Essays are an integral part of your law degree, may it be just 1,500 words to a 12,000-word dissertation!

Essays are a good way for examiners and lecturers to know your understanding of a certain subject, but also your ability to put that knowledge into coherent words! The standards for law essays are usually slightly higher than others, and this is because, as lawyers, we are expected to be clear, rational and critical.

So what makes a good law essay?

Firstly, a clear, well-defined and well thought out thesis is needed in every essay. Whether you are writing an essay about horizontal direct effect or the development in the law on free movement of goods, your essay needs to make a point. The main point of your essay should always answer the question and should be set out from the very beginning of your essay. As a general rule, state your thesis at the beginning and at the end of your essay. Do not leave the readers wondering what was the point of that essay.

Secondly, this thesis needs to be followed by strong legal arguments. Having strong and sophisticated legal arguments to support your thesis is essential. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to prove your point, right? Much like your thesis, these legal arguments need to make sense and need to be clearly put. But, beyond that, you need to persuade the readers/examiners with these arguments. How do we do that?

Thirdly, your essay should have legal authorities to support your legal arguments. These can be from primary sources (e.g. cases, opinions and legal instruments such as the TFEU or Directives) and secondary sources (e.g. journal articles, books). It is important that you correctly identify these authorities, and to effectively use them in your essays. Aside from clearly identifying the relevant legal authorities, you need to critically evaluate and analyse them.

Finally, it is important to organise and structure your essay in a coherent way. This helps the reader to navigate through your essay and to understand the thesis, arguments, and authorities that you will address. It is always a good idea to start your essay with a clear introduction, laying out your thesis and arguments. Then, throughout your essay, signpost the readers so they will never feel ‘lost’ when reading your essay.


  1. Introduction (state thesis, lay out arguments)
  2. Main point
    1. Argument 1
      1. Authority 1
      2. Authority 2
    2. Argument 2
      1. Authority 1
      2. Authority 2
    3. So on…
  3. Conclusion (re-state thesis and findings)

Other helpful tips

  • Look at the marking criteria that your University or examiner uses and make sure you tick all the right boxes
  • Approach lecturers, tutors, etc when you are unsure about the question or essay topic – it’s better to ask than to misunderstand
  • Read, re-read, and re-re-read your own essays! Make sure it makes sense from the readers’ perspective
  • After writing your first draft, take a break for a few days and come back to it with a pair of fresh eyes – and re-edit again.
  • Practice makes perfect: so don’t be discouraged if you didn’t get an 80% in your first 1st-year essay! Writing legal essays is a skill you need to gain and practice!