The Structure of Law Essays

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I can help you get first class marks. I can show you simple ways of becoming an amazing legal author. In this document I will provide you with some key tips on writing introductions. I will help you understand why those tips are important. And I will provide you with examples to help you use those tips. If you read this document and practise writing introductions – you will be a better writer and you will get better marks. See what I did there? See how I tried to capture your attention and get you to read on? See how you understand what to expect of this document? That’s the whole point of an introduction. Think of any great book that you have read or any great film that you have watched. The first few paragraphs or scenes are designed to grab you, to make you want more. There’s fundamentally nothing different with an introduction to a law essay (save that, if you write a bad introduction, your tutors have no choice over whether or not they carry on reading...) So, some top tips for writing introductions:

1. Have an introduction. It is amazing the number of students who start writing the answer to the essay question without an introduction. Let me be clear. Not writing an introduction will mean you losing serious marks. The answer lies in good preparation. Think back to any exam in which you had to write an essay. Did you see anyone pick up the paper, read the question and immediately begin writing? These are the people you should be worried about. The best students read a question and take some time to think about and prepare their answers. They don’t start furiously scribbling. By taking some time out for prep, you will be able to really understand the question and what it is asking of you and, as a consequence, you will be able to demonstrate to the reader your mastery of the question in the introduction to the essay. Of course, this is much easier in non-exam based essays (where you can, and should, go back and edit your introduction after you have written the entire essay). 2. Think of context and opening lines. Essay questions in law tend to be on one big topic, from which you are asked to discuss/analyse/critically evaluate/review (etc) one small part. While your answer will have to focus on the sub-topic, you can grab the reader’s attention by giving context to the wider topic, by showing why what you are talking about is interesting/important/significant. Let me give you two examples: one from Company Law; and one from Environmental Law.

Example 1 - Company Law
Question: The derivative claim in s260ff of the Companies Act 2006 is ineffective and in need of reform. Discuss. Opening Line: “Remedies granted to shareholders to challenge corporate decision making are a means of calling company directors to account, particularly in situations where ownership and control of large corporations are disparate. The derivative claim, in s260ff of the Companies Act 2006...” [Here, the question asks you about derivative claims, but if you study company law, you will know that these are but one of three main mechanisms by which shareholders can challenge decisions made by company directors. This opening line shows that (a) you know where the question fits in to the topics you have studied and (b) you are aware of context (that is, what the topic is ‘about’)]

Example 2 – Environmental Law
Question: “Critically evaluate the ‘information as regulation’ aspects of REACH” Opening line: “Chemicals regulation in the EU attempts to reconcile promotion of innovation in a fundamentally key industry sector with the protection of human health and the environment. REACH, the EU’s primary vehicle for chemicals regulation, contains...” [As with the Company Law example, here you are showing that you understand the wider context and that you understand why the question, and the larger topic, are so challenging.] 3. Have a clear line of argument. The reader needs to know, in broad terms, what you are going to say to know whether it...
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