Furthering Legal Writing Skills

Legal Writing skills are really important to professional legal practice. These skills come with time and constant practice and use. In this discussion, an attempt will be made on identifying the differences in approach between answering a problem essay or an essay question. To effectively do this, an understanding of these question types through a discussion of what they mean will be important. Through these discussion(s), it will give more insight into how they are used in the law and how their approaches might differ. Problem questions in legal writing are set to find out the extent of your understanding of the legal principles on the topics being discussed. A problem question is normally based on a fact-based scenario that may reflect a real life situation. This design lets the writer demonstrate their understanding of a particular area of the law. By doing so, they can apply their knowledge of the law to a particular scenario to draw a logical conclusion on a possible legal outcome.

Problem Question

Problem questions are often provided as they reflect the daily engagements of legal practitioners. A sound understanding of problem questions helps with providing rational legal advice. In essence, response to problem questions presented could take the form of an advice which is an objective and balanced analysis of the law that may apply to a fact scenario. An ideal response to a problem question should conclude with a perceived view of the likely outcome of the client taking subject to a possible legal action. It would be important to note that there is no correct or wrong answer to a problem question. The quality of the presentation and a factual referencing of valid legal sources used.A solid problem question answer should be logically structured, accurate and properly referenced, clear and comprehensive with each major issue dealt with in a systematic manner.

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Dealing with a Problem Question

In dealing with problem questions, not all issues raised by a question will receive the same priority. In responding to questions a sense of good judgment is very important and may require a deep and lengthy analysis. Problems are normally analyzed in this case using  IRAC (Issue Rule, Argument/Application/Analysis, conclusion). These in point form include:

  1. Issue.
  2. Rule.
  3. Argument/Application/Analysis.
  4. Conclusion.


This part of a response to a problem question states the issue presented by the question. In some cases, the question may give more insight to the issue. Where a problem question does not directly identify an issue, brainstorming through the issue through asking relevant questions would be needed. For example asking questions such as: What would be the legal question that, when answered, determines the outcome of a case? Issues in problem questions in most cases are stated in form of a specific question rather than general question form(s). A possible example of an n acceptable issue would be: ” Is there any possible ties of any of the parties involved if there was no compensation paid?” Issues can be case specific, mentioning specific facts of the case including names and parties involved. An issue can incorporate all cases which present a similar question. Most cases commonly present one issue.


The rule describes how any relevant law or appropriate legislation applies to an issue. The rule, relevant laws or appropriate legislation are the supporting backgrounds to any claims mad relating an issue. These supporting facts act to justify the legal claims being made.It presents an overview of legal sources related to the issue. It is important to note that these rules are presented as a general principal, not a conclusion to a briefed case or issue discussed. A possible example of the rule will be defining conditions for a valid association: ” An association or tie is created when there is an agreement that Party A will act for the interest of party B, where party B is the Principal at Party B’s direction regardless of if any possible compensation exists or was agreed on.

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This part forms the core of any problem question and is the longest part of the response to an issue identified in the question. In this part, the pre-stated rules to the fact are applied to address the issues identified in the problem question. Here, the facts are used to explain how the rules lead to the various conclusion(s). Discussing both sides of a case or an issue when possible can make for a better or more valid argument or analysis. In an argument or analysis, stating a conclusion without linking this conclusion to some presented rules or stating reasons for it makes for a weak analysis.A conclusion drawn without clarified reasons or explanations may imply that any pre-stated rules or facts were not used to analyze the issue. The rule acts as a guide for discussing problem questions.


The conclusion would be a response or feedback to an issue identified in a problem question. It presents the results of your argument or analysis and ties it to a final objective conclusion. An example could be as follows: “Party A is liable for criminal negligence” or therefore no possible contract was agreed on between Party A and B”. In situations where there exist multiple issues in a question, there will be multiple conclusions to address the respective issues.

Essay Question:

Essay questions in legal discussions and writing are one the main ways of knowing the depth of the writer’s understanding of the subject being discussed. In essay writing, there is the need for the writer to stay with the core issues addressed by the question. In addressing the issues that may be linked to an essay question, the writer is free to discuss these issues in his own words, but staying strictly within the context of the subject discussed. For the essay question, a carefully and thorough read through the question to ensure you understand that they question is asking about is important.

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Dealing with an Essay Question

To address an essay question, the following key points should help:

  1. Analysis-Unpacking the Question.
  2. Preparation.
  3. Writing.
  4. Polishing.

Unpack the Question:

The process is the first and most important step and actually determines how effective and good a response or an answer to an essay question will be. This because a clear understanding of the key issues to be discussed will help the writer not drift away from the primary subject. This helps the writer focus and discuss the most relevant issues of the question.

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