Problem Questions for Law Students
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Problem Questions for Law Students

A Study Guide

Geraint Brown

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eBook - ePub

Problem Questions for Law Students

A Study Guide

Geraint Brown

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About This Book

Law students rarely have experience answering problem questions before university, and lecturers concentrate on teaching content rather than the exam skills needed. This book bridges the gap on how to transpose knowledge and research into structured and coherent answers to problem questions while earning a law degree.

Aimed at undergraduates, international students, and foundation and SQE candidates, the book gives a step-by-step study guide on how to navigate what a problem question is asking you to do. It deconstructs the process using examples from a range of different fields of law, providing essential guidance from research and critical thinking to style and tone.

Including a range of examples to test yourself against, this is an indispensable resource for any law student who wants to tackle problem questions with confidence.

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Information

Publisher
Routledge
Year
2021
ISBN
9781000441482
Edition
1
Topic
Law
Index
Law

PART B
Researching and writing

DOI: 10.4324/9781003125747-2

Part B aims

In this chapter you will learn how to:
  • Identify the legal problem within the question
  • Organise main and sub-Claims
  • Begin researching and note-taking
  • Recognise legal authority and the power of each source
  • Understand case law citation and abbreviation
  • Perform searches and understand the returns
  • Turn your research into an outline answer
  • Find some seminal (key) cases dealing with contract law
  • Use cases in your answer
  • Make notes on your selected cases
  • Create a plan for your answer
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of each type of CLEO structure
  • Identify the three basic structures of a problem question
  • Understand which structure is the most suitable for your PQ
    • And have an end of chapter test

