Example Cambridge Law Admissions Interview

Example Cambridge Law Admissions Interview

August 27, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


My name is Louise Merrett. I am one of the
Law Fellows at Trinity College. I am also a reader in International Commercial Law in
the Law Faculty at Cambridge. My name is Ben Spagnolo. I am also a Law Fellow
here at Trinity and I work mostly in Public Law and Roman Law. This video is intended to demystify an understandably
stressful and, we think, often misunderstood part of the admissions process by showing
an example of a typical law interview. We have also included some reflections from some
of our current students about their experiences at interview, including a student who was
interviewed overseas. Although this video focuses on the interview,
it is important to remember that the interview is just one part of our admissions process.
It helps us to understand your interest in law and explore some of your ideas but it
is only one element of the process and evaluation. We also, of course, will have your school
results and your predictions, your references, your personal statement and your Cambridge
Law Test. The Cambridge Law Test is a one-hour written
paper that you will be asked to take when you come for interview. You don’t have to
register or sign up for the test. Your college or the overseas panel that is arranging your
interview will make all of the necessary arrangements. The Cambridge Law Test is a common paper across
the Cambridge colleges. It offers you an opportunity to show some of the skills and abilities that
we have found good lawyers and good law students possess. It is a test about reasoning; it
is a test about argumentation. You can see some sample Cambridge Law Test papers on our
website so you can get a feel for what might be involved, but it’s important to stress
that it’s not a test where we expect any prior legal knowledge or prior legal training. We
are focusing on those skills of reason and argumentation. It’s not about legal knowledge
per se. That last point that Ben made about the Cambridge
Law Test is also true of the interview. We don’t expect any prior legal knowledge when
you come to an interview in Cambridge. Of course, some of you may have studied some
law – you might be studying A level law, for example – and you may want to talk about that
and bring that into your interview. That’s not something we expect. We don’t expect any
legal knowledge when you come for your interview. We think that one of the best ways of preparing
for a law interview is to think about the world around you and your own lives and see
if you can think about some of the legal aspects there may be and the legal dimensions of what’s
going on in the world. You can feed that knowledge and interest by reading a newspaper, watching
the news, reading quality magazines and books and just really focusing on what legal dimensions
there are and what interests you in the news and the world around you. There are no tricks or secrets to the interviews
in Cambridge. We just want to see how you argue, what you think, and really just see
whether you would enjoy the Cambridge supervision process and enjoy learning and talking about
law. Exactly what a Cambridge law admissions interview
looks like varies considerably from college to college and from interviewer to interviewer.
Most interviews, though, will involve some kind of exercise. It could be an exercise
with a legal flavour or it could be an exercise that involves moral or practical reasoning
a bit more generally. You might, for example, be asked to read and think about an extract
from a case or to work through a particular factual scenario or perhaps to try and explain
how a statutory provision would operate in practice. Once again, though, we are not looking
for any pre-existing knowledge of the law. If we want you to know some law for the purpose
of the exercise, we’ll give it to you. We’ll give it to you in the interview or perhaps
a short time beforehand. The exercise that you are going to see in
this video is a typical mock law interview. In our example, the candidate was given a
page half an hour before the interview which contained some facts and some legal information
and some relevant law. You can find a copy of that page on the website. So in our example
the candidate had half an hour before the interview to prepare and to take some notes
and just think through their ideas. In some interviews, you may be given a similar exercise
but during the interview itself. The exact way in which it is done does not matter. It’s
just a different way of doing a very similar thing. Our interview with Rhianna was not rehearsed,
it’s not scripted and we didn’t tell Rhianna in advance anything that the Cambridge Law
Faculty and the Cambridge colleges haven’t already told you at an open day or via our
website or our prospectus. Please don’t think of this as a model, ideal or perfect interview.
