A Level Law Essays

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Construction of a Legal Essay by Vicky Purtill

This article is intended as a step by step guide through the construction of a legal essay using the following title as an example:

‘Explain and discuss the main law making bodies in English Law to determine which is the most important’

1. Planning

Before writing a word of the essay, it is essential that a comprehensive plan is made. The more time spent writing the plan, the better the essay will be.

Begin by carefully considering the question;

Then

  • Identify the issues being raised

What is being asked?

This is a straightforward question which asks you to ‘explain’ and ‘discuss’. It may help to look up the definitions of these words.

‘Explain’ means to define, to make plain or comprehensible

‘Discuss’ means to examine or consider in writing in order to ascertain the truth.

‘Determine’ means to decide or settle conclusively or authoritatively.

Thus, this question requires definition of the main law making bodies in English law followed by consideration of the primary characteristics of each in order to conclude which, if any, is the most important of the law making bodies in English law.

The issues to be discussed.

Here the main law making bodies should be identified:

  • Parliament
  • The Courts
  • EU law

For each aspect a detailed plan should be developed to consider how the law making body produces the law, what type of law is produced and the status of that law.

So for Parliament:

  • There are 2 types of law:
  • Statute law
  • Delegated legislation

The next step is to consider the main characteristics of each type of law, for example;

Statute law

  • Primary law, can overturn all other laws in English law
  • Examples include; The Theft Act (1968), The Offences Against the Person Act (1861)
  • Made by the democratic Houses of Parliament
  • Slow process can make this law making time consuming

Note that examples have been included, wherever possible in legal essays examples should be used in support of the answer.

When the process is complete for all law making bodies, it is likely that some determination can be made as to how the answer will be concluded.

At this point, the plan is complete, the essay can be started.

2.       Layout of the answer

Writing a legal essay is not like constructing an answer for any other subject. There are specific requirements which must be met.

The answer should always begin with an introduction, this of course is similar to every other well constructed essay regardless of the subject, however the introduction to a legal essay should only tell the reader how you have interpreted the question set and summarise how you intend to answer that question.

Reverting back to the plan, this information is clearly identifiable, so an appropriate introduction to answer this question would be as follows:

‘This question requires the consideration of the main law making bodies in England to determine which is the most important. In order to do this is it will be necessary to define the law making powers of Parliament, the courts and the EU and then explain the operation of these laws within the English legal system to reach a conclusion as to which is considered the most important.’

No general background information to the subject matter or material which does not relate directly to the question should be included in your introduction.

The main body of the essay should work through the material point by point. Start a new paragraph on the introduction of each new aspect of the answer and end each paragraph with a sentence which relates the paragraph back to the question – this will ensure that only the most relevant material is included in the answer and that the answer really does answer the question

The conclusion should summarise the discussion of the main body – this can be easily achieved by looking back to the final sentence of each paragraph and using these as the basis for the summary. Once summarised the conclusion should refer back to the question and state using these summaries whether or not you agree with the question, or in the case of our example state which type of law making appears to be the most important – if that is possible.

Revise for exams with past papers and use the mark schemes to assess performance.

Teachers can get past papers earlier, starting 10 days after the exam, from Secure Key Materials within e-AQA: our secure extranet.

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Unit 02

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Unit 03

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Unit 04

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