Structure of Law Essays and Law Reports
Unless you are told otherwise, the very minimum requirements of a law essay or problem question are an introduction, a body and a conclusion.
- Introduction: As a very rough guide, for essay style questions, the introduction will represent about 10% of your word count, outlining perhaps a brief interpretation of the question and what you intend to cover in the essay. For problem questions, the introduction will be fairly short and simple, outlining for example the areas of law and main statutes/cases that the question is concerned with.
- Body:The body of your answer, accounting for the majority of the word count, should demonstrate your understanding of the area and develop your argument. It is a good idea here to keep referring explicitly to the question asked.
- Conclusion: The conclusion for essay style questions will represent about 10 - 15% of your word count. This must summarise your main findings and points, and usually will reach a conclusion and answer the question set, which must be consistent with your findings and arguments in the body of the essay. You should never introduce new points or material in the conclusion. For problem questions, the length of your conclusion will depend on how you have approached the question. If you have reached conclusions in the body of your answer, there is little point repeating them here and you may just end up summarising your findings, e.g. "in conclusion, Jessie has a binding contract with Eve and will be bound by its terms, as agreed between the parties on the 18th of June" etc.
You may be asked to write a report about a specific area of law. A report will be a neutral presentation, often dealing with the current law, proposals for change and whether those proposals have been approved by leading bodies and interested parties. A report will also often consider alternatives to proposed change. A good structure for a law report would be as follows:
- Title Page: showing the title of the report, the author, the person for whom the report is prepared, and the date of completion
- Summary/Synopsis/Executive Summary: (approx 10% of word count) - this will identify: The purpose of the report, The scope of the report - issues covered/not covered, The important results and findings, The conclusions and recommendations, Acknowledgement of any assistance in researching and compiling the report'
- Table of contents: not including the title and contents page!
- Body of report: this will include: Introduction - what is the report about, Discussion - divided into sections and sub sections, presented clearly and confined to fact rather than analysis/opinion.
- Conclusion: this should: Relate back to the findings in the body of the report, Include a clear summary of the main points, Outline the findings of the research. There should be nothing in the conclusion that has not already been mentioned in the body of the report.
- Recommendations - these should:
- Emerge from the conclusions
- Suggest what is to be done, who is to do it and how/when it is to be done
- Be justified based on findings, not just the opinion of the writer
- Bibliography Appendix/Appendices: containing supplementary material too detailed for the main body of the report, such as tables, charts, statistics, questionnaires etc
(Adapted from Source: NCI Learning Centre: Study Skills/Writing Skills/Writing Reports)