You may be faced with a legal problem question both in an interview or in an admissions test.
In an interview, you may be provided with the problem question to read and prepare before the interview to then discuss in the actual interview. Alternatively, the interviewer may orally provide you with a series of facts that you have to talk through. In my Cambridge interview, I was faced with both of these in the same interview! Also some admissions tests, such as the Cambridge Law Test, may contain the option of a problem question for you to work through. In my Cambridge Law Test I chose to answer a problem question. If you’re looking for some Oxford Law interview advice – check out this post. The same principles can and should be applied to a Cambridge Law interview.
Firstly, what is a problem question?
It is a fatal scenario that contains a number of legal issues for you to work through and try to resolve. Sometimes you may be provided with a piece of legislation that you are expected to apply to the facts, but this is not always the case. The point of a problem question is to see how well you can identify legal issues and work through them logically. You are not expected to have any knowledge of what the actual law is. Having said this, it is helpful to have a general awareness of legal language and the legal system. For example, understanding the terms claimanta person making a claim, especially in a lawsuit or for a state benefit. and defendantan individual, company, or institution sued or accused in a court of law. and the difference between civil and criminal law. There are many books about the legal system that can easily give you this awareness, but it would be a waste of your time to try and learn the law regarding theft for example.
Structure your answer by the individuals involved and what claims or liabilities they may have.
Having a clear structure to organise your thoughts is a crucial part of what is being tested here. Use the names of the individuals as sub-headings, this is something I still do in problem questions now, or if faced with this in an interview, state from the outset that you will be dealing with the individuals separately. Identify what wrong that person may have been subject to or a wrong they may themselves have committed. This may be criminal or civil, so be aware of financial detriment they may have suffered or inflicted, not just criminal activities.
Use your common sense.
As you are not expected to know any law specifically, you should use general logic and common sense to work through the problem. For example, if it is a crime, you could discuss whether it is premeditated or whether there are any mitigating factors such as intoxication.
As a final tip
If you are given a piece of legislation to apply, try to refer directly to the relevant sections of it when applying it to the facts. In an interview don’t be afraid to pause and refer back to the legislation. They give it to you for a reason – you are not expected to memorise it!
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