FROM A FORMER LAW LECTURER
To Help You Survive Law School
Writing long-form academic law essays is an essential part of getting your law degree. In order to do it successfully, you need not only the right information but also the ability to turn your ideas and concepts into written expression. A law essay introduction is one of the most crucial parts of the essay as it outlines the topic and sets the tone for the rest of the content. If you fail to set the tone of your essay properly, it doesn’t only become more difficult for the reader to understand you, but also your essay might turn out to be poorly written with less-than-ideal structuring.
While writing isn’t everyone’s strength, law students mainly struggle with writing law essays because there is little to no guidance available that clearly explains the process of writing a law essay along with its introduction. Textbooks hardly ever discuss the details of the law essay writing process and lecturers are more focused on teaching their subject than guiding students on how to write a law essay. This is why I have prepared this quick guide that will help you write an engaging and eloquent law essay introduction.
Describe the background of your essay
When talking about law essay writing, you have to keep in mind the primary purpose of writing an essay. It is an informational tool that explores the main topic from one or more perspectives so readers can develop a better understanding of the topic. To accomplish that purpose, you need to include a background summary of the topic which will usually be the definition of the key concept you are writing about or a brief explanation of the topic or the essay question itself. Without any proper background introduction, your essay will have an abrupt start and you'll confuse the readers from the start, because they will not be sure what to expect from your essay. Having background information helps readers to develop a perspective and understand your thought process. It also makes it easier for them to grasp the concept.
TIP: Need more advice on how to write law essay introductions, including plenty of examples? Check out the 1st Class Law Essay Writing Course!
Introduce the debate
Once you have provided the background of your essay, it is time to delve into the specifics by introducing your readers to the main debate. A law essay generally requires you to select a controversial or polarising issue and then present evidence and arguments for both sides of the debate. That’s why in the introduction of your essay you should include evidence of previous academic debates that's relevant to the specific topic of your essay. You have to keep in mind that plagiarism isn't tolerated in any law school, so you'll have to paraphrase opposing arguments instead of just copying and pasting them and also provide an appropriate OSCOLA-compliant reference.
Moreover, instead of relying on a single source of information, try to diversify your sources. The more sources you include in your essay introduction the better (of course, within reason!). The number of sources which you will be including in this part of your introduction largely depends on the overall length of your essay. Shorter essays of 1,000 words or so will be fine with just two sources, but longer essays would definitely benefit from a few more. Having said that, the credibility of the sources also matters a lot, which means that while the number of sources is important, you must choose quality over quantity. The opposing arguments should come from at least two different journal articles. Having multiple sources broadens your perspective about the issue and lends your law essay introduction more credibility.
Present the central argument
One of the most important aspects of your law essay that needs to be included in the introduction is the central argument, that is the point you will be trying to prove in your essay. Relying on simple vocabulary and phrasing, explain the central argument that you will be attempting to prove throughout your essay. Your central argument is typically a part of or a rephrasing of your essay question, but with a specific focus on the main gist of it. If there are more than one aspects to your central argument, it is better to break them down into sub-arguments, so that your introduction becomes easier for the reader to follow.
This step is crucial in writing a law essay introduction because it defines the primary objective of the essay. Without any central argument, you will just be throwing a lot of information at the reader without any end goal. That's why it is important that you clearly highlight the central argument and its components, so that the reader can anticipate where you are coming from and where you're about to go. Keep this section of the law essay introduction brief and simple, so that your reader can understand it even if they don’t have any prior knowledge of the topic you are writing about.
Conclude with an outline
After you have gone through the aforementioned phases, the final step of writing a law essay introduction is to come up with the structure of your essay. Don't forget that the outline of your essay isn't just a table of contents, but it should also have a logical and rational flow. In your outline, you should basically list all the headings of your essay in the order in which they will be appearing in your essay. This will help the reader understand how you will structure your arguments throughout the essay just by reading your introduction.
Make sure that every heading is in the right place and is followed by another heading that connects it to the previous one. This will enable you to develop an organised structure and it will become much easier for the reader to follow your train of thought. If your law essay is a dissertation, you also need to include a brief explanation of what each chapter is about along with the names of the chapters. This isn't just for your reader's convenience, as having a structured outline will also help you to organise your thought process and build a logical flow. When you can connect the dots in your head, you will find it much easier to write as ideas will continue to unravel.
Starting is usually the most challenging part of writing a law essay as it can set the tone for the rest of the content. Since there are very few resources available to law students that provide adequate guidance in terms of how to write a law essay introduction, students often have to learn it by themselves. Luckily for you, if you just follow the step-by-step process described in this article, you can easily learn how to write good law essay introductions. Remember that a great essay introduction will not only help your readers to understand your ideas, arguments, and thoughts, but that it will also build a robust foundation you can use to complete your essay.