What 'they' are looking for in your law essay
What is required will depend on the law assignment set and the university you attend. In most cases, your lecturer will assess your work for its content, presentation and quality of analysis.
Law essay Content
Your assignment should demonstrate accurate knowledge of the area under question. It is an opportunity for you to show your understanding of the key concepts, legal debates and legal authority surrounding a specific issue or series of issues. The content must be relevant to the precise question asked, and referring explicitly to the question throughout the assignment will help you stay focused.
Your assignment should show evidence of careful planning. You should present your legal concepts, ideas and arguments clearly, concisely and precisely, and ensure they are backed by legal authority or other appropriate evidence. Terms should be used carefully and the meanings they are being given should be defined explicitly where necessary (and you also need to define any acronyms or abbreviations where they are first used, e.g. "...as defined by the Human Rights Act 1998 ("HRA1998")". Your grammar, spelling and punctuation should be accurate and your essay should be organised into logical paragraphs, using an appropriate structure.
Quality of analysis
Your lecturer will be looking for both description and analysis; therefore, instead of merely describing the legal rules or concepts in any one area, you should attempt to analyse what they mean and their implications, and demonstrate that you are aware of the wider factors influencing the legal rules or concepts in that area. Aim to show you are aware of the debates at stake. Material should be carefully and critically considered ('critically', of course, does not only imply negative evaluation) - but consider the definition of any descriptives used in the question (see above). Legal authority or evidence must support all assertions. Ensure that you use a logical train of argument.
(Adapted from Source: Open University : Assessment Guide 1, W100, Appendix)