Law Essays require a certain style and format if they are to be written effectively.
As with most essays, it is critical to read and understand the question and be clear what you have been asked. This may sound obvious but all too often essays are given low marks because the question is not actually answered.
Identify Subject Matter
The first thing is to clarify the subject matter so that you identify the area of law that is being addressed. Sometimes this will be obvious as when the question asks about the differences between an offer and an invitation to treat
which will direct you towards the law of Contract.
However, sometimes the question is more obscure and this requires more effort in determining what the subject matter is and might involve looking at more than one area of the law. If a question asks about the terror laws, then this may well span human rights and constitutional law too.
Identify the Approach
This is absolutely vital when answering a question. Often the essay will ask you to evaluate something; reflect on something; write a critique; discuss a particular statement; reflect on a judge's particular statement in a case, or discuss the impact of a case on an area of law. If a question asks you to compare more than one thing, then you must identify the similarities and differences between them, and ideally reach a conclusion as to which one you think is preferable. If a question asks you to discuss something then you must study and comment on it from all viewpoints, and reach your own conclusion.
Prepare the Structure
The structure of the essay is extremely important. If an essay exceeds 10,000 words, a contents page and chapter headings should be included and, even in shorter essays, it might be appropriate to set out chapter headings. Chapters are relevant where the answer straddles a wide area of law and addresses several areas. Chapters help focus both the writer and the reader on what is being discussed and maintain focus. One major criticism of law essays is that they drift from the main topic and angle that they are meant to address, and the thread and point are lost. Another criticism is that the writer tends to just list the legislation and discuss the topic without containing any incisive opinions of the writer. An introduction and conclusion should be included.
Make sure that your sources are current; this is vital because quite often questions are written which are impacted by recent changes or even proposed changes in the law. So a question on Control Orders should be looked at in the light of the proposed increase in detention periods and the impact on human rights.
The correct referencing should be used consistently throughout. It is vital to give credit when quoting someone else, otherwise the essay may be plagiarised. It is never acceptable to cut and paste from the internet. Neither should you copy directly from a book unless you give the appropriate credit. Copying huge sections, even if credit is given, will not be looked upon favourably. The examiner will be looking for the writer's comments and own views and opinions, based on a sound interpretation of the law and thorough research. The examiner will be looking to see that the writer has researched several resources. References to case law must be relevant and illustrative. Remember to include a full bibliography.