The Nine Pillars Of Law School Policy Brief Writing

In law school, you’ll be expected to write a lot of policy briefs. The policy brief is a written representation of your position on an issue, and it is often the first step in creating a legal argument. 

This article will help you understand what makes for great policy briefs by outlining nine pillars that can help you write them better: research, secondary sources, theory, findings, methodology/objectivity/subjectivity; writing style; conventions/conventions; final polish and layout.

Law School Study Tip: The Three Pillars of Law School Success
1. Understanding the foundations of policy brief writing.
2. Importance of clear and concise communication.
3. Research skills for gathering relevant data.
4. Analyzing complex legal issues systematically.
5. Crafting persuasive arguments in policy briefs.
6. Structuring the policy brief effectively.
7. Using evidence and references to support claims.
8. Adhering to legal writing conventions and style.
9. Impact of policy briefs on legal decision-making.

I. Research

Research is the foundation of a good policy brief. It’s important to use reliable sources, primary sources, credible sources, and a variety of current sources.

Reliable–The best research is done by experts who know the field being researched. These experts will know what information to trust and which data you should ignore.

Primary –Primary sources are first-hand accounts of an event or period in history that took place at or close to when they happened (for example court documents or government studies). They can also be written by people closely connected with an organization or event like a memoir written by someone who was there firsthand(for example The Autobiography of Malcolm X).

Credible–A credible source has been around long enough that it has been tested over time and found reliable (for example The New York Times newspaper has been around since 1851).

Building a strong legal brief requires careful consideration to ensure it effectively conveys your argument. Discover valuable insights in our article on writing legal briefs that impress judges and elevate your legal writing skills.

Ii. Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are a great way to get a broad overview of a topic. Often, they have been written by experts in the field who are less likely to be biased than someone who is trying to sell you something or push their agenda. Secondary sources might also serve as a good starting point for your research.

For example, if you want to write an article about how people should behave while driving on the highway, but don’t know much about it yet, then reading some books on traffic laws would be helpful because they will provide background information and statistics that may help you form your thesis statement better.”

III. Theory

The first principle of policy briefs is that they need to be grounded in theory. Theory means the reason why the brief is important. Many students think that their only job is to give an overview of a topic, name a few cases, and then state their opinion on how things should change. 

But if you want your professor (and yourself!) to take your work seriously, they need to see how you’re basing your arguments on principles of law or policy that are mutually agreed upon by experts in your field.

One way to connect with these experts is by drawing from other authors’ work. 

You may already have read law review articles and books about topics related to yours; now think about whether those authors’ arguments were persuasive enough for you to accept them without question or whether something was missing or unclear that could be clarified through further research writing? 

The answer will help determine what kind of theoretical support might be necessary before presenting your argument

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IV. Findings

The findings section is where you lay out the main points of your argument. The purpose of this section is to present data and analysis that support your position as clearly, logically, and objectively as possible. You should be sure to use statistics, facts, and figures to back up any information presented in the brief.

In this section of your policy brief, you will summarize your research findings and give them context by explaining why they are significant. 

These findings mustn’t just seem random or hastily thrown together they must be relevant to the topic area at hand and connected through logical reasoning (for example: “Poverty rates have increased since 2000.”

This statement alone would make an interesting factoid but wouldn’t be very helpful if it wasn’t backed up by specific evidence).

The best way to accomplish this is by examining all of the sources used during primary research (see Part III.) 

For relevant evidence that supports each claim made about a given topic area within society today; these sources will help guide readers through what can sometimes feel like an overwhelming amount of information provided throughout different parts of each essay on a given topic area (e.g., poverty rates).

V. Methodology

The methodology is the process used to collect data.

The methodology should be clearly explained, justified and appropriate to the problem. It should also be consistent with findings.

The method can be described in the introduction or elsewhere in your paper (e.g., within a footnote), but it’s best if you include an explanation of your methodology earlier in the paper so that readers can understand how you obtained your results (i.e., what data you collected and how).

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Vi. Objectivity And Subjectivity

In the world of legal writing, there is often a misperception that “objectivity” and “subjectivity” are mutually exclusive. However, this is not the case. A good policy brief will contain both objective statements and subjective statements.

Objective statements are those that can be proven to be true by showing evidence or logical reasoning. For example: “The Supreme Court held in Smith v. Smith that parents have no right to give away their children’s organs.”

Subjective statements come from personal beliefs, which are not necessarily backed up by evidence or logic but instead rely on intuition (for example: “I believe that every child should have access to organ donation because it helps people live longer and healthier lives”).