It is just a typical example. We hope that by offering you an example interview, we can
make the process a little bit more familiar and a little bit less intimidating. Please
be reassured that if you are invited to interview, your interviewers will quite genuinely be
excited to meet you. They want you to be as relaxed as possible and they want you to do
well in the interview. We hope this video helps. Example law interview Hi. Hi. You must be Rhianna. Yes. I’m Ben. Come on in and grab a seat. Thank you. Do sit down and make yourself comfortable. Thank you. Rhianna, my name’s Ben. It’s very good to
meet you. I’m one of the Law Fellows here in college and with me is Louise Merrett and I’m another one of the
Law Fellows. We’re very excited that you’ve come for interview
today. We have about 20 to 25 minutes together and we want to spend much of that time doing
a legal exercise which I gather you’ve had Yes, yes. for half an hour in advance. We’ll also make
sure we leave some time at the end in case you have any questions for us but perhaps
before we get to the exercise we can start with the obvious question. Why are you interested
in studying law? I think on my work experience I’ve kind of
got a real understanding of the impact which the law can have on ordinary people and I’d
like to do something, even after I leave university, which does have an impact on people. I want
to improve people’s lives and I think that law is a very good way to do that. I also
don’t kind of shy away from hard work and I think that, I know that law is hard work
but also I think that the subjects that I’ve chosen at A level mean that I have got used
to writing essays, I’ve got used to doing research and I think that it’s a natural progression
for me on to law but also I think that kind of, thinking about the skills that I have
myself, I think that that kind of ability to scrutinise information and the ability
to persuasively argue for what I think is right is something that I’ve been trying to
develop, especially through kind of extracurricular things like debating and public speaking and
those sorts of things. So, yes, I think it’s just the right subject for me and I hope you’ll
agree. You mention there some legal work experience
and I see in your personal statement you’ve been to a solicitor’s firm and you had some time in a major firm in London.
Can you tell us what you saw? Probably a lot of hard work but Yes, a lot of hard work actually. I was quite
young when I did the work experience so it was all very fresh and I didn’t know any law
so it was kind of, it was a real insight into what it actually meant to be a lawyer. I think
that the thing that my work experience has kind of shown me most of all is that kind
of even the unpredictable nature of law in that I thought I was, I thought that the office
that I was in was focusing on kind of land law and those sorts of things but actually
we were looking at a ramp for a shop and how that was going to work out, where the problems
were with sort of building this ramp for a shop and something that you would have thought
was just a matter of kind of putting some concrete down actually has such huge wider
impacts on people just generally, like the public and on the shop itself, and I think
that that was kind of the thing that I learnt most was actually that all of these different
decisions, even things which actually may not have seemed massively interesting to me
at first, have so many different implications that actually, you know, it’s all very exciting
is what I learnt. I think that it really kind of got me interested in law and I think that,
yes, I think that’s what I got from it really. It got me excited about it because I couldn’t
really learn a lot about particular cases and things because I don’t have any Sure. proper background or any textbooks or anything
but it was helpful in confirming that I was interested, yes. So it’s clearly an interest in yours, not
just in the subject matter but also in the skills because you’ve done a lot of debating
and public speaking and those sorts of things at school as well. Yes. What is it that you enjoy about debating and
public speaking? I think that… Well, personally, I really
like to be able to put my thoughts across kind of out loud. I’d rather do that than
kind of confuse people and have people in a sort of strange email chain and things like
that. I like the ability to actually meet with people and to be able to discuss ideas
and I think that’s one of the things that I like so much about, say, debating, is that
I feel it’s very productive and that’s another thing that I saw in my work experience, actually,
is that lawyers do seem to work really well in kind of a team and together, which is exciting
for me because I do really think that to kind of work very much independently and not to
have any proper dialogue kind of limits you a little bit. But I think it’s the fact that
I’m able to write what I believe about, I think, and to be able to present that as persuasively
as I can but then also the fact that I’m then able to share that with other people and to
gain more from it because actually everybody makes mistakes and you’re not… people aren’t
very good at spotting their own mistakes. So actually it’s a really productive forum
