Legal Writing Style For Dissertations

Legal writing is unique and unlike any other writing style you will have experienced. It is factual, straight to the point and omits any 'filling words' or 'waffle'.

Your work should explain the facts and reasoning of the cases or statutes you have found that relate to your study, clearly and concisely, and show how they interrelate and how they apply to the facts of the scenario.

You will compare the facts of previous cases to the facts of your scenario, looking for similarities and differences. You will apply general rules derived from those cases to your specific situation.

In legal writing, you always have to explain every step of this analysis, even when you are sure that the reader knows more about the law and facts than you do. The point of your assignments is not to remind your lecturer what he or she knows, but todemonstrate what you know.

Moreover, your lecturer is preparing you to practice law in the real world, so you cannot take any shortcuts.

Your supervisor in a law office may be a bright, experienced lawyer, who may not remember the client's situation and who is too busy to read the authority you find in your research. Your supervisor will rely on your thorough explanations of cases, statutes, and other authority in your memorandum.

If you are writing for a court, you cannot be sure that the judge will read the authorities you cite.

The judge may rely on a law clerk who has only recently graduated from law school. Your document must educate these readers about what law exists and how it applies to your situation.

A good analogy is to pretend that your reader is blindfolded and trying to walk up a staircase in your house. Given your sight and familiarity with the house, you could bound up the staircase three steps at a time. But the reader needs to move deliberately, step by step. Because you know the way, you must lead your reader, step by step. While your reader will be happy to arrive at the top, the journey — your analysis — will be more important than standing on the top step — arriving at your conclusion.

(Adapted from Source: Suzanne E. Rowe (2000) Legal Research, Writing and Analysis)