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Legal Method, Research and Writing

Specific Resources for Legal Research and Writing

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Academic Writing and Research in Law

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Basic Rules

Academic and professional legal writing requires you to develop an argument and demonstrate relationships between the ideas you are expressing. 

Therefore, the ability to express yourself clearly and accurately is important. Here you will find information to help you improve your writing for any purpose in your law degree.

Academic writing in law is:

  Clear and concise - only includes what is relevant and necessary in as few words as possible


  Based on research - cite cases, laws or legislation

  Objective - words should be neutral, showing neither too much emotion nor attitude

  Written in plain English where appropriate

Academic writing in law does not:   

   Use contractions (e.g. isn't, doesn't, it'll, can't)

   Use slang (e.g. stuff)

   Use colourful or strong emotional language ("really", "very", "surely", "often", "basically", "hopefully", etc.)

   Use abbreviations that have not yet been introduce in full

Steps to Writing a Law Essay

Throughout your law degree, you will be expected to write a range of different texts, including research essays, responses to problem questions, and case notes.

Not matter the type of text you are asked to produce for an assignment, make sure you follow these steps:

  1. Plan: read the questions carefully and think about how you will answer it
  2. Research: read, read and read! Make use of everything available to you - don't forget the library!
  3. Make thorough notes: include all important (and relevant) details and quotes and take note of the source. Make sure you organise your notes so as to make the writing task easier
  4. Write the first draft: before you start writing your first draft, refer back to your initial plan and make any necessary changes now you have done your research and gathered your notes. 
  5. Review and edit: remember to proofread your work!

The IRAC Method

IRAC is an acronym that stands for: Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion. It functions as a methodology for legal analysis and is used as a framework for organising your answer to an essay question in law school.

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In legal writing, issues are the core of the essay.

This part of the essay should:

  • Identify and state the issue
  • Name those involved (plaintiff and defendant) and briefly describe their individual issues
  • Work out what body of law may govern the resolution of the issue (e.g. Contract Law)

The rule describes which law applies to the issue. The rule should be stated as a general principle, and not a conclusion to the particular case being briefed.

This part of the essay should:

  • Outline the legal principles that will be used to address to the issue
  • Source legal principles from cases and legislation

The application is the most important and longest part of your answer. It involves applying the Rule to the facts of the issue and demonstrating how those facts do or do not meet the requirements laid down by the rules. Discuss both sides of the case when possible.

This part of the essay should:

  • Explain why the plaintiff's claims are or are not justified
  • Identify how the law will be used by the plaintiff and defendant to argue their case
  • Use relevant cases and legal principles to support your writing
  • Do not try to strengthen your argument by leaving out elements or facts that will hurt it

As with all essays, the conclusion is a statement that identifies your answer to the issue.

This part of the essay should:

  • Identify what the result of your argument ir, or what it should be
  • State who is liable for what and to what extent
  • Consider how the plaintiff and defendant could have acted to avoid this legal issue

Useful Links:

Law Writing Media

Additional Resource

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Proofreading Tool

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