Essay Writing Part I - Before The Exam

Long before you take your first law school exam, or the bar exam itself, you should begin acquainting yourself with the communication skills necessary to succeed both as a law student and as a lawyer. The first and foremost skill, communicating logical arguments, is honed by perfecting your legal essays.

Before you begin writing, though, you need to be in the right mindset. Forget that you are writing to your professor or bar examiner, and imagine that you are writing to a judge. The career that you are preparing for requires you to gather the relevant facts, laws, and case precedent in order to present them in a logical, professional, and efficient manner to a judge. The sooner you begin operating with the mindset that you are the lawyer, and your professor is the judge, the sooner you will begin producing quality exam essays.

The following guides will help you reach this goal:

Write Efficiently

To write the best essay possible, you need to first master the art of efficient legal writing; which is the ability to write only what is necessary in as few words as possible while retaining readability. While this process is difficult and will go against most of your writing habits, your first year of law school should present you with many opportunities to hone this skill; and you should embrace them. Training yourself to write efficiently will provide two general yet major benefits for you as a law student:

First, legal exams are timed events and you need to maximize that time. By writing in an efficient fashion, you will provide yourself the time needed to thoroughly address the main issues of the question as well as less relevant issues; thus maximizing the points earned. Basically, you will be maximizing the points you can earn for every minute of exam time. If you can state the same legal argument with 50% less words than your peers, you will have time to address more issues in the current essay question or get a head start on the next essay.

Second, this extra time will provide you with additional time to think and outline your answer, creating a much more elegant response. This is handy because the more readable your answer is, the easier it will be for your professor (or bar examiner) to understand your logic, thus give you points for proving arguments that might otherwise be lost in a disorganize essay.

For more information, see: Legal Writing.

Embrace The IRAC Method

If you haven't heard of the IRAC method or something similar, you should acquaint yourself with it HERE to better understand the terms used in this article. 

Briefly though, the IRAC method is comprised of four parts: Identifying the Issue at hand and facts that make that issue relevant, identifying the Rules (statutes or court precedent) that pertain to that issue, Applying the relevant rules to the facts, and then your Conclusion based on that application. This system is good for organization, but is not the best layout for a (usually) complex essay. For a good essay answer for a question that involves two or more issues, you may have to mingle your issues, rules, and application sections to maintain readability and efficiency.

For more detailed information, see The IRAC Method.

Begin Studying Long Before The Exam

Last, but definitely not least, you need to study every resource available to you before your law school exam or bar exam.

This is the last item on our list only because disciplined study habits are not something that can be gained from a website. All we can do is emphatically point out the need for such disciplined study. Basically, the more you study, the more the essay will write itself. If you have studied thoroughly enough, you will have a decent grasp of all the laws and case precedent regarding the subject of the exam, and the obscured legal issues within the question will become obvious.

If you have studied adequately and knowing the legal rules surrounding a subject, the relevant issues will make themselves obvious to you as you read the fact pattern of the question. By taking notes during this reading of these relevant facts that relate to the rules, you will already have created a rough outline of your essay answer. With a little more fine tuning, you will be ready to write an excellent essay answer, and breeze through your final exams, or even the bar exam.