and it’s a good way of kind of training your brain to think about things from different
directions because everybody has their own way of dealing with ideas and actually it’s
much more useful if other people are throwing ideas at you and you have to tackle those
as well because it kind of changes the dynamic of the way that you work, I think. Okay. Shall we engage in a dialogue about
some of your ideas? Yes, let’s do some ideas, shall we? We hope
you’ve had a chance to look at this problem. Yes. Obviously we don’t expect you to know any
law Yes. but we’ve asked you at the end whether you
can think about the arguments that are likely to be made by both the prosecution and the
defence. Yes. So can you maybe start just by running through
what you think the main arguments will be in this case? Okay. So I think there are a number of arguments
and some of them are quite complex really. So I think, starting with the prosecution
who want him to be convicted… who want the conviction to stand, I think that obviously
the baby has died and during the pregnancy Tony caused his mother significant trauma
and I think that when he’s already been charged with intent to cause grievous bodily harm
and the definition of murder, which I have on the sheet, is, like, an act which causes
the death of a human being and that they’ve done that with the intention of causing death
or with the intention of causing grievous bodily harm, well, he’s already been convicted
of intent to cause grievous bodily harm and now the baby has died. Also, I think it’s
reasonable to suggest that grievous bodily harm on a pregnant abdomen is going to have
some impact on that baby. I’m not sure that anybody could deny that if you stab someone
in the stomach and they are pregnant, that there would be some potential harm to that
child. Also, I think the fact that there’s only two
weeks which pass between the incident and going into premature labour suggests that
there is some sort of link between it because, I mean, people – and I’ll come on to this
in the defence – people do have premature births but there does seem to be some kind
of causation there, but that’s not as strong an argument, I wouldn’t say. There’s also
the fact that if it is that the attack had some part in causing this premature birth,
it is the premature birth itself which has harmed… well, not the birth itself but the
fact that the baby was born prematurely, which has harmed it or him and the fact that he
was born prematurely and then had the lung condition, which is attributed to that, means
that it was the prematurity and if we can attribute the prematurity to the fact that
his mother was attacked, then I think it’s quite a clear connection between Tony’s behaviour
and the death of the baby but I think that’s where the problem arises. So then going on to the defence who want to
overturn the conviction, I think that the fact that Mary obviously went to hospital
because she’d been stabbed three times and the doctors said that that hadn’t harmed the
baby means that they’re going to struggle to convince people that it was the attack
which caused the prematurity because actually many babies are born prematurely. It’s not
a completely rare thing. I mean, he’s not phenomenally early. There are babies who are
born more early than that and don’t have the lung condition so actually, one, he could
just have been born prematurely and he’s a first baby, I assume from that, I don’t know
that, but if he is then there are lots of other problems which could be the cause of
the prematurity and also lots of babies are born prematurely and survive and are very
successful and don’t have lung conditions. So actually whether that’s something that
he’s had any influence on is hard to figure out. Also the fact that… yes, so it kind
of is just bad luck really that the baby had that condition. That’s a shame, obviously,
but whether it’s Tony’s fault, I don’t know how we would know that, especially when the
doctors said that it hadn’t harmed the baby. Also the fact that they decided to charge
him initially with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and wounding rather than, say,
attempted murder maybe suggests that they didn’t think he was intending to kill anybody
which… I mean, obviously that’s an argument which would need to be reconsidered in light
of the new evidence but it’s possible to be able to say that actually he wasn’t trying
to kill anybody but obviously the definition of murder doesn’t… you don’t have to intend
to cause death. You can just intend to cause grievous bodily harm which they’ve said he
did do. Also the fact that he stabbed her three times but only once in the abdomen suggests
that it wasn’t the baby that he was trying to hurt or kill. I’m not sure the fact that
there were two stabs elsewhere and one stab in the abdomen would suggest that that wasn’t
the main site of attack. So actually that almost… that’s the anomalous stab is the
one in the stomach and that could have been because he was clumsy. It doesn’t necessarily
mean that he was ever trying to actually hurt the baby but the fact that he did stab her
in the abdomen obviously means that the baby had quite a high chance of being made poorly. So I think that kind of the arguments follow
