Writing a Law Dissertation To Length

Usually law dissertations have a word limit, which are designed to make you think carefully about how to organise and illustrate your answer.

Check with your institution whether references, footnotes and/or bibliography are included in the word count.

In law assignments, word limits are often restrictive so that you develop concise writing skills and omit any irrelevant material - every sentence counts and you will need to sustain a sharp focus on the question and limiting any tangential discussion.

To keep within the word limit, you will need to:

  • Limit yourself only to the relevant issues and ideas.
  • Select and use only relevant material, legal authority and examples, using only one source for each point made (unless you have an unlimited word count for references).
  • Reword concepts from source material very concisely, making the relevance of each source very clear.


With law essays, you should give priority to primary source material - statutes, statutory instruments and cases. Journals and Halsbury's Laws of England are secondary source materials - this means that although they describe the law, they are not the law; and sometimes they are wrong!