Guide to legal writing : Law School : The University of Western Australia
 
 

Law School

Guide to legal writing

Further information

  • StudySmarter
  • Research and referencing assistance
  • UniPrint

Below you will find a guide to help you through the academic writng process and provide you with the tools you need to succeed.

Before you start, here is some advice from two former first year Law and Society students, Jayden and Jackson

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Research
  3. Brainstorm
  4. Start Writing
  5. Referencing
  6. Proofread
  7. Submit online

Do you have a question? "Dear Unit Coordinator"includes real questions from past students

Choose a topic

  • If you have the choice, pick a topic you understand and which you find interesting.
  • Read the question several times before beginning research. It is easy to misinterpret a question based on what you want it to ask, not what is actually being asked.
  • Read the assessment criteria, so you are aware of what is expected and how this assessment might differ from other assignments you have completed.
  • Pay attention to the key words. ‘Describe’ is different from ‘discuss’, which is also different from ‘critically analyse’.
  • Try using the Study Smarter Guides to learn what essay questions are really asking and how to answer them properly.

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Research

  • Your essay should only include scholarly sources.  Use OneSearch rather than Google to find information for your essay (see the tutorial below to find out how to use OneSearch).
  • Check this Information Services Guide to determine if your source is considered scholarly.
  • A legal essay may require you to include legislation and cases in your essay.  If this is necessary, this will be made clear in the assignment outline.   
  • Consult this Information Services Guide on how to find case laws and legislation.
  • Find primary information on the law you are discussing by using the CCH online library commentaries.

Hint: Essay questions will always relate to topics covered in your readings and lectures. Start research by consulting your textbook to make sure your are applying these themes in your essay.

Research tools

Finding newspaper articles 

Getting help

  • Ask UWA is an excellent resource for questions regarding assignments and general UWA information.
  • Drop by the Ask a Librarian Office (Law Library, Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm)
  • Phone a Law Librarian at 6488 3517

Tip from your tutor: "Ensure there is information on your subject before you sit down to write. Start research early and seriously consider what information you are going to use and where you will get it from. Make sure what you are saying is backed up by multiple authors and resources."

 

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Brainstorm

  • Take the time to plan your essay and understand what you are going to include in the introduction, body and conclusion.
  • Write out a statement of your argument before starting your essay.
  • Study Smarter Guides (such as "Structuring essays," "Developing essay arguments" and "Writing critically") will help with essay planning.

Business Law assignments:

  • Write out your argument or overall comparison comment 
  • Identify the legal issue or issues which are relevant to the argument or comparison
  • Provide evidence (secondary sources, Legal Principles, and Legal Precedents) in support of each issue. 
  • State the legal rule (and source) that is relevant to each issue.
  • Apply the legal rule by showing how it supports or detracts from the argument you are making.

Workshops and tutorials help!

  • Student Services offer a variety of workshops and other on-campus assistance for essay writing

Student Tip: "It helps to randomly write about the answer to the question…. Reading over what you have written, add articles or bits of text that support or contradict your idea. Having a structure and knowing what to write is helpful.  It's like a goal, knowing what still needs to be done."

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Start writing

  • At this point you should know what you are going to say and how you are going to say it. If you haven't already consulted the Study Smarter Guides on how to write a proper introduction and conclusion or how to develop an argument, now is the time to do it.
  • Make sure you are using proper citation.  Consult these Library Guides to learn how to reference using the citation style approved by your Lecturer.
  • Writing should be clear, concise and logically structured. 
  • Business Law students should use headings to focus discussion and keep logical structure.
  • Law and Society students do not need to use headings.
  • Use gender-neutral language, where possible.
  • Write simplistically, so even non-lawyers can understand your work. 
  • Do not use abbreviations unless you have explained them.
  • Use the active voice.  For example: The judge decided the accused was guilty.  Rather than: It was decided by the judge that the accused was guilty.

Avoid plagiarism

Student Tip: “Write everyday - even if it's just 100 words - a little can go a long way…. The word count of 100 is just a starting point to get you writing. Once you start getting 'in that zone,' it's kinda hard to stop...”

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Referencing

  • Consult these Information Services Guides to learn how to reference using the citation style approved by your Unit Coordinator.
  • Your reference list should be in alphabetical order.
  • If you have included cases and legislation in your essay, divide your list into three parts: List of References, List of Cases, Legislation. Consult the 'Referencing in Legal Writing' guides below if you are unsure about what this looks like.
  • Information Services Guide to determine if your source is considered scholarly.
  • Only include articles that you have used in your paper in your reference list. Do not beef up your reference list with sources that haven't been cited in-text. This is a clear indication that you
    • have not done enough research or
    • you do not know how to do in-text citations. Both mistakes are serious but avoidable.
  • Tip from your tutor: Including resources like Wikipedia on your reference list is a dead give away that you have not done adequate research. However, if you have used sources that are not included on your reference list you are plagiarising and that is a serious offense. Avoid this by using articles that are scholarly and academic.

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Proofread

  • Find someone to proofread your essay, to ensure you have met basic grammar and punctuation requirements.
  • If no one is available, read your essay out loud. You will be surprised how much you catch!

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Submit online

  • Unless otherwise stated by the Unit Coordinator, all assignments should be submitted via UniPrint.
  • If you miss the deadline, by even one minute, the UniPrint portal closes. You will have to submit the assignment as hard copy to the Law School Office in the (old) Economics and Commerce Building. You will need to attach a Law School cover sheet. Consult the Faculty of Law submission policies regarding this issue.
  • When you have submitted your assignment via UniPrint you will receive a confirmation email.

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Important Information

Extensions

Make sure to apply for your extension as early as possible. It is unlikely to be granted if the request is submitted the day the assignment is due. Read the Faculty of Law Special consideration guidelines prior to submitting the application form.

Marks

Your marks will be posted to LMS several weeks after assignments are submitted. You will also have your papers handed back in tutorials, with comments and feedback. It can take several weeks for your assignments to be handed back. Be patient, your lecturer and tutors have many papers to go through and the Unit Coordinator needs to check that assessors have marked consistently and fairly!

What happens if I fail?
  • Please also see the Raising your grade page in this Survival Guide for tips on what to do if you didn't do as well as you had hoped.
  • If you are experiencing significant anxiety about your assignment, please consult UWA's Mentally Healthy page for tips on how to deal with this or visit UWA's excellent Counselling Services.
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