Law Interviews

The best place to start is Oxford's official information on preparing for interviews. But after you've looked there, read on to hear some students talk about their Law interviews.

Holly Anderson

In my first interview a situation was explained to me and I was asked to write out a rule that would convict the person involved of murder. They kept changing the situation and I had to adapt my rule to cover the new elements.

In my second interview I was given a legal rule and told a situation and then asked to apply that rule and come up with an outcome. No legal knowledge was required you just had to think carefully and listen to the exact words of every question asked.

Holly, Wadham, student from 2013

My first interview revolved around the premise that I was on an island where I made the laws. The interviewer asked me things like whether he could sell hair on my island, and then if he could by extension sell his kidney. We talked about why the two were different.

My second interview revolved around a small piece of legislation and some scenarios. The interviewers wanted me to apply the rules of the legislation to the scenarios, and then we talked about whether the results were always fair and how I might modify the law.

Charlotte, Pembroke, student from 2013
Daisy Deller

Ten minutes before each interview we were given a source. The first source was the requirements for countries to be able to join the UN. The second source was about a person's use of another's dock due to necessity, and the legality/illegality of the act. The interviews took very similar styles - the questions would either relate directly to what was written in the source (with close attention to how exactly is was written) or they would require inference from general knowledge and the source. The tutors were looking for both ability to assert your viewpoint but also flexibility in thought to look at scenarios in different ways.

Daisy, Mansfield, student from 2015

My first interview was based on a sentence in my personal statement which suggested potential benefit from the decriminalisation of drugs. I cannot remember many of the details, but the purpose of the interview appeared to be a test of my ability to sustain an argument whilst under high pressure - the interviewers challenged everything I said to the extent where I was not even sure if I believed in what I was saying. It is important to not back down too easily, but also to not be stubborn by refusing to acknowledge when the interviewer has made a good point; if you are unable to counter the argument of the interviewer(s), accept that they have made a valid argument and try to adjust your own.

In my second interview, I was given a definition of murder: "Intentionally causing the death of another person". I then unpicked the definition and pointed out the key words: 'Intentionally' and 'Causing', then defined them in my own words. I was then asked to apply this definition to real life cases, and answer the following questions: "Is this murder?" and "Should they be guilty of murder?".

The first case was: a surgeon is faced with an operation involving the detachment of Siamese twins, knowing full well that one of the twins will die as a result. I then asked things like "Was the operation agreed by the parents?", and "Did the surgeon know which twin would die?", etc. My overall judgement was that he indirectly intended to kill the child, as a result of intentionally carrying out the operation, and clearly this meant that the causation element of the definition was there. So it was apparent that this was murder, but I decided the surgeon should not be guilty of murder. This was because (as suggested by the interviewer which I then applied to my reasoning) intention and causation do not necessarily operate in isolation, and 'intentionally causing' could be a third element of the definition. As the surgeon does not fulfil this third element, he cannot be guilty of murder.

A second case involved a sinking ship, and a group of people below deck who needed to climb up a single ladder to escape the rising water. However, at the top of the ladder a woman became frozen with fear, and would not move up - the man below her tried everything in his power to get her to climb up, but she would not budge. In the end, he threw her off into the water below, where she subsequently drowned. After asking further questions (such as 'was it possible to climb over her, or carry her up, or talk her into climbing up?' to which the answer was 'no') and thinking my thought process aloud, I decided that the man's intention was not to kill the woman, but to move her off the ladder so that the rest could climb up to safety. Therefore, this element of the definition was not fulfilled, so the man did not murder the woman, even though he did cause her death by throwing her into the water when she was not in a state to swim. The interviewer then challenged me about whether he really did cause her death - did she cause her own death through fear induced paralysis? Was it the man's fault that she was not in a state to swim? It was also important to consider the fact that, by throwing her off of the ladder, the man prevented many more deaths by allowing the rest to escape to safety - this part was relevant for the second question, when determining whether the man should be guilty of murder.

Finally, I was given a case where, following the sinking of a ship, a captain, a sailor, and a cabin boy were stranded on a lifeboat. Shortly, their food supplies ran out and, when faced with starvation, the captain and the sailor killed the cabin boy and subsequently ate him. I was then asked to apply the definition to the case, although can't remember what I actually said.

At the end of each interview you may be given the opportunity to ask a question. I'd say definitely ask something! Even if it's "so is this what a typical tutorial is like?" to something more along the lines of "Is there a (insert college name) Law Society, and if so what kind of things are involved?".

student from 2015 Exeter student
Anna Lukina

My interviews were both conducted in a similar way: I was given a short reading material (2-3 pages) thirty minutes before the interview. I was required to go through each of those texts and to discuss them later with the tutors.

My first interview was based on an imaginary Family Law problem, which I had to solve using provided excerpts from the relevant legislation. The question concerned the definition of consent while entering into a marriage – a principle central to the validity of marital union. To discuss the legal issue, I had to come up with various interpretations of the legal rules, both textual and substantive.

In my second interview, I was given a fragment of the judgment in the notable Diane Pretty case. I had to identify the key legal issues concerning that specific case and the whole debate on assisted suicide sparked by it – balance of rights, the importance of human dignity, use of prohibition of torture in relation to euthanasia – and to discuss the arguments provided by the appellant. This interview was particularly thought-provoking, as it touched many fields of interest: human rights law, medical ethics, and criminal law.

The most important advice is to use all time given for the preparation in order to construct a detailed, well-rounded and structured answer. This can boost up any applicant’s confidence and help to demonstrate one’s knowledge and skills in the best way possible.

Anna, Hertford, student from 2015

I had three interviews, and they all followed the same format. You get an extract of a judgement some time before the interview (I'm guessing around 30-45 minutes), and you can make any notes you want during that period. The interviews are centred on the cases and any knowledge gleaned therein - no outside knowledge is necessary. A sample would be this:

The questions start off relatively simple (e.g. who are the parties to this case? What did the court decide?), and progress into comprehension (e.g. why did the judge decide in favour of Party A? What reasons did the judges consider?) The final bit involves application, and I remember being given various fictitious scenarios, and being asked to apply what I learnt from the case (e.g. for a contract case on offer and acceptance, an applicant might be asked whether in xyz circumstances, a contract is formed, and why/ why not).

I would say the most important thing is to stay calm and think through the questions logically before attempting an answer. Don't feel that you have to answer immediately. If you're on the wrong track, the tutors will try to guide you to the answer. Also, even if you're stuck, try to vocalise your thought process so that the tutors can see how you're working through the case! My impression is that they're mostly interested in one's ability to process, interpret, and apply information in a logical and coherent manner.

Michelle, Brasenose, student from 2011

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