Being a law student is both a fun and interesting time. However, it also means that you are constantly asked to write essays or law articles. At times, you can feel overwhelmed or not know where to start but it doesn’t have to be like that. If you break the task down into sections, you can calmly work through it.
Your professor may give you a list of titles to choose from. Alternatively, you may be writing a piece for a law magazine and you have to come up with the idea yourself. If this is the case, it is always preferable to write about something that interests you. This will keep you working at your article and your passion for your subject will be obvious in your writing. As there is a law for almost every aspect of life these days, there is a long list to choose from. As with all things, some are more interesting than others. Below is a shortened list of areas you may wish to choose from.
Once you have decided which practice area you would like to write about, you need to do some background reading so that you can collect your evidence before you begin writing. This is also a useful exercise because you may think that you would really like to write about Personal Injury Law but when you do your research, you may decide that you really do not want to write about it and prefer to write about Civil Rights instead. Whatever you choose, you need to read about as many past cases as possible. You also need to look for articles and essays on the subject by seasoned lawyers.
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This means that you need to express an idea about something that has a law about it. For instance, a highly emotive law is the death penalty. The Murder Act (1965) meant that the death penalty was abolished in the United Kingdom. However, certain members of parliament do try to bring hanging back and also the death penalty still takes place in other places in the world. If you feel strongly about this, you could argue that “past cases have proved that the death penalty is often carried out on innocent people and therefore to bring hanging back would result in a flawed system for justice.” Writing a paper on this topic would be useful if you wished to construct a career as a defence lawyer or if you wished to practice worldwide.
Although, you may feel that planning your article is a waste of time and you wish to get writing, planning can save you time in the long run. Imagine that you were going on a hike from home to your cousin’s house twelve miles away through beautiful countryside. If you had never done it before and you set off without planning your route, you may know how to get the first couple of miles and then suddenly realise that you don’t know where to go once you get that far. It is the same with writing articles. Unless, you have the whole piece planned out point by point, you could go off on a tangent. Not only would this reduce the strength of your argument but it would waste your time too as you struggled to get to the conclusion.
You will find that if you format your plan so that you visualise it as if it is a court case in a law court, it will be much easier for you to structure it. Below is an example of a plan using the aforementioned argument. Fundamentally, because the argument protests about the death penalty, the plan is organised as if you were the defence counsel.
Introduction - make your claim – state your hypothesis and explain the steps that will help you to prove it. In this case it is, “past cases have proved that the death penalty is often carried out on innocent people and therefore to bring hanging back would result in a flawed system for justice.”
Prosecuting - At this point, you would imagine what arguments the prosecutor would make against your proposal. This would mean that the advocate was arguing for the death penalty to be brought back as a law.
Arguments to bring this law back:
Although it is tempting to wash over the antithesis and not provide background evidence so that it is easier to prove your own argument, it is more persuasive to the reader if you provide a solid argument and evidence. For instance:
Using these facts will demonstrate that you have done the research but are still committed to your legal beliefs. Incidentally, as you provide each argument for the prosecution, you need to have a counter argument against it. This will strengthen your case and your article.
Defence - At this point, you need to be able to provide evidence of cases where prisoners have been wrongfully hanged. This is the strongest defence of all in this situation. You need to find various cases that demonstrate different reasons why the law is flawed when it comes to the death penalty. This could include police corruption, police neglect towards their duties, the changing face of forensic evidence, lack of information. You also need to suggest that once an execution takes place, if it is a mistake, it is one that can never be rectified.
Interesting cases that might be used:
These are just five sample cases that could be used to add weight to your argument. There are many more. The newspaper archives are a very rich source of information concerning murder trials and executions. Always make sure that you make detailed notes of where you got your sources from as it wastes a great deal of time if you find something that is particularly useful and then you can’t find it again.
If we stay with the metaphor that your article is a court of law, then your conclusion is a summing up speech. Try to make your language lively but succinct. Imagine that your readers are the judge and jury. You have to persuade them of your point of view. Remember to use only the most persuasive part of your argument to deliver the conclusion that you have reached.
The most successful barristers and also legal writers understand that the law, like politics, is very similar to show business. Barristers, legal writers and politicians have got to be interesting and keep whoever is listening to them, or reading what they have written, engaged. Unfortunately, when you are writing a law article you can’t throw a swear word in to lighten it so you have to make sure that you write about something that will keep your reader absorbed in your subject. Furthermore, you want your reader to be persuaded by your argument so you have to make sure that it is easy to read and logical to follow.
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