Legal News – Hot Topics 2018
You will, at some point in your legal career journey, have to attend an interview.
They are a key part of many different application processes, including: university, apprenticeships, vacation schemes, mini-pupillages, the GDL, the LPC or BPTC, training contracts, pupillage etc. They can also often be a fairly daunting experience, and many candidates struggle with interviews more than any other stage in the application process.
This page outlines some of the legal controversies in the media recently that may well come up in your interview, and knowing potential question areas is just the first step to a more successful outcome. Use this page as a starting point to prepare for any hot topic obstacle your interviewer might throw at you, and put your legal-news-knowledge worries to rest.
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Legal News – Hot Topics 2018: Brexit
When the UK voted to leave the European Union on 23rd May 2016, many promises were made as to how this was a positive move for the UK. With slogans such as £350 million a year for the NHS and the opportunity to ‘take back our borders’, it seemed as if any change would ultimately be for the better.
However, 18 months on and having triggered Article 50 to start the two-year process of leaving, many are increasingly uncertain as to what post-Brexit Britain will look like. This unprecedented level of uncertainty will affect every job sector throughout the country, but the legal sector will be especially involved.
One area in which interviewees may face questions on is what sort of exit deal Britain should seek to gain from the EU. For example, candidates may be asked to break down the colloquial terminology of hard and soft Brexit and decide with justification which they believe is best for the UK. The key here would most likely be to give a well-researched viewpoint whilst being vary of becoming too political with regards to the referendum result. Realistically there are no right or wrong answers and the best preparation would either be to watch the news on a daily basis or read a reputable newspaper, to keep updated on the latest progress.
Questions could also focus on how Brexit may impact the legal sector specifically. Candidates in this case may want to either look broadly at the issue of unravelling EU law or look more specifically the respective firm’s specialism.
If you would like further insight into tackling Brexit at an interview, take a look at our How to Discuss Brexit at a Training Contract Interview blog, or our Impact of Brexit on Law Firms page.
Legal News – Hot Topics 2018: Sentencing
When Lavinia Woodward was charged under S.20 Offences Against the Person Act 1861 after stabbing her boyfriend, the decision to give her a suspended sentence caused widespread public outcry. Many have labelled the case as yet more proof that the justice system favours those who are both white and of a privileged background.
Opinions on effective sentencing have also been divided in the recent case of a 90-year-old driver who was spared prison after killing two women when he erroneously pressed the accelerator.
Candidates should have an opinion on what role they believe mitigating and aggravating factors should play in a judge’s deliberation. This may be that they justify why they think the current guidelines are sufficient or alternatively propose with valid reasoning, a preferable replacement.
Good preparation would be to look at the Sentencing Council website in order to see what judges have to look for when coming to a decision.
Legal News – Hot Topics 2018: Alternative Dispute Resolution
Over the past decade or so, courts have begun to favour many different approaches as alternatives to the traditional model of litigation. This has reached an extent where many parties for example, will now be penalised when it comes to the settlement if they have not tried to mediate beforehand. Many now accept that in the not too distant future, the majority of civil and family cases will be potentially solved by mediation or where applicable arbitration. Mr. Justice Francis in Great Ormond Street Hospital v Yates & Gard, went as far as to say that all cases should attempt to mediate, even if just to better understand the others position.
Candidates may be asked to give their opinion on how they believe cases are likely to be approached in the future and give their opinion on the efficacy of alternative dispute resolution as opposed to going to court. Those going into firms which place an emphasis on mediation may be asked what they know about it and whether or not they have any experience in the field.
Candidates can prepare for questions of this nature by reading over the relevant information on the Civil Mediation Council or even applying to observe an experienced mediator. Whilst criminal law is far more litigation based, candidates may be asked how they feel court proceedings can be improved and whether there is an alternative to litigation where minor offences are concerned.
Want even more interview advice? You can visit our Pupillage Interview page or our Training Contract Interview page, including specific pages for telephone interviews, online interviews and face-to-face interviews!
Legal News – Hot Topics 2018: Sexual Harassment
Following the Harvey Weinstein revelations in October of this year, many high-profile figures have since been accused of sexual offences dating back as far as the 1970’s. Speculation is now rife as to exactly why many have waited as long as 3 decades to come forward. This has not been helped by the rhetoric of former Secretary of State for Defence Sir Michael Fallon who claimed that these things were acceptable in times gone by.
Candidates may be asked to give their opinions on whether they believe the current legislation in place for such offences is of an adequate nature to protect women from sexual harassment. Interviewees may want to refer to the notion that prior to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, there was no English legislation to truly cover women in the workplace.
Alternatively, a candidate may want to argue that the legislation is in fact fit for purpose and more needs to instead be done to bring the perpetrators to justice, reinforcing the idea that this behaviour is unacceptable.
Legal News – Hot Topics 2018: Acid Attacks & Anti-Social Behaviour
Violent attacks involving acid are on the rise in the UK and particularly in London. The BBC estimates that the number of attacks has more than doubled over the last five years. Just one example involved a 15-year-old boy spraying acid in a shopping centre injuring multiple people. Many acid attacks are treated as being tantamount to grievous bodily harm and are therefore tried under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. Charges usually come under Section 18 or Section 20 depending on how easy it is to prove intention.
Candidates may be asked for their opinions, on what they believe is the best way to minimise and eradicate attacks involving acid. They may wish to argue that given the aforementioned statute is over 150 years old, the law needs reforming so as to reflect the seriousness of acid as a weapon.
Alternatively, a focus could be placed on a view to better preventing acid attacks by legislatively making it harder for adolescents to gain access to corrosive substances.
Legal News – Hot Topics 2018: Children & Medical Care
A contentious legal issue has long been who has the final say over a child’s medical care. This was recently illustrated by way of an extreme example in Great Ormond Street Hospital v Yates & Gard, when an infant born with a rare genetic disorder was the centre of a legal case between the parents of the child and the medical team caring for him.
Candidates may wish to argue that ultimately the medical personnel know best and should therefore decide what treatment is undertaken. This is of course providing that parent and child are fully aware of any risks.
Alternatively, you may wish to conclude that a parent knows their child better than anyone and always has the best interest at heart; the only caveat might be the effect which emotion has on their judgement.
Written by Matthew Knights