that for the prosecution the baby died, he’s already been charged with grievous bodily
harm and that constitutes murder and I think that the thing that they need to convince
the judge of is that it’s reasonable that a stab in the abdomen during pregnancy could
be such a significant, like, stressor or factor as to cause premature birth and then the argument
for the defence is kind of that the baby died but it wasn’t because of what he did, it wasn’t
because of the act of wounding the mother. The mother was told at first that he hadn’t
been harmed and also prematurity is not that uncommon and, furthermore, like, the illness
that he then had owing to the prematurity is also even less common and lots of babies
would have survived that. So the death can’t be attributed to Tony. Okay. Thank you very much and you’ve got lots
of very good arguments on both sides. We want to just explore a couple of things maybe with
you in a bit more detail. Mm-hmm. So you referred to the definition of murder
in paragraph 6 Yes. which is good because it tells us what the
definition is. Shall we see if we can go through each of the elements, some of which you’ve
talked about in a lot of detail, some not so much. So we’ve talked about the defendant’s got
to perform an act. Yes. And the act here was… Stabbing. The stabbing. Yes. So that seems straightforward, which causes
death and that, I think, is one element which you did explore in some detail. Yes. I agree with you, I think will definitely
be one of the major issues and I think, as you said, there’s really two
causal stages, aren’t there? There’s the whether the stabbing caused the
premature birth Yes. and then secondly whether the death resulted
from the premature birth because of the lung condition Yes. and I think you’ve made some very good points
about that and you’d have to prove both of them. Do you think there should be…? Let’s say
that we can prove that the stabbing did contribute to the baby Yes. being born early, would it matter whether
the 50 percent… there was a 50 percent chance of the baby then dying of the lung condition
or even if it was only a ten percent chance, would we not just say, well, but that is in
fact what happened so we can say that that did cause the death? Other babies might have
survived Yes. but do you think that really matters? I think my personal opinion is that it shouldn’t
matter. I think that if we can attribute the stabbing as the premature birth, then I don’t
think that the fact that the lung condition may or may not have happened and he may or
may not have died, the fact that he did die, I think, is sufficient to charge him with
murder. I think if we can attribute the stabbing to the premature birth, then, because it’s
the prematurity itself that’s the cause of the death rather than… I mean, he wouldn’t
have had the lung condition necessarily if he hadn’t been born prematurely so, yes, I
think it’s fair enough to say that, but I also am conscious that I need to be able to
distance myself from the problem because obviously it’s a horrendous act and I want to be fair
to him but I do still think, even if I’m being as kind of distant as possible, that if he
caused the premature birth and the baby died as a result of the premature birth, then he
caused its death. Yes. One of the ways, of course, we distance
ourselves is sort of to be dispassionate by focusing on the exact words of the offence Yes. which is something you did do early on. So,
yes, going back to that, I think we’ve explored causation in quite a lot of detail but there
are other things, of course. So he’s got to perform an act which causes the death, then
it says “of a human being.” Yes. Yes, I did think about that a little
bit. Do you think there’s an issue about is a baby
before it’s born a human being and does that matter here? So this is something I’ve studied a little
bit in my A level in philosophy and ethics and I think that when this happened, the baby
was, I think, viable which is kind of the stage at which the law starts to see, or at
least in some instances, starts to see the baby as a being of its own. So it’s when,
like, abortion would become illegal. If the baby was able to survive outside the womb
on its own, which obviously this baby in particular isn’t because he also has additional problems,
then we would be considering him as his own entity but I also definitely see that as a
problem. I think that the fact that he died when he’d been born means that he was a human
being Yes. so actually in this case, yes, but I think
had she miscarried, for example, then that would be a more challenging situation but
actually, considering that he was born and died, I think that that means… yes. Yes, you make a very good point. So, in other
words, in this case there was a human being Yes. on any view Yes, yes. It’s interesting because you’ve talked about
the ethical, that you might have thought about the ethical issue and, of course, there might
be a rule about abortion. Yes. Of course, for the criminal law and the purposes
of this offence, you might have a different definition Yes, yes. necessarily. So here we’re talking about,
according to the terms of this provision here, that you have to be a human being Yes. which you might answer that in a different
