Art of Craftsmanship

Academic writing tips and guidelines

Writing Legal Essays: Picking Your Thesis Statement

As a law student or pre-law undergraduate, your ability to craft an airtight argument is one of the most valuable skills you can hope to have. A strongly argued legal essay is the best place to demonstrate to your professors that you have this skill; it’s also a wonderful opportunity to practice the craft of legal argument, which will be invaluable in your career as a lawyer.

The first step to creating a striking, persuasive legal essay is selecting a thesis statement. Your thesis should be interesting, supported by legal evidence, and should be strongly argued in your paper. Here is a guide to choosing a proper thesis statement.

Step 1: Choose A Defensible Position

For the purpose of writing a legal essay, you should focus on how easily and capably you can argue in favor of a point, using evidence and legal precedent. Try to keep your emotions and personal opinions out of this decision. Instead, do a bit of cursory reading and research on the legal issue before selecting the optimal side. You should have a sense of what your arguments will be, how you will be supporting them with evidence, and how your paper will be structured before you embark on writing.

Step 2: Leave Your Emotions Out Of It

You may not like the implications of the legal claim you are making in your essay. You may not agree with the position you advocate for. Unfortunately, this is a necessary part of becoming a lawyer. The law is blind to human passion and subjectivity, which is part of what makes it so powerful. Therefore, take an objective view of the issue you will be writing about. Be honest with yourself about the evidence and the argument. And no matter where you fall on the issue, argue intensely and persuasively.

Step 3: Talk It Out

Legal issues are not always solved in silence, using the written word. Often, legal issues are talked out and adjudicated in a court room, before a judge and even a full jury of community members. To replicate this experience, find a friend who is also in the legal field, and talk about your thesis and how you will be supporting it. Have an informal ‘mock trial’ with your friend, where they play the role of the opposition and try to disprove your argument. This will help you craft stronger counter arguments and make you test your thesis before you select it.