Writing Advice for Law Students

Effective legal writing is an essential skill for law students, applicable in both law exams and assignments. While the core principles of good legal writing remain consistent, their application can vary depending on whether you are working under exam conditions or preparing assessed coursework. Developing a strong writing style early on will help you perform well in both scenarios, ensuring that you can communicate complex legal ideas clearly and accurately.

Use of the English Language
The foundation of any good legal writing is a strong command of the English language. This includes proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar, which are crucial for clarity and professionalism. Common mistakes, such as confusing 'there' and 'their' or 'to' and 'too', can undermine your credibility and lead to a loss of marks. Furthermore, certain spelling errors are particularly irksome to legal academics, such as spelling 'judgment' as 'judgement'. Attention to detail is critical; for instance, using capital letters correctly when referring to specific legal terms, such as 'Act' in relation to an Act of Parliament, is essential. These errors are rarely forgiven in exams or coursework, so maintaining high standards in your writing is imperative.

Avoiding Contractions
In formal legal writing, the use of contractions is generally inappropriate. Phrases like 'don't' should be written out as 'do not', and 'won't' should be 'will not'. While contractions may occasionally be overlooked in the high-pressure environment of an exam, it is best to avoid them altogether to maintain a professional tone. Getting into the habit of writing without contractions will ensure your work consistently meets academic standards, regardless of the context.

Maintaining a Formal Tone
Legal writing should always be formal and objective. Even when answering problem questions that involve advising a client, you should avoid a personal tone. Rather than writing as if you are directly addressing the client ('Dear Tom, My advice to you is…'), frame your advice impersonally. Use formulations such as 'In advising Tom…' or 'Tom is advised that…' to maintain the necessary professional distance. This approach reinforces the academic nature of your work and ensures clarity.

Hedging in Legal Advice
When providing legal advice, it is important to avoid sounding too absolute, even if you are confident in your assessment. Legal outcomes can be unpredictable, and hedging your statements acknowledges this uncertainty. Phrases like 'The contract is likely to be void ab initio' or 'John would likely be guilty of…' are preferable to definitive statements like 'The contract must be void ab initio' or 'John is guilty of…'. This nuanced approach demonstrates your understanding of the complexities of legal analysis and the potential for different interpretations.

Appropriate Use of Abbreviations
Abbreviations are common in legal writing, but their use must be carefully managed to avoid confusion. Always introduce abbreviations by spelling out the full term followed by the abbreviation in brackets. For example, write 'European Parliament (EP)' the first time you refer to it, so the reader knows what EP stands for in subsequent mentions. This practice ensures clarity and helps the reader follow your argument without misunderstanding.

Mastering legal writing is a process that takes time and practice. By adhering to these guidelines, you will develop a writing style that is clear, precise, and professional. Focus on maintaining high standards in your use of the English language, avoiding contractions, keeping a formal tone, hedging your advice appropriately, and using abbreviations correctly. Consistently applying these principles will help you excel in both law exams and assignments, enabling you to communicate complex legal ideas effectively. With dedication and continuous refinement of your writing skills, you will become a proficient legal writer, well-prepared for the demands of legal practice.
Back to blog
UOL Case Bank

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
INSEAD
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law

    Terminology

    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory

    Exam-focused

    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.