Writing a Law Essay
You may be required to write a law essay in some law school courses and during a college legal studies course. Writing this type of essay might be a tricky task to manage due to its constant development. To get a top grade, you have to do your best to make your law essay coherently argued and well-researched. Mind that a stellar legal essay can be written only with a proper research and planning.
Part 1. Choice of a Topic
- Before choosing your essay topic, be sure you've already thoroughly read the assignment prompt. You'll be given instructions on the contents of your paper and the way it should be formatted.
- You might be given flexibility to choose your own subtopic or asked to conduct research on a specific question. In case you are flexible with a choice of your topic, be ready to provide a written proposal or outline just to secure that your selected topic corresponds to the prompt. If you have any doubts that your topic fails to meet the requirements given in the prompt, then you need to ask your professor.
- You should read every required material. You might be said to write and surely to read at first about a certain set of materials or a book. Keep in mind to review your lecture notes and textbooks, read every assigned material before you start making your decision.
- You should brainstorm ideas. It depends only on you which method of brainstorming suits you the best. Whether it's an "idea map," a written list of ideas, or anything else. Your choice of a topic should be simpler than you might think at first, as you already have enough background knowledge thanks to your class discussions, lectures, and course reading.
- It should be a topic which you are interested in. Needless to say how easier your writing process might be when the topic you are working on interests and excites you. When you are curious and passionate about the topic, then you are motivated greatly to research the issue carefully and the best possible way.
- If it's possible, you can focus on the law that affects you. In case, your relatives are involved in agriculture, you might find water use regulations interesting.
Part 2. Researching
- Define what types of sources are required. Academic researchers distinguish "primary, secondary, and tertiary sources." Primary sources suggest being the firsthand accounts of the question at issue. Secondary sources are the ones that analyze primary sources. Tertiary sources in their turn give an overview of primary and secondary ones. In case you aren't allowed to cite Internet sources, mind that you are able to use online research for guidance on physical primary and secondary sources in a bookstore or local library.
- Tertiary sources are the ones to begin with. Dictionaries, guidebooks, encyclopedias, and textbooks that gather information from secondary and primary sources are included to tertiary sources. Keep in mind that usually tertiary sources shouldn't be cited in your essay, they are used to search for secondary and primary sources. Don't forget to look throughcitations, footnotes, and indexes in tertiary sources. These are very useful in searching for books, legal cases, and articles that are related to your topic. Write down the name of authors who may already do lots of works on your topic.
- Go to a law library and speak to a librarian. A law library has more specialized resources and with the help of a librarian, you'll be navigated through books of statutory law and federal and state case law reporters.
- Specialized search engines. Academic fields differ and the search engines they are using differ too.In the United States, Lexis Nexis are typically used by law students for court opinions, and Google Books or WorldCat for books.
- Collect sources and read them. The facts, arguments, and statistics of a great significance should be highlighted and written down. Thus, you'll have an opportunity to easily refer back to your sources as soon as you sit down to start your essay.
- Make an outline for every relevant source. Every helpful quote and the structure of the argument needs to be written. It will be of a great help later when you'll have to summarize or reference the source in your essay. In order to avoid inadvertent plagiarism, you shouldn't cut or paste from the web into your essay the same as your notes. As students tend to forget what a quotation is, mind to add quotation marks in your outline or paraphrase when collecting sources. Don't forget that plagiarism is a serious offense. You surely don't need an accusation of plagiarism as a future lawyer.
- Find the arguments on both sides of an issue. No matter what the legal issue is, you should look for rich counter-arguments on both sides as law is a political subject, mind that any law adopted by a democracy is the product of debate
Part 3. Creating the Essay
- Your thesis statement should be written. The argument you are creating is your thesis statement. Your thesis statement should be phrased as an argument, which tends to be followed by the word "because".
- Make an outline. Generally, it's the thesis statement which begins an outline, and then lists of arguments and counter-arguments are presented. A bulleted list of facts from your research that reinforces the argument should be included under each counter-argument and argument as well. Mind also that you should mention the source of each fact for use in your citations.
- Your introduction should be a broad one. An effective introduction which is a broad one will reveal your reader the world of your essay, so it should be the one that can take your readers out of their world. The great significance of the subject should be shown, also mind to briefly summarize the rest of your argument.Your introduction has to be clear enough so that your reader will be aware of the things you are going to discuss and the order you are going to do that. You will definitely need to revise your introduction a bit later. To summarize the essay after you've created is much easier for sure.
- Your arguments should be developed. When working on the arguments, keep in mind the following:
- Each argument of your essay is recommended to state as a statement that, if true, would reinforce your thesis statement.
- Don't forget about supporting information taken from secondary and primary sources that have to reinforce your arguments. Keep in mind that sources should be cited.
- You have to persuade your readers, make sure you've done your own proper original analysis, which is based on the secondary and primary sources you've provided.
- Set out counter-arguments. Any strong piece of writing tends to address opposing points of view. You have to paraphrase any counter-argument to an argument you propose exactly, and then with the help of analysis and evidence argue why your readers should be convinced not by the counter-argument but your argument.
- Draw up a conclusion. When working on this part of your essay mind that your conclusion needs to short summarize your argumentwithout repeating each individual point. Your conclusion should force the readers to rethink the subject and view it from a new perspective.
Part 4. Formatting Process
- Be sure your essay prompt is proper. When it comes to the final process, which is formatting your essay, your essay prompt needs to be reviewed. Ensure that your essay meets the requirements provided by your professor. Check your essay for the formatting instructions in order not tohave points deducted from your grade.
- Don't forget about the correct citation format. Remember that you should follow the format required by your professor.
- The layout should be checked. Your spacing, margins, page numbers, and font should be done according to the prompt. The body of your essay, as well as the footnotes, also should be checked. Look for a guideline for formatting your heading in case you are asked to write a heading.
- The length also should be checked. You may be required to have minimum and/or maximum limits on your number of pages or word count. Revise your work to comply with the prompts.