Legal Studies: Essay Guide

Legal Studies Essay Guide Due to the interest in my Modern History essay guide, I have decided to come up with one for Legal Studies. Most people will notice that it is similar to my modern one – that is because essays for both of these subjects are similar in style and approach. In this example, I will use the practice question “How effective is the law in responding to problems in family relationships” General points Never EVER write in first person – this is the cardinal sin of legal essay writing. Markers hate this and you will lose marks if you use first person. Also, always use formal language and avoid colloquialisms and clich?©s.

Whilst most people know this, some colloquialisms are difficult to pick up on. For example, the word “things” as in “Hence, these things demonstrate that…. ” is an example of colloquial language. Pay careful attention to your grammar. Although it isn’t marked directly, good grammar adds to the clarity and readability of your response. Poor grammar on the other hand can prevent you from effectively conveying your ideas to the marker. If your response hasn’t been effectively communicated, then you will lose marks. Don’t make your arguments emotional or personal. HSC markers have no emotions – they will not respond to bleeding heart essays.

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They respond to logical analysis supported by fact and legislation/cases/media reports (LCMR). The holy grail of essay writing is balancing clarity and simplicity with a sophisticated argument. An argument which has great depth and complexity is much easier to understand if you write it clearly and in a well organised and structured manner. You don’t want the marker to have to read over your paragraphs a few times because your argument isn’t clear. Time management You should be aiming to write approximately 1 ,OOO words (roughly 8 pages) for the options essays and about 600 words for the Crime response.

These numbers aren’t absolute, but rather a ballpark figure. I would say that 750 words and 350 words are the respective limits for both these responses. Any shorter then this and the lack of quantity will reduce the quality of your response. Don’t spend all your time on one section of the paper whilst neglecting the others. Some students devote all their time to one essay and not enough on the other. It is better to get 20/25 in all sections then to get 25/25 on one section and only 10/25 for the other. Also remember, it is easier to improve an essay from 10/25 to 20/25 then it to go from 20/25 to 25/25.

Time management is essential with the Legal exam. You are required to write around 2,600 words in three hours plus answer a small series of multiple choice and short answer questions. You need to ensure that you are not spending too much time on any one section. Answering the question The most common mistake which legal students make when writing essays is that they don’t answer the question. When writing essays, many people merely give a description of how the legal system operates as opposed to critically evaluating it.

By providing a description, you are unlikely to get above a band 4 as you are not answering the question. To quote from the 2011 Notes from the Legal marking centre “In weaker responses, candidates tended to make general statements and were very descriptive rather than analytical. ” In a Legal essay (and all essays for that matter) there isn’t a right or wrong argument. A marker cannot deduct marks from you because they disagree with your argument. What they are looking for is whether you develop a sustained and logical argument, supported by factual evidence and LCMRs.

At uni, I wrote an essay for criminal law and the marker dedicated a whole page in his comments to saying how much he disagreed with my argument. However, when giving me my marks he stated “Even though I vehemently disagree with your thesis, this is irrelevant for the purpose of determining your marks” Another important point is that you should NEVER take a pre-prepared or memorised essay into the exam. Unlike English or SOR, it’s near impossible to mold your essay to the exam question (unless the topics are very similar, which is unlikely).

Even if your pre-prepared response is from the same syllabus point as a question on the exam, it will still be difficult to mold your response unless the questions are asking you to do virtually the same thing. To quote from the 2009 Comments from the Legal Marking centre “Some candidates presented what seemed to be prepared responses that did not answer the question. Stronger responses referred directly to the question, quickly engaged with the complexities of the law and did not waste time with simplistic definitions. Structure With legal and all essays in general, structure is extremely important. However, most students don’t use it at all. An essay witn strong analysis and tactual evidence will struggle to get a band 5 if it is poorly structured. Generally speaking, an essay should be structured like this: Introduction: You state what position you are taking in relation to the question (otherwise known as your thesis statement). For example “The legal system is highly effective at responding to problems within family relationships” You also must state the reasons/points for your position.

These points will form the basis for each section in the body of the essay. For example “The effectiveness of the law can clearly be seen in relation to its handling of familial problems such as divorce, domestic violence and child abuse” In a legal essay on the HSC, you should aim to have around 3 to 4 points/reasons (5 is xcessive, however if you can get enough detail in then it will probably benefit you). Body: In the body, you discuss in detail the reasons/points which support your argument. You devote each section (usually a single paragraph) of the body to dealing with ONE point/reason.

For example, in the practice essay, you would dedicate one paragraph to divorce, domestic violence and child abuse. One common method of structuring internal paragraphs is to use the PEEL method: Point – This is your topic sentence. A topic sentence goes at the beginning of each paragraph when you are introducing a new point/reason. It should give the marker a review of what you are going to discuss in that paragraph. Explain and Elaborate – Explain your point with fact, elaborate on your facts to form an analysis Example – Provide an example to support your explanation and elaboration.

Usually in Legal, this is where you use LCMR Link – This is the linking sentence. Linking sentences go at the end ofa paragraph where you are concluding a point/reason. They need to link your ideas in a paragraph back to the question. PEEL isn’t an absolute method of writing internal body paragraphs. However, it can help people who are struggling with writing internal paragraphs or those who tend to escribe as opposed to analyse. It’s important to note that topic and linking sentences should almost ALWAYS be used when writing paragraphs.

They are needed to put what you’re saying into perspective and give the marker a clear idea of where you are going with your response. Conclusion: In the conclusion, you sum up your argument. You restate your thesis and your points/reasons in order to show the marker that you have proved your argument. Legislation/Cases/Media reports (LCMR) LCRM is an important aspect of any legal response. However, whilst many people incorporate them into their responses, they often fail to use them properly. LCMR’s should primarily be used to provide SUPPORT for your analysis.

Legislation and cases specifically can also be used to demonstrate a point of law (i. e. the case Williams v R (1986) states that a person cannot be arrested solely for the purposes of investigation). When using LCMR, you need to clearly explain how they support your argument, as opposed to merely listing them (unless they are being used to demonstrate a point of law as above). Throwing LCMR into your essay won’t gain you any marks. Furthermore, if you only describe LCMRs related to the question you will fail to score eyond a band 4, because you aren’t providing the markers with your own analysis.

To quote again from the 2009 Notes from the legal marking centre “The better responses from both questions referred to a range of recent cases and reflected sound planning of their response rather than simply providing a description of various issues, examples, sources, acts and cases. ” To sum up, with LCMR, it’s all about how you use them to support your answer, not how many you can fit into the essay. In other words QUALITY NOT QUANTITY Crime response Essentially, the crime response is a smaller version of the options essays. It should take roughly the same form (i. . Introduction, Body and conclusion). The Board of Studies recommends that this section be approximately 600 words (4 pages) in length. The main point of difference between the options essays and the crime response is obviously the level of detail. In the crime response, you need to be very “to the point” and get to your answer quickly, in contrast to the options essays where you can analyse in more depth. However, the crime response usually has a more narrow scope then the options essays, which means that you can afford to be more “to the point” in crime.

Again to quote from the 2011 Notes from the Legal marking centre “Candidates were able to access full marks within this four-page length. Candidates who wrote long responses ran the risk ot lacking tocus and not presenting a sustained, logical and response as required by the rubric. ” Questions cohesive If anyone has any questions about this guide, legal essay writing or the subject in general, please feel free to send me a PM or make a post in this thread (I’ll try to check it regularly). Also, if anyone thinks that I’ve missed anything or wants to add something, feel free to post your suggestions.


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