Writing first class law essays can be a tall order, especially for those new to studying law. In this article, a law tutor gives his tips for writing a high-scoring essay, whatever the question.
Answer the Question
The most important tip, which any of your law tutors will tell you, is to answer the question. This advice seems obvious, but in fact answering the question presented a nuanced exercise. For example, if the question asks you to ‘compare’ two things, and you do not make that comparison the bulk of your answer, you risk losing marks. Similarly, an essay might give you a statement, and ask you to discuss it. For example, if your essay title was: “In the interests of business efficacy, the requirement of consideration in the English law of contract should be abandoned”, you would have multiple parts to answer. Yes, the main thrust is whether consideration should be abandoned, but you must also answer the ‘business efficacy’ part of the question. It may very well be the case, for example, that it is not business efficacy, but legal taxonomy that demands the abolition of consideration. Furthermore, business efficacy will need to be defined. Does it mean that business strives for legal certainty, or that the law will match day-to-day business needs? If the law is a means to and end for businesses, what is that end? Once through preliminary questions are answered, you can be certain that you will be answering the question asked of you, and therefore on your way to high marks.
The second tip, which will help you answer the question, is to structure your answer. There is no limit to how structured your answer should be, and almost no essay that is ‘too structured’. Do not be afraid to use headings and sub-headings, because this will direct the reader. To use the above question as our example, you might wish to structure your essay as follows:
– What is business efficacy?
– What is causation
– Does business efficacy demand the abolition of causation?
This structure is basic, but already gives the reader a better idea of where the essay is going than if it was in unbroken prose, which relies on your writing style and the reader’s keen mind to find the structure hidden in the words. Far better, when writing an essay that will be marked by someone who must mark a number of other essays, to be explicit about your structure.