way than you would in a different context Yes, I think. and I think you make a very good point that
maybe it didn’t matter on the facts here. Yes. Any thoughts about whether you think a baby
before it’s born can be classified as a human being in accordance with the terms of this
provision? I think that… I can see that there’s kind
of a slight dilemma here in that it isn’t simple because actually it’s not the same
as if he’d killed Mary, if he’d killed the mother. That seems to be a different issue
but… Why do you say that would be a different issue? I suppose because we do treat… I know that
people have lots of different opinions about this but the fact that we do treat people
who are already… who have already been born with a different kind of value to how we treat
the unborn means that in this kind of a human being would be a more independent being which
means that kind of he couldn’t be if he was… if the baby is still kind of in utero, he’s
not actually… he’s not actually yet a human being whose death can be caused. I think,
like, there might be a problem in having a death before a birth in this. Okay, but you said earlier that of course
the baby was born Yes. and it died after that. So there is a human
being at that later point in time. Yes. Yes. So Mary was a human being at what time the
baby was a human being, at a different time? How does that fit in to the words of the provision
here? You’re drawing a distinction, I think, based on when something happens. Yes, and the distinction is between… The
distinction I’m drawing is at the point of the baby’s birth. So at that point, I’m kind
of treating them as two separate human beings but before that more as one and the thing
with this case in particular is that we do eventually have two human beings and we have
two live human beings. So actually what happened before his birth… I mean, nothing affected
him before his birth. He was only affected, like, as he was born which means that until
then he’s not really needing to be considered because actually it’s Mary who was injured
and as long as he was inside her, we had no reason to suspect that he was injured. He
was actually deemed to be okay by doctors and it was only once he was born that the
problems became apparent and at that point, once he was born, once he had left Mary, he
was his own human being, I think, kind of, quite definitely. I think the problem arises
in the fact that when he was born he wasn’t attacked. He was attacked when he was inside
her and so if he wasn’t a human being then, then his death later on doesn’t count because
actually that’s not the same… he’s not the same being supposedly if actually he wasn’t
a human being before. I think that’s helpful because you’ve identified
that there might have to be a human being at the time of the act Yes, yes, yes. in that first part of the provision. Is there
anything else that might… you know, don’t know what the law is on this point, it doesn’t
really matter? No. Is there anything else that would fall into
that same category as something that might have to be true at that time, do you think,
looking at the provision that you’ve got? Do you mean just in the case of? So you were saying that there had to be a
human being at the time of the stabbing. Yes. Is there anything else that turns on when
there was a human being whose death was caused, do you think? In particular, is there something else we
have to show which we haven’t really talked about so much in paragraph 6? Not sure. I’m not quite sure I understand
where you’re coming from. Okay. So you helpfully said it doesn’t matter
for the death when the baby was born because in this case the baby died after being born. Yes. And you said there might be a problem with
whether the stabbing took place at a time when there was a human being because the baby
hadn’t been born at the time of the stabbing and, just looking again at paragraph 6, is
there anything else that might have to have been true for this conviction to work that
required there to be a human being at the time? So it wasn’t a problem for the death. No, but the fact that though he didn’t wound
that human being if the human being… yes, yes. So if Okay, so it might be that problem about Yes. who was wounded. Yes, yes. Precisely. Yes, and I think that’s
something I was trying to bring out with the fact that when I was talking about Mary, kind
of it wasn’t the baby he was necessarily trying to hurt so actually the baby’s death, even
if, like, we can agree that the baby consequently died because of what he’d done to his mother,
it wasn’t about what he’d done to him, if you understand what I mean by that. Yes. It wasn’t actually… And actually I think you’ve said two things
that are quite helpful there, Rhianna. You said that it wasn’t the stabbing perhaps to
the baby Yes. which picked up on that earlier point you
made Yes. about how many stabs there were, but you also
said maybe it wasn’t the baby he was trying to hurt. Yes. Does he have to have been trying to hurt the
baby, do you think? Well, I think actually when I was writing
the notes about this, I was thinking that it was a bit ambiguous because it says that