Vii. Writing Style

The writing style is not the same as grammar, which is an important distinction to make. Grammar refers only to the technical aspects of writing, such as punctuation and spelling; it does not take into consideration how you write or how you think. Writing style can be best described in two parts: how you write, and then how that writing affects your readers.

When it comes to the first part of how you write you should think about your grammar and syntax, then try to find ways to express yourself more clearly without losing any meaning or intention behind what you’re trying to say. This will help ensure that people understand what you mean when they read your policy brief!

The second part of how this written material will affect its readers is also very important because if someone doesn’t understand what something means in one sentence (or paragraph), they probably won’t understand why something happened either! 

For example: if someone reads an article about climate change but doesn’t know anything about science or politics yet then maybe they won’t believe anything else said later on because there’s no foundation laid out beforehand so everything sounds like nonsense until proven otherwise by research done independently outside this blog post…etcetera…et cetera…

Presenting a logical and compelling legal argument is pivotal for success in legal writing. Explore our tips in the article on creating a logical, effective legal argument to refine your argumentation skills and enhance the persuasiveness of your work.

VIII. Conventions

When writing your law school policy brief, it will be important to show that you are an individual who takes pride in your work. This can be achieved by following the conventions of grammar, punctuation, and formatting.

Some conventions are universal, such as using correct spelling and sentence structure; others may come with local variations. For example:

Spelling – Whether you use American or British English should generally be dictated by what style guide your legal research paper follows. 

If your law school requires citations from both countries within a single document then there is no need to change between them throughout (unless they differ). 

If there is one specific issue where different conventions apply then make sure it has been resolved before starting on that particular part of the paper if possible – don’t leave any loose ends!

Punctuation – Again this depends on the local convention so always check with whoever assigned or marked your first draft essay before proceeding further down this route if unsure about its correctness!

Ix. Final Polish And Layout

The final days of your research should be spent polishing your brief and making sure that it is as good as it can be. This includes:

Cover Page-the cover page is just a decorative piece, but make sure you choose an appropriate font and style for this section. Use a standard size document so that the title fits nicely with the rest of your paper (for example, 10-point Times New Roman).

Abstract-The abstract should be short and sweet; it should summarize what happens in your policy brief without giving too much away or leaving out important details. 

Each section should include one sentence or phrase from each paragraph to keep readers engaged with what you have written. 

You may also want to include specific citations from other sources within this section so that readers know where they can go for more information if required. Make sure not to put any unnecessary information in here; this section is different from any others because it needs only relevant information about how you wrote your paper!

Title Page — Titles are important! They help people remember exactly why they chose something over another option when deciding between two similar options (such as two articles on similar topics). 

Therefore, when writing titles remember that shorter ones tend  towards being more memorable while longer ones are often too long-winded which makes them less likely remembered by readers later down the line when trying to find something relevant again after reading through several different sources during their studies.”

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The nine pillars of law school policy brief writing are crucial for any student who wants to excel in their studies. 

The more time you spend on these pillars, the better your final product will be. These guidelines can be applied to any type of writing, so even if you’re not currently enrolled in a class or have no plans to go back soon, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t still try them out yourself!

Further Reading

LawReady™ Roadmap: Building Your Path to Readiness Short Description: Explore the LawReady™ Roadmap to understand how to prepare effectively for a legal education journey.

Course Catalog Short Description: Browse the comprehensive course catalog to discover the diverse academic offerings at the Notre Dame Law School.

UNESCO Document Repository Short Description: Access the UNESCO document repository to explore educational resources and publications on various subjects.


What is the LawReady™ Roadmap and how can it help me?

The LawReady™ Roadmap is a guide designed to assist individuals in preparing for their legal education journey. It provides valuable insights and steps to enhance readiness for law school.

How can I explore the course offerings at Notre Dame Law School?

You can explore the range of academic courses offered by Notre Dame Law School by accessing their comprehensive course catalog. It provides information on subjects, schedules, and professors.

What resources can I find in the UNESCO Document Repository?

The UNESCO Document Repository contains a wealth of educational resources and publications on diverse topics, making it a valuable repository for researchers, educators, and students.

How do I navigate the academic pillars mentioned in the LawReady™ Roadmap?

The LawReady™ Roadmap outlines key academic pillars that contribute to law school readiness. These pillars include foundational knowledge, critical thinking, research skills, and effective communication.

Is the UNESCO Document Repository accessible to the public?

Yes, the UNESCO Document Repository is open to the public and provides access to a wide range of educational materials, research reports, and publications from UNESCO’s initiatives worldwide.