FROM A FORMER LAW LECTURER
To Help You Survive Law School
Writing a conclusion is perhaps the most tedious part of the law essay writing process. You have already put so much effort into researching the relevant cases and statute sections, writing up an introduction and doing the whole “evaluate and analyse” part in the main body of your essay. You’re probably desperate to just finish working on that essay and forget all about it. Yet, a good conclusion needs to be written or you risk getting a lower grade even if the rest of your essay is well-written. The tips below will help you get this task done and over with quickly and - most importantly - in a way that will help you produce a conclusion worthy of a first in law!
Writing a Conclusion for a Law Essay-Style Question
Essay-style questions are questions which require you to provide an opinion about a specific area of law, a case or a piece of legislation. They are the standard “Evaluate the extent to which…” and “Critically analyse the above quote…” types of questions.
When writing essays to answer those types of questions you are usually required to present an opinion. In other words, you have to argue something called your central argument. That’s the specific view about that area of law, case or piece of legislation which you are trying to prove throughout your essay.
The first task in your conclusion is for you to restate your central argument, i.e. to reiterate what was the key opinion you were arguing throughout your essay. It’s as simple as that. You should not be introducing any new information in your conclusion or including any quotes from academics which you find interesting. There is a place for that in the main body of your essay.
Once you restate your central argument, it is time to provide a few reasons why you argued that specific opinion. You will have already included plenty of those reasons in the main body of your essay. That’s where the magic happened and where you proved your point to the reader. They already know all that, so they don’t want to read through ALL OF IT again. They only want to get a flavour of the main arguments which you made.
In case you are struggling with figuring out which arguments are your main arguments, there is an easy rule of thumb you can follow. Your essay probably has around 3-5 headings. Depending on the length of your essay, you should write in this part of your conclusion between 1 and 3 sentences summarising each of the headings.
So, if your essay is pretty short - let’s say up to 1,500 words - and has three headings, you should include in your conclusion one sentence restating the central argument and one sentence summarising each heading in your essay. Simple, right? Now let’s look at how to write conclusions for problem-style questions.
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Writing a Conclusion for a Law Problem-Style Question
Problem-style questions are the questions which include a scenario describing a certain set of events. In most cases a scenario will mention between 3 and 5 legal issues that you will have to deal with. Sometimes those issues relate to one person and other times they relate to several different people. Because of that the main body of your essay is likely to have between 3 and 5 headings, each of which will address a different legal issue.
Now, the writing of a conclusion for a legal problem-style question is actually very simple. Unlike with an essay-style question, there usually isn’t one specific central argument that you are arguing throughout the essay, so you don’t need to restate it in the conclusion. What you should do instead in the first sentence of your conclusion is to acknowledge that the essay you just wrote dealt with legal issues related to a particular area of law. For example, you could say “The above sections of this essay evaluated whether…..”. It’s as simple as that.
The next step is equally straightforward. All you have to do is restate the conclusion you reached at the end of each section in the main body of your essay. What advice did you provide to the person about their legal issue? Are they likely to be convicted of a particular crime? Is it likely that there was a breach of contract? Is it likely that the person committed negligence?
Depending on the length of your essay, you should use between 1 and 3 sentences to summarise each heading. For example, with shorter essays of up to 1,500 words and approximately 3 headings, your conclusion is likely to have one general sentence referring to the legal issues analysed in the essay, and 3 short sentences - one for each heading. Easy, isn’t it?
Now get back to that essay of yours and get it finished off so you can relax!
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