At some point in law school, you professor may decide to assign you the task of writing a law essay addressing a legal topic. This kind of essay may be tricky because the law is always evolving. For you to come up with a winning paper, you must be ready to conduct thorough research and come up with a very compelling argument.
Law School Essay Tips
1. Choose a Topic
Your professor may assign you a specific topic to work on or give you the option of choosing your specific topic. This will be specified in the instructions you will be provided with, the format of the paper and any additional instructions should also be included. It is prudent to choose a topic that you are passionate about or one which affects you in some way; this acts as a driving force so that you don’t get bored while in the middle of it. You should, however, be cautious when choosing a topic and ensure that it meets the instructions for writing the paper. If you are not sure about the topic, consult with your professor.
Check whether the instructions are specific about the sources that you should use when writing your essay, that is, whether there are specific books that you should use or any part of your lecture notes that you should refer to.
Once you have the topic, you should put it to the test by brainstorming ideas and coming up with an “idea map” of how your essay will be structured. Write your topic at the top of a page and try coming up with new questions on the topic, facts or arguments based off of the topic. Go through your class lectures and group discussion notes to check whether they have enough background material to help you select a topic. You may find that your “idea map” helps you come up with a better and more solid topic compared to the one you had since you have a clear map of which questions your essay should address.
2. Research the Topic
The sources you need to research your essay could be stated in the set of instructions provided. Be sure to check that before you begin this step. If they are not stated, you should determine the materials that you need for the research.
There are three varieties of sources; primary, secondary and tertiary.
Primary sources include actual versions of the subject matter. Secondary sources evaluate primary sources. Tertiary sources collect information from primary and secondary sources. You may find that you are limited to the number of sources you can use, for example, you could be asked to use both primary and secondary and find that you are prohibited from using tertiary sources.
You may also be limited or restricted from using internet sources. This, however, does not mean that you cannot use them to guide you to the primary or secondary sources at your local library.
Always begin with tertiary sources. As stated earlier, they gather information from textbooks, encyclopedias, and dictionaries, among others. These sources should be enough to provide you with the information you need and provide references. Tertiary sources should however not be cited in your essay; they should act as a guide to find the primary or secondary sources used.
If possible, visit a law library which will have a wider range of resources. The librarian can help you get access to the books that you need and any other materials like subscription-only search engines.
Once you are convinced that you have gathered all the materials that you need to conduct your research, you can comfortably sit down and begin. Ensure that you note down all the important facts, statistics and arguments that will help you build on your essay and that you cite them accordingly.
3. Create an outline
Using the points that you have gathered, you can now come up with an outline for your law essay. Make a note of the main points in your essay and highlight them while including the sources where necessary. For each source, note down the information that you find useful and include citations to refer to later on. Note down the arguments and evidence that you find helpful. Include arguments and counter-arguments and write down evidence to support the argument. Once you’ve listed everything down, you can play around with the points to determine which ones will form the introduction, body, and conclusion of the essay.
4. Write the Thesis Statement
The thesis statement is the argument you’re making. It is a summary of the issue that you are going to be addressing in your whole essay. All arguments that you will include in your essay should strive to answer the thesis statement. Take a look at your outline and determine which argument your outline portrays.
5. Begin the Writing Process
Having come up with a thesis statement and armed with your outline, then this current step should be much easy. Follow your outline to help you navigate through the writing phase. Your introduction should be captivating and pique the reader’s interest. The introduction explains the importance of the subject and offers a summary of the argument. It gives the reader an idea of what you will be discussing. Your thesis statement should be written at the end of the introductory paragraph and should narrow down the question you will be answering.
Your argument should be developed in the body of the essay. State your points and include the applicable sources to support the argument, remember to include citations. A good essay addresses the opposing points of view and uses evidence and argument to persuade the reader to accept your argument and disregard the counter-argument. Your essay should show that you have a clear and deep understanding of the issues you are addressing. It should show a natural and systematic flow which develops and builds as it progresses. Along with the evidence and arguments you have provided, you should be able to clearly and effectively state your opinion. You should challenge ideas and criticize them. Your opinion matters and could earn you a lot of marks if it is sensibly executed even if your professor does not agree with it.
Your conclusion should summarize the whole essay without restating every single point. You should restate your thesis statement in the last paragraph.
Go through your essay once you are done and confirm that everything is correctly written. Check whether the tenses are in the correct form and that the sources are correctly cited. This is crucial and should be properly checked; the wrong citations could cost you marks. Plagiarism is a serious offense with severe consequences; it is crucial to confirm that you have cited everything correctly to avoid penalties. Read the instructions and make sure that you have adhered to them. Read your thesis statement and confirm that your essay fully answers and addresses it. If necessary, get someone to go through the essay and correct you where they find mistakes. If you are content with what you have written as the final draft, you can go ahead and submit the essay.
Just a recap:
1. Choose a topic
2. Research the topic
3. Create an outline
4. Write the thesis statement
5. Write the essay
6. Edit the essay