It is essential that there be correct attribution of authorities from which facts and opinions have been derived.
Prior to submitting any paper or other assignment, students should read and familiarize themselves with the policies referred to above and should consult with the instructor if they have any questions.
Ignorance of the policies on plagiarism will not excuse any violation of those policies.
Policy on late penalties
These rules apply to JD students.
In order to ensure that all students are treated equally and that no student is allowed to profit from taking extra time to complete an exam, paper or assignment, late penalties will be imposed for work that is not completed on time. The quantum of penalty imposed will vary depending on the amount of time allowed for the student to complete the assignment, the degree of lateness, and the existence of any mitigating circumstances. Students are responsible for ensuring their assignments are time stamped by the receptionist when they hand them in.
- The date for submission of major papers shall be announced orally and in writing by the instructor before the end of the course change period; the due date shall in no case be later than noon on the last regular day of exams.
- The date for submission of other papers and assignments shall be announced in class with appropriate notice; the due date shall in no case be later than noon on the last regular day of exams.
- The above stipulations apply equally in the case of optional course components, with the further proviso that the date for deciding whether to exercise the option shall be a time no later than the start of the final examination for that course. (In the event that the instructor sets an earlier date for deciding to exercise the option, it is within the instructor's discretion to allow a student who has opted to do a non-compulsory component to opt out of that component as long as the decision to opt out is made no later than the start of the final examination for that course.)
- At any time during the course, it is within the discretion of the instructor to grant a general extension for papers and/or assignments, with appropriate notice to the class, as long as the revised deadline does not
extend past noon on the last regular day of exams.
- Faculty members do not have the authority to grant individual requests for an extension. Any request for an extension or to have a late penalty waived or moderated must be made to the Studies Committee, chaired by the Associate Dean, Academic.
- Any request for an extension must be made as soon as the circumstances being relied upon arise, and in any event no later than the day on which the paper or assignment is due. Students must contact the Associate Dean, Academic, promptly, should they anticipate that they will not be able to meet a deadline and they plan to seek a waiver of penalty.
- Students should be aware that not all circumstances will be accepted as justifying an extension. Where the Studies Committee is satisfied that an acceptable medical or other justification exists, the Committee will waive the late penalty for the period of time that, in the opinion of the Committee, was reasonably lost due to the factors outlined by the student and supported by documentation. It should be noted that making a request for an extension does not operate as a stay of late penalties.
- Computer problems are not a justifiable excuse for lateness.
The current late penalties are as set out below.
The standard late penalty for a major paper is five points out of 100 per day of lateness or part thereof. Note that the penalty is out of 100. If the paper is worth less than 100 per cent of the grade in the course, the penalty should be adjusted accordingly. Thus, for a paper worth 75 per cent of the final grade, the late penalty would amount to 3.75 marks out of 75 per day of lateness. This calculation can be made either by marking the paper out of 100, subtracting the amount of the penalty and then converting the remaining number into a mark out of 75, or by calculating 75 per cent of the standard late penalty amount and applying it against the mark out of 75.
(Note that these examples apply to major papers)
- Paper worth 100 per cent of the course is two days late: late penalty of 10 marks for the paper and the course
- Paper worth 100 per cent of the course is five days late; late penalty of 25 marks for the paper and the course.
- Paper worth 60 per cent of the course is five days late; late penalty of 25 percent for the paper, which results in a deduction of 15 marks from the final grade in the course
- Paper worth 100 per cent of the course is nine days late; late penalty of 45 marks for the paper and the course.
- Paper worth 75 per cent of the course is nine days late; late penalty of 45 percent for the paper, which results in a deduction of 33.75 marks from the final grade in the course.
The major paper late penalty is calculated based on the assumption that all students were given the whole term in which to write the paper. In this context, lateness of a day or two is less significant. However, where an assignment is given with a shorter time frame for completion (such as, for example, two or three weeks), then a day or two of lateness is a much more significant extension of the time allowed for the work to be completed. The late penalty will therefore be more severe. As a benchmark, the late penalty for an assignment which students were given three weeks to complete, and which was late, would be 10 points out of 100 per day. Thus, an assignment worth 20 points would suffer a penalty of two marks per day. The penalties would be more severe for an assignment for which students were given less time to complete. As these penalties are more complex to calculate, it is suggested that faculty members either submit information regarding late assignments to Studies Committee for calculation of penalties, or request in advance a schedule of penalties to impose on the late submission of a particular assignment.
Take home exams:
Because take home exams are often written within a very limited time frame (such as 24 or 48 hours), a student who submits such an exam late may be gaining a very significant advantage over his or her classmates who submit their work on time. The penalties in these cases are generally calculated by the hour. For example, a 24 or 48 hour take home exam would be subject to late penalties of five points out of 100 per hour to a maximum of 50 points out of 100 for one day (based on 24 hours). This is a very significant penalty; however, given that a student who submits a take home exam 24 hours late has doubled the time that was available to other students to write the exam, it is felt that this penalty is appropriate. Again, as these penalties are more complex to calculate, it is suggested that faculty members either submit information regarding late take home exams to Studies Committee for calculation of penalties, or request in advance a schedule of penalties to impose on late take home exams.
Sometimes students continue to write after the allotted time for writing an exam is up. While this is more likely to happen where students are writing in separate rooms, there may be students who continue to write in main exam rooms even after they have been told time is up. A student can, in a few short minutes, jot down enough information in response to a question to earn several points. Accordingly, the Studies Committee will impose penalties on exams where the student has taken extra time. The penalty will be calculated based on all the circumstances and all such cases should be referred to Studies Committee. Where students who write with their classmates continue to write after time is up, the professor should isolate the problematic exam when collecting the exams, taking care not to look at the exam number. The isolated exam and all other exams should be presented to Tatiana Neklioudova or someone in the Office of the Associate Dean, Academic. This person will record the exam number and the circumstances and will forward the matter to the Studies Committee. The isolated exam can then be inserted into the pile of other exam booklets. The penalty will be recorded after the exam has been marked.
Policy on self-identification
Faculty Council has resolved that the following be adopted as a regulation and placed in the academic calendar as regulation G.3.1, following the existing regulation on Identification of examination booklets:
It is a serious matter for a student to attempt to circumvent the anonymity of the examination process by identifying themselves on a law school exam. An obvious case of self-identification is the placing of one’s name on the cover or on any other part of the exam booklet. Self-identification may take an indirect form as where a student informs a professor after the exam that he or she has written the exam in a particular distinctive ink colour. Where a professor believes that a student has self-identified, they should report the matter to the Associate Dean, Academic. The Associate Dean, Academic shall then refer the matter to the Studies Committee.
Gratuitous references in an exam answer to personal identifying information shall constitute self-identification within the meaning of this regulation. However, reliance on and reference to personal background or experience relevant to answering the question shall not constitute self-identification.
A student who is granted an accommodation by Studies Committee which results in an exam written at a time or in a format which might identify the student will not be found to have self-identified within the meaning of this policy.
Where the Studies Committee determines that a student has deliberately or carelessly identified him or herself on an exam, the committee will impose a five per cent penalty. The imposition of the penalty does not depend on a finding of intent to self identify. The fact of self-identification is sufficient to warrant the imposition of the penalty.
EFFECTIVE DATE: SEPTEMBER 1, 2001