Writing legal Essay -Legal essay introduction and 5 tips for better legal writing

What is an Introduction?

An introduction can be regarded as the first section in an article, essay, book and other forms of writing which are aimed at stating the aims and objectives of the paper. Similarly, an introduction can be regarded as the first portion of a written piece which gives a brief description or summary of the points, theories or examination which will be carried out during the course of the write-up.

Why is an introduction important?

Introduction in all spheres of writing is important for a variety of reasons, some of which include;

  • It serves as the reader(s) first impression of the written piece.
  • It gives more credibility to the written piece.
  • It prepares the readers for the body and conclusion of the written piece.
  • It establishes and maintains the interest of the reader.
  • It provides a summary of the main points which will be discussed in the essay.

What are the characteristics of a good introduction?

A good introduction ought to contain the following characteristics or attributes;

  • A preview of the main and/or essential points in the written piece, all of which ought to revolve around the subject matter of the written piece.
  • A good introduction ought to establish and maintain the interest of the reader(s).
  • A good introduction ought to contain mind-blowing facts revolving around the subject matter.
  • A good introduction ought to be well-structured, brief and very understandable.
  • A good introduction ought to state the main focus of the written piece.

What is Legal Writing

Legal writing in a nutshell can be regarded as any piece of academic writing which makes in-depth or intricate provisions for legal issues, problems and solutions. Similarly, Legal writing can be regarded as a form of academic writing, mainly used by Lawyers, strictly for the purpose of presenting in-depth legal analysis regarding different subject matters and/or different topics.

Why is Legal Writing Important?

Legal writing plays an important role in both the education and the career of the Lawyer. This is so because, in both situations, the lawyer will be asked to communicate with the opposing counsel, the judges and clients by providing clear and well-articulated arguments.

This can only be done with the aid of proper legal research and legal writing. Alternatively, in order to come up with well-detailed arguments, the lawyer ought to consult and make use of different cases, different subject matters regarding non-law related cases as well as the court’s judgement in specific matters.

This simply implies that during the course of carrying out this particular form of writing, the Lawyer becomes overfed with a vast amount of information regarding different subject matters.

What is a Legal Essay?

Simply put, a legal essay can be regarded as a long piece of academic writing which dwells on and examines core legal issues or matters. Similarly, an essay can be regarded as a common form of assessment in the legal field which is used to examine the analytical power, knowledge of the language and the subject matter of the essay and research ability of the student.

In other words, in the legal field, essays are extensively used by lecturers to determine the ability of the student to conduct legal research, the ability of the student to analyze and deduce conclusions regarding a particular legal issue and the ability of the student to provide well-written and detailed sentences.

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Writing a good introduction in a legal essay

In order to produce a well-written introduction in a legal essay, it is vital to take note of the following key steps:

Start off with a hook

Simply put, a hook in an essay can be regarded as an opening sentence(usually situated at the beginning of an essay or any other form of the written piece) written with the intention of grabbing the interest of the reader(s). A hook can be written in many forms, however, the basic types of hooks include;

Statistical Hook; This is simply a sentence based on the statistics, percentages or general numbers relating to a particular topic. For example; ‘It is estimated that about 600 women, most of which were disguised as men, served during the American civil war’

Question Hook; A question hook can simply be regarded as a sentence which poses a rhetorical question to its readers. Similarly, a question hook can also ask the readers to visualize a particular scenario in their heads. For example; ‘Have you ever wondered how much competition Nigeria would be in the international market under a booming economy and good governance?’

Quotation Hook; As its name implies, a hook is an opening sentence which consists of a quote or a word previously stated by another person relating to that particular issue. For example; ‘Abraham Lincoln defines democracy as ‘a government of the people, by the people, and for the people’.

Informal/Unreliable Hook; An informal or Unreliable hook is an opening statement which is purely based on personal stories and/or hypotheses without formidable and intellectual evidence to back it up. Similarly, the sentence can also be a figment of the writer’s imagination and not necessarily real.

For example; ‘As a child, I always heavily abused both physically and mentally by my parents, the people who were meant to be my guardians and heroes in the world. As I grew older, it only seemed to get worst, I was always lacking in one area or another in their eyes, i was always guilty for something.

This had a heavy impact on my self-confidence, my self-esteem and my relationship with the people around me. Being a victim of parental abuse myself, I have come to the conclusion that people who are abused in their childhood years, always struggle with key areas in life and it could lead to worst cases like depression, anger, heavy addiction and even suicide’.

While curating introductory hooks in a legal essay, it is vital to note that the hook must be aligned with the nature of the essay and the subject matter. Similarly, statistical and quotation hooks are the most suitable for legal essays.

Define the key term(s):

After providing a hook, to attract the attention of the reader(s), the next step will be to trap and maintain the interest of the reader(s). The best way to do this is by providing a proper definition of the key term or subject in the essay.

