After reading the first few sentences of a law essay, most markers will start to formulate an idea of the mark range. If they start with a Credit, Pass or Fail mark in mind, it becomes incredibly difficult for the paragraphs that follow to bring the paper back up into the higher mark brackets. Impress your marker from the get-go by following these tips…
1. Provide context
You may be keen to begin outlining your points in the first sentence of your essay, but it’s good practice to open your paper with one to three sentences of background information that provides context for the argument that follows. For example:
In 2009, the […..] Act was introduced to remedy problems of […..] However, from its inception it has been criticised for [.....].
2. Refer to the question
It’s good to have some brief background information in your introduction, but this is worthless if it is not related back to the question. Make sure you clearly refer to the question in your introduction by using its key terms throughout. For example, if the question is: “What has been the impact of the […] amendments?” you could refer to the question in the following way:
This essay will examine recent amendments to the [.....] Act and explore their effect upon […..].
3. Be specific
Be specific about where your essay will go. Which reforms or mechanisms will you focus on? Which one(s) will you avoid? Why? Will you draw on any comparative jurisdictions? Theories?
This essay will examine the effectiveness of civil litigation rules in relation to Summary Judgments only. Summary judgments have been chosen as the key area of inquiry because they are the major mechanism a judge can use to filter out cases that should not go to trial. This essay will draw upon the American experience to suggest that a higher threshold test is preferable to NSW’s current standard…
4. Provide a roadmap
After you outline the scope of your argument, you should provide a brief outline of your essay’s structure to assist the reader:
In section I, this essay will outline the key recommendations of the […..] Report. Section II will examine the implementation of these recommendations in the current [……] Amendment Act. In section III, the effectiveness of this amending instrument will be critiqued, before possibilities for reform outlined in Section IV.
5. Finish with your conclusion(s)
Students are often quite shy about putting their conclusion(s) into their introduction, but this comes across as polished and professional:
This essay will ultimately conclude that the threshold test for obtaining a default judgment is inappropriate and unfair, and should be raised to reflect the standard in [jurisdiction].
Marie Hadley is a lawyer, PhD candidate at UNSW, and tutor who loves teaching legal writing and problem solving skills.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: This story was first published on Survive Law on 22 August 2013.
Enjoyed this post? Sign up for the Survive Law weekly newsletter for more.