it’s done with the intention of causing death and the intention of causing grievous bodily
harm but… so that would kind of suggest that he was trying to do it – if it has to
be done with intent, then he is trying to do it – but also I think there’s kind of a
problem in that when people talk about, say, manslaughter as something that’s slightly
different to… obviously quite different to murder, in that it’s… if, say, you…
So I read in the news recently about the elderly gentleman who had reversed into some ladies
in the carpark and I think he was charged with manslaughter and the sentence isn’t really
relevant but the fact that that is manslaughter is because it was an accident, he wasn’t trying
to hurt anybody, and actually he is trying to hurt someone, he might not have been trying
to kill the baby or whatever, but he was obviously… there was no reason for him to be stabbing
someone if he wasn’t trying to hurt somebody. There was no kind of… it wasn’t like he
turned around with a knife and accidentally Sure, it wasn’t an accident. Yes, yes. In fact, I think you said, when you first
ran through, what we know. We know that, because what’s he pleaded guilty to already? Yes, he’s already pleaded guilty to, like,
offence of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm so we know that that is kind of
satisfied. But who was the intent towards in that Towards Mary, yes. Right, so I guess that’s the question Yes, and that’s the problem, yes. It’s distinguishing
between the baby and between Mary. But you also said earlier that if you do stab
someone in the abdomen Yes. and Mary was about, six months Seven… six months, yes. six or seven months pregnant at this point
so one can imagine that Tony, as the father, also knew that she was six months pregnant. Yes, yes, and I think it would be visible
by then. I would find it very hard to Sure That he really didn’t know. In the ordinary course. Yes. Does that change what you’re thinking about
the trying to or the intention element here? The fact that he knew that she was pregnant? Yes. Yes. Yes, I think that it’s entirely reasonable
to expect a grown man to expect that if you wound Mary, if you wound an expectant mother,
that that would have some effect on the baby. I think that is an accepted level of awareness
amongst all human beings. So it sounds to me as though you are saying,
“He must have known or he could have known or he was taking the risk by stabbing Mary
in the abdomen.” Yes. Is that the same as intending to cause grievous
bodily harm or intending to kill the person who actually died, do you think? I think that according to this definition,
yes, because actually he was… the very act of him wounding has been dealt with in the
previous conviction. We’ve accepted previously that he was trying… that he was intending
to harm somebody Someone. and obviously what we’re coming to is the
fact that the crux of this is what distinction we make between Mary and her baby and her
son and I think that obviously it’s caused the death of a human being… well, the death
of a human being has happened and we know that he was intending to harm at least the
mother and we accept that most people, I think all people with a sort of sufficient mental
capacity, which obviously would be determined separately, if we accept that he has a kind
of sufficient mental faculty to understand that if you harm a pregnant woman that will
possibly impact on Okay, but when I wear my pair of shoes, right Yes. I understand that in wearing my shoes I might
scuff them or I might wear out the sole. Yes. Do I intend to scuff them? Do I intend to
wear out the sole when I know that that’s a risk of wearing them? No. No, you don’t. You’re not setting out
to scuff the soles of your shoes. You’re setting out to wear the shoes to protect your feet
and to be able to walk on different surfaces but I think that here, there is… I think
that you… I think I, at least, am struggling to be able to make the distinction between
obviously a stabbing, which is… stabbings are not intended to do anything other than…
this kind of a stabbing is not intended to do anything other than harm. There isn’t any
other… this isn’t a side effect of… I don’t know. There is nothing you could kind
of think of which would be another outcome. Obviously, he might want to go to prison,
he might want something, he might want something else, he might be being paid to do it. There
are lots of other things that could be a motivation Sure. but actually that’s all resultant through
the wounding. So I think I would struggle to be able to see it in the same light as
the scuffing of shoes. Okay. I think that… yes, it’s problematic. Okay. Okay. Thank you very much for that. I’ll just
take those notes from you if I may. Yes, sure. Just so we know where they are. Thank you. Do you want the problem? Yes, thank you. Now, we said we’d leave some time, Rhianna,
in case you had any questions for us. There’s absolutely no reason you should have a question.
If you do, you’re very welcome to ask it but we don’t expect you to have a question. I don’t think I do have a question, no. Okay. Okay. Thank you very much for coming. It’s been lovely to meet you. Thank you, yes, and lovely to meet you both
as well. I enjoyed that. Thank you. Thanks very much. Thanks.