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Legal News – Hot Topics 2019

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, GDL, LPC or BPTC, training contracts, pupillages, and more.

They can also 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. Knowing potential topics of questions 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.


Legal News – Hot Topic 2019: No Fault Divorce

In summary:

In the 2018 Owens v Owens case, a divorce was not given by the courts as none of the five facts required for divorce were met despite a clear irretrievably broken down relationship.

As a result of this, the government made plans to reform the divorce process to remove the concept of fault.

In April 2019, the government published its response to the consultation and confirmed that it would introduce new legislation.

Following reform, a couple or one party would need to notify the court that their marriage had irretrievably broken down. These changes would also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

How to use this in an interview: 

Read the proposal and the above case and decide what your views are on the government’s decision.

Candidates should have an opinion on how this legislative change may affect family law practice. Particularly, if such a legal change will increase the divorce rate or make divorce more efficient for couples.

You may also be asked to give your opinion on the problems with the current legislation and if you believe new legislation will stamp out the existing problems.


Legal News – Hot Topics 2019 – Rape Victims’ Mobile Phones

In summary:

A controversial new form issues to rape complainants says they must hand over their mobile phones or risk having their cases dropped.

Following this, several women who refused to hand over their devices could no longer process with their cases.

Apart from the obvious issue of privacy invasion, another risk of handing in their mobile devices is that information not relevant to the cause could be extracted by police and used against victims in court, although prosecutors insist that that is not the case.

Critics also warn that by focusing on the information provided by the complainant, the victims themselves could become the object of investigation; not just the accused.

How to use this in an interview: 

You need to be able to present a balanced and well-researched overview of this topic, citing the laws around consent.

Quoting and giving your opinion on key critics and talking about the danger of deterring complainants from coming forward will be useful here, along with what legal actions you think should be taken.

Read Questions for Your Criminal Law Training Contract Interview


Legal News – Hot Topics 2019: Brexit

In summary:

When the UK voted to leave the European Union on 23rd June 2016, there were many promises made about how this would be 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 the change would ultimately be for the better.

However, after more than one extension of the date, the UK and the rest of Europe are increasingly uncertain as to what post-Brexit Britain will look like.

This unprecedented level of uncertainty will affect job sectors throughout the country, but the legal sector will be particularly involved.

Moreover, with Theresa May resigning on 7th June 2019, a new race for the next Tory leader begun. It will, therefore, be important to have an opinion as to how you believe Brexit will be resolved in the light of new leadership.

How to use this in an interview: 

The key here would most likely be to give a well-researched viewpoint whilst being wary 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 to 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 2019: Artificial Intelligence

In summary:

The impact of new legal technology is something which law firms are particularly aware of. Many firms wish to pioneer it as an important part of their future development, however they also want to ensure that technology and in particular, artificial intelligence, does not take over from human participation in legal problems.

Artificial intelligence mimics certain operations of the human mind and is the term used when machines are able to complete tasks that require human intelligence.

AI could be used to review documents and legal research, help perform due diligence, contract review and management, predict legal outcomes and optimise recruitment.

According to Deloitte, 100,000 legal roles will be automated by 20136. Now is the time for all law firms to commit to becoming AI-ready.

How to use this in an interview:

Candidates should know the types of jobs that artificial intelligence may be helpful for in future development and whether the firm should embrace these changes.

It is important for you to have a spectrum of opinion in this case – how artificial intelligence an augment what humans do and free them up for higher level tasks.

Also, how humans will be required in the legal field to relate to clients and their personal or business matters.

You may also benefit from having an opinion on what firms can do to embrace a growth mindset in terms of AI and innovate to be ready for this massive step-change.


Legal News – Hot Topics 2019: The Solicitors Qualifying Exam

In summary:

The Solicitors Regulation Authority will introduce a common assessment that all prospective solicitors will take before qualifying in autumn 2021.

Their belief is that it will allow for everyone to meet the same high standards in a consistent way.

In order to pass the SQE, you are required to pass stages one and two, which comprise of legal knowledge and practical legal skills respectively.

You will also need to have obtained a degree or equivalent qualification in any subject, as well as pass the character and suitability requirements; and have two years qualifying work experience. This, in effect, may allow paralegals and apprentices to also qualify.

How to use this in an interview:

Law firms are immensely interested in the SQE, the benefits of it in comparison with the traditional LPC followed by two-year training contract route to qualification and the difference it will make to graduate recruitment within the firm.

A well-researched answer is key here. You may be asked if you believe the benefits outweigh any risks in changing the qualification route.

Moreover, you may be asked to consider how the firm should amend their graduate recruitment to make way for those qualifying via this route post-2021.


Legal News – Hot Topics 2019: Alternative Dispute Resolution

In Summary:

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 people 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 the case Great Ormond Street Hospital v Yates & Gardwent as far as to say that all cases should attempt to mediate, even if just to better understand the others’ position.

How to use this in an interview:

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.

Written by: Alicia Gibson


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!

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