How to conclude a first class law dissertation
The conclusion to your dissertation is, arguably, the most important part and is, therefore, potentially a major differentiator between a first class dissertation and a second class one.
There are three things which you should bear in mind:-
1. A well-written dissertation, thesis, essay or, indeed, any story should have three main parts to it: an introduction; a main body; and a conclusion. It reflects any good piece of oratory: say what you’re going to say, say it, then say what you’ve said. In your conclusion, you are, thus, trying to tell the audience what you’ve said throughout your dissertation. If the word limit is 10,000 words, 800-1000 words should, ideally, be used on your conclusion;
2. Don’t be afraid to put your foot into the icy water. As stated in an earlier section you should not be afraid to come to powerful conclusions even if they challenge the views of other academics, practitioners or even the general public, provided that your views can be fairly and reasonably supported. Which brings us to the third and most important aspect of any conclusion;
3. A well drafted conclusion should refer back to your analysis throughout your dissertation to support your suggested conclusions; it should not allow you to raise new arguments or thoughts which you haven’t already considered. Think about it like a civil proof in court: you conduct an examination-in-chief in which you ask open questions to get evidence from your witness; your opponent then cross-examines your witness to test their evidence; you then get a chance to re-examine the witness but you do NOT get a chance to raise anything new that was not covered in cross.
The conclusion to my dissertation, different from my Juridical Review version, is as below. Given the recent Supreme Court criminal law decision of Cadder v HMA, for which see the ScotsLawBlog Cadder article, the final words on getting human rights right attract even greater significance.
The right to a fair trial has produced much concern in the conflict of laws arena today, a particular result of the evolution of a more stringent human rights culture in the United Kingdom. In the field of civil jurisdiction, the right to a trial within reasonable time and the right of access to a court, two of the most fundamental substantive rights of Article 6 ECHR, have emerged; in the sphere of recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, the indirect effect doctrine, a key procedural element of the ECHR, which protects the right to a fair trial indirectly but nevertheless just as significantly, has arisen.
International private law mechanisms exist for the reconciliation of Article 6 with the sphere of civil jurisdiction and judgments. The extent to which these can be utilised to protect the right to a fair trial is undoubtedly immense. At the most extreme end of protection, Fawcett’s hybrid model could provide great procedural legal certainty, such that human rights concerns will be identified first, using ECtHR jurisprudence, following which international private law mechanisms can resolve these concerns with their inherent flexibility.
This strict approach is not unwarranted, particularly where judges fail to see the function or even importance of human rights. Pertinent examples include the misapplication of human rights by the House of Lords in Montgomery , which indeed must be rectified, and other approaches not confined to the courts of the United Kingdom; for instance, the embarrassingly misguided approach of the ECJ in Gasser , where it refused to recognise human rights concerns in its myopic pursuit of the objectives of the Brussels regime, unyielding with respect for concerns of private parties, when there were measures available for reconciliation. This appears even more inadequate in light of Advocate General Léger’s later suggestions that forum non conveniens may actually be incompatible with Article 6, when the doctrine is more than justifiable as it seeks to produce faster and more economic litigation, through both the first and second limbs of Spiliada.
Notwithstanding, the need for Fawcett’s model is more questionable in other situations; for instance, in those cases involving potential indirect breaches of Article 6 when transferring actions abroad, flexible international private law mechanisms appear to have been applied in a manner sufficiently compliant with the ECHR, regardless of the characterisation of the breach as one of Article 6 or simply of the demands of justice. For example, the second limb of Spiliada has effectively prevented stays where there is a real risk of a flagrant breach abroad, as is the Soering threshold for such an indirect breach, whether regarding unreasonable delay or lack of access to a court. Fawcett concedes that the overall result of many cases will remain unchanged but suggests that “borderline” cases may exist which pose as pitfalls for the courts. However, the requirement of flagrancy, as he correctly applied at the beginning of his analysis, makes the existence of such cases difficult, if not impossible, to imagine in practice. In this respect, Fawcett appears to be advocating an approach extending beyond avoiding breaching Article 6; instead, he is actively aiming at protection of a fair trial beyond the Article 6 threshold.
However, this is not unwelcome; the importance of Article 6 is so great that it is worth adopting the strict approach. The consistent use of ECHR jurisprudence at the outset will, at the very least, prevent a breach of Section 2 of the HRA 1998; further, it may assist those judges who are misguided or fail to see the importance of human rights today. Ultimately, a strict approach may provide for considerable legal certainty in a fast and growing area of law which demands firm, human rights orientated answers.