FROM A FORMER LAW LECTURER
To Help You Survive Law School
The main objective behind studying law isn't just to memorize legal doctrines literally, you also need to be able to critically evaluate and analyse your law essays. Many students struggle to perform critical analysis and evaluation because they make certain mistakes that lead them to an incorrect outcome. It is crucial for law students to learn the skill of correct, thorough, and precise critical evaluation and analysis so they are in a position to do well in their exams.
Apart from that, if you are good at performing analysis and assessment of legal documents, you are more likely to become a good lawyer. Once you have graduated from your law school, you will soon realise that most of the law practice is based on your interpretation and analysis. That's why these skills also prepare you for the real world. If you cannot perform a critical analysis of documents and events in the context of law, you will struggle during your law practice as well. That’s why I have prepared a list of three major mistakes that law students make when they critically evaluate their law essays.
Mistake 1: Your essay only explains what the cases or statute sections are about
As a law student, you must know that laws are introduced based on certain cases or statute sections. While it is essential to have that knowledge, you cannot just take the convenient path and regurgitate the underlying law. What you need to do is to critically evaluate and analyse those cases and statute sections to develop a thorough understanding related to why they were introduced and what could've been some possible alternatives.
Instead of just accepting what's in front of you, you need to perform a critical analysis so you are in a position to defend the law. You will find many instances where the law is inadequate and has weaknesses. You can propose in your law essay how that particular law can be improved on. Everything said and done, the idea is to brainstorm and think critically about the laws that you are studying instead of just accepting them as they are. This won't only help you in terms of doing well in your exams, but it will also prepare you to practice law in the real world.
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Mistake 2: You don’t answer the right questions
In order to critically evaluate a law essay, you need to go beyond asking the basic questions. Just answering with the specific law on a certain issue isn't enough to make you a good lawyer. You need to build the ability to think for yourself and have an opinion on every case and statute, which you can defend with solid arguments. You need to develop a thorough understanding of the law in terms of its value, contextual history, and current relevance. The following are a few questions and aspects that you need to cover when critically evaluating in your law essays:
Mistake 3: Your essay includes the wrong type of evaluation
Many essays discuss the law critically, but they do it in the wrong way. On many occasions, students evaluate their law essay critically, but they go down the wrong path by answering questions that don't need to be answered. That's why it is critical that you know what questions need to be answered and what's the central argument in your essay. In order to do this right, you need to read the topic of your essay carefully and thoroughly so you know that you are answering the right question. Once you understand the question that you need to answer, ask yourself that question in relation to every single case and statute section you are going to talk about in your essay. This will help you produce a more critical essay, as you will be studying and thinking about the law from different perspectives instead of just a single one.
When students think about the critical evaluation of a law essay, they get intimidated by the sound of the task at hand. They believe they are not ready and prepared enough to critically evaluate their essays, which leads to a poor quality essays. That being said, if you follow the recommendations given above, you will be able to carry out critical analysis of your law essays without much difficulty.