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incorporating secondary sources in legal problem questions

My tutors keep telling me to include secondary sources such as Law Commission Reports. But how do I use these constructively?

E.g. if they are advocating to reform an area of law, do I just mention this and say this shows a possibility for future reform? Is that all?
Original post by max_w2000
My tutors keep telling me to include secondary sources such as Law Commission Reports. But how do I use these constructively?

E.g. if they are advocating to reform an area of law, do I just mention this and say this shows a possibility for future reform? Is that all?

In problem questions, you can use them to suggest what might happen where a situation is ambiguous. After applying the legal rules to the facts you have been given the likely outcome may be unclear, but you can say that the Law Commission/X legal scholar has suggested that in such a situation the outcome would be/should be Y.

If a reform is being advocated for then you could suggest that the outcome is likely to be X, but given Y organisation/scholar with strong authority (such as a leading expert in the area, the Law Commission) has strongly advocated for reform, it could be that a judge may decide that the outcome is Y instead.

I hope this makes sense!
Reply 2
Original post by CatusStarbright
In problem questions, you can use them to suggest what might happen where a situation is ambiguous. After applying the legal rules to the facts you have been given the likely outcome may be unclear, but you can say that the Law Commission/X legal scholar has suggested that in such a situation the outcome would be/should be Y.

If a reform is being advocated for then you could suggest that the outcome is likely to be X, but given Y organisation/scholar with strong authority (such as a leading expert in the area, the Law Commission) has strongly advocated for reform, it could be that a judge may decide that the outcome is Y instead.

I hope this makes sense!

That is so helpful thank you so much @CatusStarbright! You've managed to explain it better than all my tutors combined. I'm doing a problem question, and the Law Commission have recommended that a certain rule be abolished. Do I explain why (in summary), or just state that they've recommended this reform, and so it is at least possible that the court could consider this? Thank you. Problem questions are not my strong suit!
Reply 3
@CatusStarbright Hi sorry to bother you again, but I'm a bit lost with the structure of my problem question. Do I need an introduction and conclusion? It may sound daft, but in my degree so far I've only done about two summative problem questions and they were in exams, and I always end up cutting out the intro and conclusion due to word count and it's never been commented on because we don't get feedback for exams.
Original post by max_w2000
That is so helpful thank you so much @CatusStarbright! You've managed to explain it better than all my tutors combined. I'm doing a problem question, and the Law Commission have recommended that a certain rule be abolished. Do I explain why (in summary), or just state that they've recommended this reform, and so it is at least possible that the court could consider this? Thank you. Problem questions are not my strong suit!

I'm glad to be of help!

You could just say that currently the outcome would be X, but it may be that in the future it could be Y. I would not spend long on it, maybe just a sentence, as you have a restricted time limit/word count for problem questions. I would also generally not mention it in a problem question unless there was some caselaw support for the abolition (e.g. some obiter or a case which did otherwise indicate support for this position).
Original post by max_w2000
@CatusStarbright Hi sorry to bother you again, but I'm a bit lost with the structure of my problem question. Do I need an introduction and conclusion? It may sound daft, but in my degree so far I've only done about two summative problem questions and they were in exams, and I always end up cutting out the intro and conclusion due to word count and it's never been commented on because we don't get feedback for exams.

I would say yes, but they should be just a sentence or two. For the introduction I would simply say what sort of area the PQ covers and what you are being asked to examine. For the conclusion, sum up what you have found.

For example, your introduction may say something like: Person A may be liable for murder or manslaughter in this scenario given Person B has died, and Person C could be liable for ABH for Person D's broken nose. The key issues relate to the mens rea of the perpetrators and the causal link between their actions and the injuries caused to Persons B and D.

Your conclusion may then be something like: To conclude, it seems Person A would be liable for murder given they likely had direct intention to at least cause GBH to Person B and the causal link was not broken. Person C could be liable for ABH but it is possible that [X incident] broke the chain of causation because [Y reason].

As you can see, it's not much but they do help to show that you are able to pick out the key issues and reach conclusions regarding the likely outcomes (the criminal liability in this case).
Reply 5
Original post by CatusStarbright
I'm glad to be of help!

You could just say that currently the outcome would be X, but it may be that in the future it could be Y. I would not spend long on it, maybe just a sentence, as you have a restricted time limit/word count for problem questions. I would also generally not mention it in a problem question unless there was some caselaw support for the abolition (e.g. some obiter or a case which did otherwise indicate support for this position).

I would say yes, but they should be just a sentence or two. For the introduction I would simply say what sort of area the PQ covers and what you are being asked to examine. For the conclusion, sum up what you have found.

For example, your introduction may say something like: Person A may be liable for murder or manslaughter in this scenario given Person B has died, and Person C could be liable for ABH for Person D's broken nose. The key issues relate to the mens rea of the perpetrators and the causal link between their actions and the injuries caused to Persons B and D.

Your conclusion may then be something like: To conclude, it seems Person A would be liable for murder given they likely had direct intention to at least cause GBH to Person B and the causal link was not broken. Person C could be liable for ABH but it is possible that [X incident] broke the chain of causation because [Y reason].

As you can see, it's not much but they do help to show that you are able to pick out the key issues and reach conclusions regarding the likely outcomes (the criminal liability in this case).


Thank you very much for your help. That definitely makes sense! There is an obiter comment, which I deleted due to word count but I'll add it back in:smile:

Thank you for the examples! I always end up writing intros and conclusions but delete them if the word count is tight. But yours seem a lot more succinct, so I'll definitely use the structure! Thank you @CatusStarbright
Original post by max_w2000
Thank you very much for your help. That definitely makes sense! There is an obiter comment, which I deleted due to word count but I'll add it back in:smile:

Thank you for the examples! I always end up writing intros and conclusions but delete them if the word count is tight. But yours seem a lot more succinct, so I'll definitely use the structure! Thank you @CatusStarbright

You're welcome!

It's amazing how just having that sentence or two as an introduction and conclusion really helps the structure and has the bonus of conserving the word count at the same time!
Reply 7
Cant really add much to @CatusStarbright's comments, just that a problem question is a completely different animal to a standard essay in terms of structure. There are 4 main sections which are CLEO - Claim, Law, Evaluation and Outcome. Claim is what you've said is the introduction, and Outcome is the conclusion. These neednt be long or overly complex, just setting out the contentious areas, and in Outcome stating what you think the court would decide. There is scope to say if the court followed AvB they would likely hold..., but if the X argument was stronger, they would probably follow Y and find in favour of the defendant because of [summary of key legal point]

We've all been using this https://www.routledge.com/Problem-Questions-for-Law-Students-A-Study-Guide/Brown/p/book/9780367646707 as a guide which includes OSCOLA, obiter, footnotes too.

I'm currently using Less law is good law? L.Q.R. 2021, 137(Jan), 16-20 as a case commentary to argue, and using a professor's arguments to strengthen my case, which you could use in the same way with your Law Commission Reports to argue for/against. Yes different areas of law to you, but same principle and structure of answer

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