Essays JD Students Legal Writing

10 Steps to Preparing a Legal Essay

Preparing a high-quality written assignment can be broken down into a simple process:

  • Read all instructions carefully.
  • Analyse the question, topic or problem so that you understand ”exactly” what you are required to do.


  • Consult the law library research guides
  • Conduct preliminary research and identify relevant legal sources and associated legal and secondary materials.


  • Read generally and make notes on the current law on the topic and the main issues and approaches to it.
  • Alternatively or additionally, underline key passages in the text you read and write notes next to the text.

Start Writing

  • Develop a tentative plan and begin to formulate your argument or opinion.
  • Draft the sections that you can from your notes or from looking back at the key passages which you underlined or highlighted in the text you have read.

Continue Researching and Reading

  • Conduct more focused research and reading for the sections where you have ‘gaps’ or need further information.

First Draft

  • Write your first draft.
  • Ask yourself: ‘does this essay answer the question?’
  • Read the essay out aloud to yourself and change things which sound confusing or awkward.
  • Consult the Legal Academic Skills Centre to discuss your essay.
  • Implement changes based on your consultation.
  • Do further researching & reading on specific isolated points (if necessary).


  • Wait a few days.
  • Review your draft for structure, argument and coherence.
  • Do further research & reading on specific isolated points (if necessary).
  • Edit you draft for clarity of expression, grammar, spelling and punctuation.
  • Check all footnotes and prepare the bibliography.

AGLC Compliance

  • Consult the MULR Quick AGLC
  • Read the table of contents of the AGLC.
  • Read chapter 1 of the AGLC.  It contains all the basic rules.
  • Start looking at your essay with a view to making it AGLC compliant.  If you are unsure about a rule, check things in this order:
    1. Index;
    2. Table of contents at the front of the book;
    3. Chapter 1 of the AGLC or the relevant chapter (eg, journal article citation is dealt with in Chapter 4).


If you know the name of the case, legislation or article



  • Go to the Law Library Research Databases list, click on Timebase, the click on LawOne. This website is a great way to ensure that every piece of legislation that you are citing is up to date and still in force.
  • ComLaw
  • Austlii

Journal Articles

If you don’t know the name of the case, legislation or article:

  1. Consult the law library research guides
  3. Look at the text and footnotes of other things you have read on the relevant topic, they will often refer to good materials.
  4. Search the library catalogue for relevant books.

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