ILSPA’s Single Subject Legal Advanced Level courses are offered to Legal Secretaries who are looking to gain an in-depth understanding of one particular area of law, and acquire some advanced skills at a Paralegal level. In order for ILSPA to assess your understanding of the law, you are required to submit assignments in essay form.
To start with, it’s a good idea to define what an essay is. If you were to look up the word in a dictionary, or even online generally, you would find a variety of meanings such as “a piece of formal writing which discusses a particular issue, situation or problem”.
You then need to ask yourself, ‘What should I achieve through the assignment?’ This will be your understanding, and ability to express that understanding of the subject area in which the question is being asked.
There are two main reasons for writing an assignment:
- To show that you understand the law and/or procedure in which the question is set and are able to apply it to a given set of circumstances, and
- To set out your reasoning in such a way that your assessor will be satisfied with your understanding.
You must, therefore, comprehend exactly what the question is asking of you. If you don’t understand the question, please remember to email your course assessor for clarification. Don’t be afraid of doing so, as she is there to help! The purpose of ILSPA’s assignments is to test your knowledge and understanding. However, the assignments also have another very useful purpose - they are designed to be a continuing part of the learning process. Unlike a formal examination where outside aids are not allowed, distance learning students have their course material (and the Internet!) to refer to when formulating an answer.
So let’s have a look at how you should tackle an assignment question:
- Understand what the question is about and what the law and/or the procedure is within the question which is set.
- Look it up in your course material and re-read it until you are confident that you do understand the question in the context of the material.
- Evaluate the material and make rough notes of the relevant parts of it which you think would apply to the question.
- Structure a draft answer to the question which shows the development of your knowledge towards the conclusion that you have arrived at.
Making rough notes before you actually start on the structure of your final answer is extremely useful. You could write the actual question in large letters at the top of your rough notes so it is very clear. For example, for one of the questions in the Land Law and Conveyancing course, you could write:
WHAT IS A RESTRICTIVE COVENANT AND A POSITIVE COVENANT, AND HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT.
If you have difficulty in understanding WHAT something is, try looking at it from a different angle and also ask yourself WHY something exists – WHY are restrictive/positive covenants needed? You can apply this circular kind of thinking to most questions and it helps you to understand the full picture.
The writing of rough notes on the subject matter is also very useful because it helps you think about things thoroughly. If you have ever used ‘mind maps’, you know they are an excellent means of doing this. If you don’t know what a ‘mind map’ is, look it up on Google. The beauty of mind maps is that all your thoughts can be seen on one page in a totally constructive and interlinking way. Also, there is a saying that “You may not realise what you are thinking until you write it down”.
Once your notes make sense and you have written a draft answer, you can start your final answer. Always begin your assignment with an introduction, explaining the relevant law and procedure. Follow with a main body structure explaining how the problem set relates to the introduction. And then finish with a conclusion which links the previous two together and provides the answer.
Within your final piece, you must ensure that you have cited authorities whenever relevant, such as cases and statutes. This shows your assessor that you have performed adequate research and your reasoning is sound.
A few further tips:
- Don’t use the first-person singular, e.g. ‘I, me, my’.
- Do write in the third person as it sounds assertive and credible.
- Don’t use slang, overly familiar phrases and definitely don’t use text-speak.
- Do use a neutral and professional tone when writing.
ILSPA’s Corporate and Commercial Law Advanced Diploma is the only course which does not require an essay-type answer for the assignment. It includes a list of questions, each of which merely requires a short, simple and direct answer.
At the beginning of each Advanced Diploma Course, you can find Assignment Guidance and Diploma Course Guidance. Be sure to read these when you start your studies and again before you start your assignments so that you are aware of everything required. Good luck!