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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, 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.


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

In Summary:

A controversial new form issued 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 proceed 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 case could be extracted by police and used against victims in court, although prosecutors insist that this 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.

In Interviews

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 some 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.

Legal News – Hot Topics 2019: Computer Crime

In Summary:

After a US extradition request for computer crime, Julian Assange was taken into custody after living in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years. He was charged by a US court with conspiracy to hack into a government computer.

The case brings to question freedom of expression, the European Convention on Human Rights and right to asylum, all of which you should aim to discuss in your interview.

In interviews

You may be asked whether you agree with the Ecuadorian’s decision to revoke Assange’s asylum, to comment on the legal implications this has and the US’s right to extradite him to stand trial in Virginia.

Read up on the topic because it covers so many bases which could help you not just in your training contracts interviews, but in your study as well.

Legal News – Hot Topics 2019: Brexit

In Summary:

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, after more than one extension to 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 every job sector throughout the country, but the legal sector will be especially involved.

In Interviews:

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 2019: Sentencing

In Summary:

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.  

In Interviews:

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 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 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. 

In Interviews:

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.

Legal News – Hot Topics 2019: Sexual Harassment

In Summary:

Following the Harvey Weinstein revelations in October of last 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.

In Interviews:

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.  

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!

Written by Matthew Knights

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