Introduction: How to Answer a Law Problem Question
One of the key skills required to be a good lawyer is the ability to find solutions to legal problems. Clients will often come to you for advice about a legal problem they have and you will have to go away and research into the issues and present a solution. In addition to this, it is important that the solution is presented to the client in a way that the client understands, so breaking down information and delivering it in any easy-to-understand way is vital.
Whilst studying for a law degree, students are often asked to write answers to essay questions and problem questions and this will develop your ability to analyse and evaluate information and present arguments in a coherent manner. The usual format for a law problem question is that lots of information is provided and a variety of different scenarios are presented in one question. Here are our top tips for answering a law problem question:
Find Out What You Are Being Asked To Do
At the bottom of the question, there will usually be a statement that specifies exactly what the law problem question is asking. For example, a contract law problem question might say ‘discuss whether a contract exists between the different parties and what the damages will be for breach of contract’.
It is very clear from the statement that students are being asked to talk specifically about whether a contract exists and then the damages for breach of contract. If you want top marks, remember to answer the question and not just throw out all the information that is in your head.
Read All The Facts
Students are sometimes tempted to skim read the problem question and quickly start writing. It is vital that you read the problem question carefully and understand what the facts are. This is important as you can then work out how to apply the law to the facts. You should not assume facts that are not there and you should accept all the facts that have been given, however unlikely they may look on paper!
Identify The Legal Issues
After you have carefully read all the facts, you should identify what the legal issues are. For example, in a contract law problem question where you are being asked to identify whether a contract exists, you should follow a logical structure and work out whether there has been offer, acceptance and intention to create legal relations.
Cite Case Law and Legislation
You should discuss the applicable case law and legislation and follow your university’s guidance on how to cite it. Your university may follow a specific style of referencing, for example, OSCOLA, and marks will be given to students who follow the referencing instructions accurately.
When you are presented with lots of information, it is very easy to jump from issue to issue. This is likely to confuse the reader and if the reader is confused, you have failed to present your arguments in a logical and coherent way and you will be penalised for this when it comes to marking. You should deal with each issue one-by-one and not move onto the next issue until the first one has been dealt with properly.
Don’t Worry About Uncertainty
It’s important to remember that the examiners may deliberately ask questions on areas of law which are uncertain or controversial to test you. If you work with the facts that you are given and identify that there is uncertainty and present a solution, you are one step closer to getting a good mark. Answering problem questions will be a great way to develop your way of thinking!