Preparation for Oxbridge Law Interview

7 Dec 2015

General tips for the law interview

Received an invitation for a Law interview? Great! The next step is to do your absolute best preparation to make sure you have the potential to shine. What is recommended then? Firstly, read up very widely and really think hard about all the difficult issues underpinning the different areas of law. You can't predict for sure what kind of questions will come up (probably some kind of case study) but some arguments are very useful because they are potentially applicable to many areas so they are more useful than others. E.g. if you decide a certain case should have this outcome, will it open the floodgates of litigation? Will it have any public policy concerns, implications or repercussions?

An example of an law case discussion

For instance, in one of the law interviews, the applicant was given a case where a mum promised her daughter to support her financially if she would study law in the UK for her (Jones v Padavatton, for those who are interested). The mum later withdrew her support so the question was whether the daughter could sue and whether there was a binding contract.

From a micro point of view and from a fairness standpoint, it seems as though the daughter should have some sort of remedy (particularly if the facts are tweaked such that it seems manifestly unfair to her). However if the daughter was allowed to recover damages, it might mean that there will be a lot more litigation from people who have family arrangements who come forth to try their luck. Is this desirable, do we want people to have to tread carefully and watch their words in case it has legal effect, even in a social or familial setting? So it's kind of balancing fairness in an individual case with broader social repercussions, which should prevail?

What are the objectives of the law?

This ties in closely with what the law serves to do which is definitely important to think about. If you have a very clear idea what the law should do, what objectives it should serve etc and you can defend your point of view convincingly while appreciating that other points of view might also have its merit, it would be really useful. E.g. does the law seek to guide behaviour? To promote equality? To prevent oppression? What if these values are in conflict? Etc.

This might also mean being familiar with some basic legal ideas so you can use it as starting points even if you disagree with them. E.g. civil liability and criminal are very different, one seeks to compensate only, the other seeks to punish an outrage to public values. Thus different processes are applicable to them for different reasons. So for example in a civil suit if you argue extensively that a party should lose because he should be punished for his immoral conduct, that might not sit well with the tutors unless you can show them that you have this point of view despite appreciating that typically in a civil suit, the law seeks to compensate rather than punish parties.

It is not even just about what the law seeks to achieve, it might also be fundamentally what the law is. Is the law simply a reflection of social values? Majority thinks something is wrong so the law says it is wrong? Or is the law a means to shape social values? So we want people to think killing is wrong, therefore we make it illegal. Does the law play a more passive or active role? Also, is it productive or meaningful to think about what the law is rather than what it should be? Or even in fact, has the law anything to do with social values, and does the law go hand in hand with morality? E.g. illegal car parking probably doesn't carry a moral stigma if for instance you had an emergency and had nowhere to park. Nonetheless the law penalizes you and you have to pay a fine. On the other hand, adultery might be frowned upon but the law doesn't penalize it. These are the kind of questions that won't be asked on its own but would be applicable to supporting your other arguments.

Some additional tips on the law interview

I'd also say when you take a stand, don't take an absolute position, be ready to concede it. Try your best to defend your position but if you think what the interviewer said makes sense as well, it's okay to say, well in light of that I agree that this other position is also good in the sense that bla bla, the tutors like open-mindedness.

Also try to read a lot about law-related stuff, news articles, trends and big news in the legal world etc. You can drop 1-2 lines in pasing to demonstrate your knowledge and interest particularly if it is relevant to your argument. But of course anything you mention you must be prepared for further questions so know it well.

Prepare really hard and read as much as you can on all the past law interview questions. The oxford website has a couple:

GuruMe has some too, The answers ere prepared by a successful law applicant but take the answers with a grain of salt because there is no right or wrong answer, it is all about how you answer that matters.

All the best!