Use of Paragraphs and Thesis Development in Legal Argument

The general guidelines for writing and using Paragraphs in the development of an idea apply as well when you write in a legal context. For example, in persuasive writing, the paradigm for arguing a legal point follows a conventional structure:

  • Conclusion = C
  • Rule Synthesis = R
  • Rule Proof = R
  • Application of Rule to Fact = A
  • Counterargument = C
  • Conclusion Restated = C

With the exception of the Conclusions at the beginning and end of the point, which may only require one or two sentences, an advocate develops the other parts of the paradigm by means of one or (usually) more than one paragraph for each part. What is key is that each paragraph should develop a single concept (thesis); successive paragraphs should have a demonstrable relationship to that concept-providing an additional illustration of it, extending it, contrasting it, or moving to a related but different category of idea.

In this paradigm of legal argument, the Rule Synthesis pulls together common threads of ideas from multiple cases. A Rule Synthesis usually draws several idea threads from case law; a complete articulation of the Rule includes all of these threads; here, the ideas comprising the Rule should be stated in general terms, without delving into the details of the cases. The Rule Proof illustrates and explains the ideas that the Rule Synthesis states more generally by addressing the facts, holding, and reasoning of the cases cited in the Rule Synthesis. A thesis sentence at the beginning of a paragraph should carry forward into the Rule Proof each of the ideas or theses covered in the Rule Synthesis. The thesis sentence is the link between Rule Synthesis and Proof.