How to Interpret Essay Questions
The ability to write a law essay
The ability to write a law essay is a crucial part for a student to master and for them to demonstrate their understanding of the topics and issues in question. The ability to write a law essay is an art that requires preparation and planning. In order to write a coherent law essay the student must demonstrate that they have identified the issues that are in question and read thoroughly around the topics. It is worth stating that for a particular assignment like the tort of negligence a student will need to discuss the three central areas that make up the action. These being the legal notion of a duty of care, which is entrenched in the cases of Donoghue v Stevenson  AC 562 and Caparo Industries plc v Dickman  2 AC 605.
These cases state that a duty of care is to be granted when a claimant is in close contemplation with the defendant, that the defendant is in close proximity with the claimant, that sufficient foreseeability existed that injury would occur, and that it is fair, just and reasonable to impose a duty of care on the defendant. A student would be expected to identify these cases and their findings at the first opportunity. Any decent textbook on tort law would highlight these requirements within the first page on any action in negligence. The second area that the student will need to read about is the potential breach of the duty of care. This includes the ideas of foreseeability and that the injury suffered to the claimant was caused as a direct result of the defendant’s actions. This is known as causation. The final requirement in this section of the action is that of whether the standard adopted by the defendant is below that that is expected of the reasonable man. This is a fictitious character that the law creates to substantiate whether an action is deemed fruitful. Again the student will need to show that they have assessed and considered the thought process required in this section of the action. The final section that the student will be required to demonstrate the thought process over is the damage that the claimant has suffered. This is a concept that includes the notion of causation as a matter of fact and causation as a matter of law. These are key concepts that a student will need to identify and consider. If the damage suffered is only of an economic standard then the student will need to read and subsequently identify the likelihood that this will be unrecoverable. The next section that will require reading and the mental analysis is the varies defences that are available for the defendant. These will consist of contributory negligence, causation, volenti (the voluntary assumption of a risk), or illegality. The evidence of which will be written into the question. These considerations are only for that of the tort of negligence. Thus these vary from subject to subject. If the student was set a criminal law essay, say on murder, then they would be required to read and identify the actus reus (the guilty act) and the mens rea (the guilty mind).
These are fundamental requirements and consist of establishing the guilt of the defendant. The student will also need to assess and consider the possibilities of any defences.
Once the student has read the various issues surrounding whichever subject the student has been set, they will need to construct a plan whether it be a mental one or a written one. This will identify the issues that are required to be explored. Once this has been done the student can start to construct the essay. A common mistake that occurs with the construction and drafting of a law essay is that a student may not be selective of which issues they include.
Thus the essay becomes a guide to the law rather than a demonstration of their knowledge and understanding. It further makes it problematic to be able to apply the law in a concise manner. Thus, the simplest way to construct a law essay is to identify the law, this will come predominately from reading around the subject area, and to state where the law has come from. This will either be from statute, common law or case law. Thus, using the tort example from above, the law of when a duty of care is owed would be identified firstly and backed up by the cases of Donoghue v Stevenson  AC 562 and Caparo Industries plc v Dickman  2 AC 605. The final, and arguably the most important part, is the application. This is where the student will explain how and why this particular authority is relevant to the question. It is worth noting that some cases and sections from statutes may have nothing to do with the question per se, but if the student can show it’s relevance they will pick up more marks due to it’s obscurity and a clear understanding that the law must be shown to be relevant in its application. Thus, a legal waltz is created; state the law, state the authority, and apply. A further system that could be used is that of the ‘PEA’ method. This stands for identify the point, show the evidence of where it has come from, and analyse the issue. In effect these are same, but are the simplest way to construct a law essay.
In conclusion, the way to construct a law essay is to read around the subject area fully and to identify the issues and construct a plan. This will then allow the student to fully show they understand the area of law and the issues involved. The simplest way to then write the essay is to state the law, state the authority, and then apply it to the subject.Aiming for a 2:1 or 2:2? Your grade is now certain with our new guarantees...