This definition may either be brief and singular or it may be a variety of definitions based on the view of the writer and past scholars, it all depends on the nature of the legal essay being written and its word count. Similarly, while writing the hook, it is important for the writer to directly link it to the definition(s) which will be provided in the next phase of the introduction.

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For instance; ‘It is estimated that about 45% of the people in Nigeria are either neglected or abused from birth till their late teens. Similarly, it has been estimated that about 20% – still in that 45% – are females who are often abused all their lives. Abuse, in the regard and, in its simplest form, can be regarded as the cruel or violent treatment of a person or an animal’

State a summarized version of the core points of the essay:

After providing defining the key term(s) in the essay, the next step will be to introduce the problem or issue to be discussed and the core points relating to that particular problem. Depending on the nature of the research, this process may be brief or lengthily summarized. Alternatively, it is vital to tell the reader(s) how these points will be played out or written in the essay. It is also important to consider that these steps need to be portrayed in the most formal way possible. Hence, the writer ought to make use of;

  • Legal terms – this could be Latin phrases or extremely ancient words – , it should be minimal or appropriate for the introduction, not excessive.
  • Properly structured sentences with adequate punctuation marks in the right areas.
  • Properly cited words or phrases.

5 tips for better Legal writing.

Legal writing is an important aspect in the field of Law, one all Law students and Lawyers must surely face at one point in time or another. This means that everyone in the legal field ought to have firsthand knowledge of the basics of Legal writing. Thus the aim of this article is to provide five basic tips which can be used to enhance or improve the Legal writing techniques of Lawyers and Law students. These tips include:

Quote Sources Appropriately:

In all disciplines, referencing is required to add credibility to the research and the piece being written. These ‘references’ could be past materials relating to the subject matter or topic of the given assessment.

In the legal field, students are required to make use of statutory provisions and case laws alongside other scholarly works relating to the topic. It is important to note that, regardless of how needed citations and sources can be, it can also get to a point where it may become too much, thus making the piece more complex and ambiguous than it ought to be.

Hence, during the legal writing process, legal writers are advised to make use of scholarly sources moderately. This can be done by placing two to three sources in a paragraph and about five to fifteen in a section, depending on how large or small they may be.

Use proper and plain English:

In the legal field, students and lawyers are often encouraged to make use of ambiguous words when constructing a legal piece. However, in a situation whereby the bulk of the words used in the legal piece is ambiguous and complex, the written piece will be unreadable to both the layman and an expert in the field. In this regard, legal writers are advised to:

  • Make moderate use of ambiguous words.
  • Construct sentences properly by placing punctuation marks in the right places and spelling words correctly.
  • Using plain or simple words to describe the basic terminologies or theories revolving around the subject matter of the research.
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Make great use of Legalese:

Legalese or ‘the legal language can be regarded as the technical language used in the legal field. It includes formal, archaic and often Latin words used to describe particular terms or processes in the legal field.

Examples of legalese could include Quid Facit Per Alium, Facit Per Se(He who does an act through another does the act himself), Consensus ad idem(Meeting of Minds), Consideration, Offer and so on. In the legal field, legalese is almost as important as case laws and statutory provisions which give massive credibility to the work.

Hence when legal writers are given assessments by experts or other professionals in the field, they are advised to make gracious use of the language. However, in a situation whereby the legal writer is constructing a piece for a layman, he/she is advised to make more use of plain English than the alternative.

Conduct proper legal research:

Legal research is simply regarded as the process of sorting and identifying information or sources, in the bid to provide solutions for legal problems and evidence for the legal hypotheses. Legal research is an important aspect of law and legal writing as a whole.

This is so because the writer has to first of all understand and identify the key points in the research before settling down to organize these points in a formal manner. Hence, it is vital for legal writers to conduct in-depth legal research before and during the legal writing process.

Re-write and proofread

The legal profession demands perfection in all things(even though it may be unachievable at some point). Hence, during the legal writing process, it is important to re-write after producing the first draft at least once.

This is so because when carrying out this process, the writer will be able to identify the areas that are lacking, come up with new theories and conclusions relating to the subject matter and identify the grammatical errors or problems in the sentence.

Alternatively, proofreading, as the last step in legal writing is also an important piece of the puzzle. It aids in the identification of errors and the restructuring of poorly written sentences. Hence, after the entire writing process, legal writers are encouraged to proofread thoroughly before sending out the written piece for examination.

Similarly and for more efficient results, legal writers are advised to seek help from friends or the internet when proofreading. In the case of friends, they can serve as a fresh pair of eyes, thus making it easier to identify errors which the writer may have missed.

In the case of the internet, there are proofreading tools, either paid or otherwise which can be used during the proofreading process. It is often faster and it produces more effective results compared to the ones done by humans.


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