Intellectual Property and Media Law
LEX4701 week 1 (second activity): Different kinds of writing about law
The first stage of this week’s session (i.e. the first activity) was concerned with different types of document which play a role, as legal source material, within law: they were mostly operative legal documents such as treaties, statutes, and law reports. It is essential you get as much practice as you can in recognising, reading, summarising and discussing such material. In all your courses on the LLM you’ll read such materials.
One of the aims in examining these extracts was to gain a better sense of the degree of difference between them as regards how they are laid out, written and presented, as well as how you make sense of them because of what you know already about law and what purposes such documents serve
The second activity for this week extends the process of familiarising yourself with kind of documents you will need to read. We look at another important domain of documents you’ll be working with: secondary materials, or writing about law as opposed to documents within law. Such material ranges from articles in law journals and monographs published by legal publishers through to legal blogs and topical news articles in professional magazines, newspapers and online.
To embark in this second direction in your reading, today’s task requires you to compare six short extracts of writing about law. As with the first activity, the extracts are chosen to illustrate differences, not to be the best or most important in some way. By comparing them, we can begin to discuss the aims, scope and methods needed for the writing tasks you’ll face during the year: writing essays, a literature review, and a dissertation.
For each extract you have time to consider below, you must now write something rather than simply discuss. Write a self-contained brief but continuous response addressing the questions given below. It can be quite short but it needs to indicate as precisely as possible your reactions and overall thinking.
Our discussion in class will look at people’s comments in relation to what the authors themselves say in the extract. So take care to achieve as much accuracy as you can in your writing. Your account of each passage should aim to be intelligible without extra comment. It should explain to a reader who doesn’t know the passage what the passage is about, in the various respects identified below.
Describe the kind of text you think the extract comes from. Most genres of writing have a common name they are known by (e.g. review, abstract, etc.). If there’s no single word that describes the passage, offer a description in a few words of what aspects of its topic it deals with and from what angle.
In deciding what kind of text, you should include something about the extract’s aims and coverage.
Now think about the reader who the piece appears to be addressed to: what (and how much) is that reader assumed to already know about the topic? What are they assumed to want or need to know about it? Is any sense given of why they want to know that – what value the material will have or use it will serve?
Does the text tell you whether it forms part of some larger class of writing about law, or some particular kind of academic project?
In considering this question, you may wish to think about how the extract begins (this is often where links to a larger text or context are presented). Then look closely at the first sentence of each paragraph. Then look closely at the beginning of each sentence (where sentences join up with other parts of the passage). What, if anything, does the passage says about its author(s)? What professional or academic context is depicted as the relevant background? And what words describe the writer’s or writers’ aim (e.g. ‘describe’, ‘explain’, ‘propose’, ‘oppose’, etc.)
The examples in this activity are about IP and media law (a field some of you may be studying with me this year). You might find it interesting to consider in passing how similar or different you think an equivalent cluster of extracts would be if related to a different substantive area of law, e.g. criminal law, European law, international maritime law, or human rights law.
Finally, think about this question: When you are asked to write essays in your LLM for which you yourself have to choose the topic – a major change for many of you from prescribed topics and exams – which of the idioms exemplified in this session could you adopt? Describe why certain types of approach would not be available to you as models. And what kind of research would you have to do if you undertake a project based on each type of work exemplified here?