FROM A FORMER LAW LECTURER
To Help You Survive Law School
Many students who fail to get a first in their law essays make the same mistake - they don’t apply the legal academic writing style. As a result, their essays tend to look unprofessional and not really academic. If you want to learn how to avoid that mistake, check out this advice on what is the legal writing style, how to use it in your law essays and why it is important to do it.
What is the legal writing style
The legal writing style is the way of writing typically used by LLB, LLM & PhD law students as well as legal academics in journal articles. Although there is no single, comprehensive guide to the legal writing style, anyone can learn it by observing how journal articles and first class essays in law are written.
Although every single academic adapts the legal writing style in a way which matches their own individual style of writing, there are still certain standard patterns of writing which can be spotted in all journal articles and first class law essays. Those are the patterns you should be looking out for when trying to master the legal writing style.
The legal writing style consists of a variety of sentence structures and phrases. Some of them are specific to a particular area of law. For example, the phrase “parliamentary supremacy” is used mostly in articles about public and constitutional law. Others can be applied to an essay or a journal article on any area of law. For instance, the following sentence structure is a great way to introduce the central argument on any topic: “This essay will evaluate whether the law on [.....]”.
In general, the legal writing style can be learned by studying 20-30 journal articles and first class law essays. If you want to create your own guide to the legal writing style, simply read through several selected journal articles and highlight similar sentence structures which show up in all of them. You can categorise those sentence structures into those which show up in the introduction, the main body and the conclusion of the articles.
Note: if you’d rather follow a pre-prepared guide to the legal writing style, check out the 1st Class Law Essay Writing Course which contains several video lectures on this topic.
How to use the legal writing style in law essays
With practice the use of the legal writing style will eventually become your second nature. The correct phrases and sentence structures will come to you on their own as you will sit down to write your law papers. But at the beginning of your journey with legal academic writing you might have to use different tricks to teach yourself how to use this style.
The best way to learn how to use the legal writing style in your essays after you have identified the right sentence structures and keywords is by working with an essay outline. In other words, you should come up with a list of bullet points with cases, statute sections and key arguments that you will include in the introduction, conclusion and the main body of your paper.
Once you do this, you should pick several sentence structures from the legal writing style and copy them into the plan under the heading which is most suitable for the (i.e. introduction, main body or conclusion). This will help you to remember that you should use those sentence structures when writing the corresponding parts of the essay.
Note: for specific examples of how to use the legal writing style in your law essays check out the 1st Class Law Essay Writing Course.
Why is it important to use the legal writing style
The main purpose of law school is to help you develop skills which will enable you to write more complex pieces of legal academic writing, such as LLM and PhD theses or journal articles. For that reason, when marking your assignments your lecturers pay special attention to the way in which you have applied the legal writing style.
At most universities there is even a special part of the grading rubric for law assignments which requires the lecturer to grade the “style” of your essay. This means that around 10% of your assignment mark depends solely on how well you have applied the legal writing style.
If you do a very good job with using the legal writing style in your essays, this can be the difference between a grade of 60% and 70%. What’s even better is that once you learn how to apply this style well, you can use it in all of your assignments and improve all of your grades by up to 10%. So learning how to apply the legal writing style correctly is a great investment for your whole degree.
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