Category Archives: Other Styles of Legal Writing

Avoiding Procrastination

Everyone is capable of working like a fiend when the need arises. Unfortunately, most people only manage to unleash the hulking study-beast the night before an essay is due. For weeks, even months before the assessment is due, people are often held back by procrastination. You may even be procrastinating right now. There is no silver bullet for procrastination. At a certain point, it just comes down to really wanting to improve. Nevertheless, there are a few strategies that can help you to keep it at bay.

Long-Term Procrastination Strategies

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Advanced editing

Editing your paper will help you to ensure the clarity of your argument. Chapter 10 of the Guide to Academic Success, “Advanced Editing”, has advice on editing that is relevant to a range of legal documents.The following materials are adapted from the LAWresources website, the Legal Academic Skills Centre website and the Guide to Academic Success.

Revising Drafts

It can be difficult to objectively assess your own work. Nevertheless, it is important to review your drafts multiple times to ensure that your argument is clear and concise. Before making significant changes to your essay, it is a good idea to save it into a new document – this way you won’t lose anything important. Continue reading

Assignment Timelines

The following materials are adapted from the Legal Academic Writing website.

All good legal academic writing shares common attributes: it is clear and concise, well organized, logical and persuasive, purposeful and relevant, and supported by accurate and current legal authorities.

However, the process of writing, and markers’ expectations regarding presentation, vary significantly, depending on whether you have several weeks to prepare an assignment, or a few days or hours to answer an exam.

Timelines

How long do you expect to spend preparing a 2,000 word hypothetical problem response? Or a 5,000 word research essay? Continue reading

Beginning Your Assignment – Writing a Zero Draft

Beginning an assignment can be the hardest part of the process. In addition to creating a schedule that encourages you to start writing and researching early, one powerful method for starting early and focusing your writing is the “Zero draft”. The process is simple:

  1. Engage in preliminary research for about a week. Develop a broad overview of your topic.
  2. Set a timer for anywhere up to an hour.
  3. As soon as the timer starts, begin writing. Do not stop writing until the time is up. You should write anything that you can think of, provided that it is related to the topic. Do not refer to your notes. The process is intended to be creative and generative – so don’t censor any ideas – you can delete them later if necessary.

Once you have written a zero draft, you can begin to rework it in a number of ways: Continue reading

Advanced Reading – Developing your Approach

As you progress through your degree, it is important that you continue to develop your reading skills. Fajans and Falk identify three stages of advanced reading:

  1. Reading for the explicit meaning of the text
  2. Reading for ‘unselfconscious response and self-aware reflection
  3. Synthesising apparently contradictory ideas of concepts that arise during the reading

Fajans and Falk argue that most students never advance beyond the first stage. This limits their understanding of texts to merely being able to identify the key elements – issues, reasoning, decision. Improving your reading will not only improve your understanding of the law, but also enable you to write stronger essays and exams.

Because of the rule of precedent, it is easy to forget that judicial decisions are simply a genre of persuasive writing, and can be analysed in much the same way as any other text. The following guide will provide a few methods for analysing both judicial decisions and articles. Continue reading

Review – After Completing your DR Essay

Most students completely forget about their assignments as soon as they click Submit. This is a mistake. While it may be the last thing you want to do, taking a moment to review your process is what separates excellent learners from good students. Without effective review of your progress, you are unlikely to improve. According to Michael Hunter Schwartz, author of Expert Learning for Law Students, reviewing your process has two major benefits:

  • It allows you to determine which study methods and strategies that you used have been effective. This provides a blueprint for future essays.
  • It allows you to learn from your approach. By determining which strategies and methods have been effective, and which ineffective, it allows you to make adjustments to your approach in future.

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Working with your Syndicate

Syndicate assignments can be a great way to study law, but they can also be more difficult than simply working alone. Although the majority of students don’t experience any serious problems, issues do arise, and it is best to be prepared. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to syndicate problems – the solution very much depends on the individual personalities and dynamic of your group. Nevertheless, following a few simple tips will make the experience far smoother, and should ensure that problems are resolved sooner rather than later. Continue reading