Identifying Claims in a PQ

The situation that follows is based in criminal law, but think about the scenario as if it happened in your country. The following tasks are set to prepare your critical thinking and analysis of the question. Whether you answer them correctly or not is not important at this stage.
Task B1 – Identify any criminal acts that have been committed. Write notes on the right.
fig0002
See Answer section for identification of potential offences.
Why do this for your own country and not UK law? Regardless of your home jurisdiction, the processes of identifying Claims are the same, and to start off, you are looking at offences which you are familiar with in your legal system rather than jumping head-first into UK law.
What you have just done in Task B1 is consider the breadth of claims in the PQ (ie what needs to be included).
Next, you will need to think about the depth, or how much detail is needed.
Task B2 – Using the Task B1 criminal law PQ:
  1. Put a tick (√) next to points that you think are the most important which need a lot of detail.
  2. Which remaining points are minor (not as essential) but need less detail and exploration? Mark these with a plus (+).
  3. The previous two points are likely to be agreed (ie given) by both sides and presented in the PQ, however there may be facts which are disputed in your own assessed PQs. Mark these with a (Y, N or?) to show if the facts are agreed (yes), in disagreement (no), or if further research is required by yourself to discover this by using a question mark.
  4. Are there any hidden issues not directly written? Tutors will place hidden (or oblique) issues in a PQ to test the critical thinking of the students. Be careful you are not identifying a red herring (irrelevant claims).
Task B3 – Look again at the example criminal law PQ. Read the line Lucy runs away… and consider these questions:
  • What can you infer (guess/assume) about what happened to the particular item mentioned in the PQ?
  • What are the consequences of doing this? Is this a separate offence?
  • How is this related to the question (who to advise)?
  • Is it a major or a minor point?
  • Therefore, should you write about this?
Revisit the earlier task on the non-legal PQ for another attempt at identifying the breadth and depth of claims.
Task B4 – Have a look at the following PQ, and try to identify claims that may be worth researching. Follow the same steps as in Task B1.
Important – The following PQ will be used as a basis for tasks for the rest of the book.
fig0003
Task B5 – Consider:
What is the overarching theme or argument of the points in the question?
What area of law is the problem raising?
Are any sub-Claims arising?
Task B6 – Number each potential Claim you see in the PQ, and write a short note detailing your thoughts, queries and possible points of contention. At this stage it doesn’t matter if they are legally or factually right.
The student example below contains a reference number, source information and a note/query
  1. “A private watch collector.” Not selling as a professional You’ll need to consider:
    • Which facts are not in dispute?
    • Which facts are disputed?
    • Which facts may be contentious, deliberately unclear or incomplete?
    • Which absent facts are needed to make a judgment on the preceding?
Tip: You are looking for all claims at this stage, not just the obvious ones that are in the PQ.
Coming up are some of the issues that could be raised from this PQ. Avoid looking at them too early on as it will become a skill in itself to identify claims.
Fact in general English means a provable, actual or real statement, opinion or conclusion. However, in law and PQs, a fact is an impartial, non-judgemental, objective observation of what happened; for example, the previous PQ in Task B4 stated that Peter emailed Jack on May 10th offering £2800 for the watch. Your PQ answer needn’t question this or any other ‘presented fact’, whereas in legal practice, the timing may have an important bearing on the contract.
It is unlikely that any of the PQs you will be facing will include factual issues, for example, a delivery of sweet crude oil contained 0.6% sulfer where the general accepted sulfer content of the product is 0.5%, and by definition, the delivery is actually sour crude oil.
If a PQ states a delivery was of sweet crude oil (unless you’re specialising in oil and gas law, and your lecturer is testing your knowledge of sulfer content as well as problem solving), it must be accepted that your delivery is sweet crude oil.
Normally, if your lecturer wanted to test your knowledge about this, the PQ would be phrased something like… the delivery contained crude oil with a sulfer content of 0.6%… thereby putting the onus on you to identify the type of oil by its sulfer concentration.
Legal claims are more common in PQs and can be answered by the question what does the law mean? Or how does the law apply in this situation?
Tip: Lecturers often adapt a real case to make a PQ.
It could be a seminal case, a recent case or an obscure case from lectures has been used as a basis of the PQ, but the facts may have been altered and the names most definitely will have been changed. But you can identify the Claims of a PQ by:
  • Reading the facts of the PQ and it reminding you of a case
  • Reading the PQ and recognising the legal area(s) within
The following text shows some example claims identified in the given PQ, and each potential claim is given a number. Following are some student notes explaining why they think each point is worthy of research.
A BASIC PROBLEM QUESTION ON CONTRACT – ANNOTATED CLAIMS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
Jack, who is a private watch collector1, is selling one of his watches for £3000 on a specialist2 pre-owned3 watches website. Peter sees the post4 online5 and immediately6 emails7 Jack on May 10th to say he’d like to buy the watch for a slightly reduced price of £28008.
The next day, Peter decides he’d like to revoke9 his earlier email, so he posts10 a letter to Jack’s home address11 stating that he wishes to withdraw12 from the sale.
On May 12th, Jack reads Peter’s email13, and posts a letter14 to Peter stating that he’d like to accept15 his offer of £2800.
On the third day, Jack receives Peter’s letter of withdrawal16.
Advise Jack17.
STUDENT’S THOUGHTS, QUERIES AND POSSIBLE POINTS OF CONTENTION FOR EACH OF THE 17 IDENTIFIED CLAIMS IN THE PQ
  1. “A private watch collector.” Not selling as a professional
  2. “Specialist… watches website.” Check if this is still shown to ‘the public’
  3. “Pre-owned.” Not new, so less buyer protection for Peter?
  4. “Sees the post.” Not stated if the advert is an offer. How can it therefore be accepted to form a contract?
  5. “Online.” Is this different to seeing it in a shop, magazine?
  6. “Immediately emails/Next day, Peter revokes.” Explore the timing
  7. “Peter… emails Jack.” Delivery of communication (email) versus letter
  8. A £200 reduction is requested by Peter. How does this impact if it’s an offer and how it can be accepted (see point 4)?
  9. “Revoke.” Does the purpose impact any communication method?
  10. Method of communication (again) of withdrawal to home address
  11. Home v business address – which is the correct correspondence add...

Table of contents