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Writing law case studies can be great fun

Being a law student is truly exciting. It means that you have a fascinating subject to study and an excellent future career ahead of you. At some point in your studies, you may be asked to write law case studies and this can be a daunting prospect even for the most enthusiastic student. However, it does not need to be. Moreover, if handled properly, it can be a productive and satisfying exercise.


Initially, law students studied law by reading text books and listening to their professors’ lecture. However, Christopher Columbus Langdell, a legal academic at Harvard Law School, insisted that law students used past cases to study how the law worked. The reason for this is that it teaches students the skill of critical analysis.

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Before we look at how you can write a case study, let’s look at why you need to be able to do it and how it can get those grades up for you.

  • As a future lawyer, it is important that you can distinguish between what is important evidence and what isn’t in a case.
  • It is imperative that you can discern the difference between two facts which appear the same but have a very slight difference – it could be something as small as that which makes a jury acquit the accused or send them to prison for life.
  • The case method also demonstrates for students how precedent works in the legal system. Studying case studies illustrates how judges are able to create new laws by setting precedent.
  • Reading about precedent in a textbook can make it confusing but if you study a real life case study you can see how and why judges follow laws set in previous cases or not.

Basically, being able to critically analyse these features when you write law case studies will elevate your grades. Often, law students rely purely on remembering statutes, however, if you want the best grades, you will need to exercise your critical and analytical skills.

It could be suggested that finding a case to write about that also excites you is your first major task. The reason for this is that if you choose the first case that you read up on thinking it will save you time, you are likely to be disinterested in it and more importantly, it may not have features that really showcase your analytical skills. In other words, take your time to find a case that is worth writing about, like the one below.

On 19th December 1933, the execution of William Burtoft took place. He was sentenced to death at Manchester Assizes on November 14th for the murder of Frances Levin of Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester after giving a full confession. He allegedly bludgeoned the wealthy widow to death on November 19th 1933.

Anyone reading the above paragraph would believe that this was a cut and dried case. A man murdered a woman, confessed and was brought to justice. However, as you continue to read this article you will discover that events are not always what they seem and that is why studying and writing case studies is a particularly valuable tool for the law student.

Describe the case

  • Who is being prosecuted?
  • What are they accused of doing?
  • Who is the victim, if there is one?
  • Describe the evidence for the prosecution.
  • Describe the evidence for the defence.
  • What is the verdict?

Critical analysis of the case

  • Demonstrate which laws have been used.
  • Analyse and critically evaluate the prosecution’s argument.
  • Analyse and critically evaluate the defence’s argument. (Remember that critical evaluation can be positive as well as negative when writing an academic paper.)
  • Summing up – do you consider the verdict safe or unsafe? If you disagree with the verdict, you need to be able to back it up with a strong legal argument e.g. the judge led the jury.

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