DavidAghe - , 4:01 pm On 9 Sep 2017
An examination is not a test of brilliance but a test of intelligence. It is not enough to know what to write, you need to know how to write. What you write may be 100% accurate and yet you get a D for lack of proper organization.
Law questions could be basically classified into two types:
1. Problem questions, and
2. Essay question.
Law problem questions comes in form of a scenario, it test the student's ability to identify the area of law, deduce the material facts and correctly apply the applicable law and draw out a conclusion from a scenario. In answering problem question an acronym is suggested; IRAC- Identification and issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion.
The first step in answering a problem question is to identify what area of law the given scenario is, to do this you have to read the whole scenario and consider which facts are material. Material facts are those facts that are relevant in order for you to arrive at a valid conclusion.
Let's take this scenerio for example; Mr. Ade advertised in a daily newspaper on June 28, 2015, offering to pay the sum of $50 to anyone who finds and returns his mummies sing Cassio gold wristwatch. Mrs. Biola finds the watch and returns it and claims the price which Mr. Ade refused to pay claiming that there was no contract between them since he had intended to make an offer to the whole world which was impossible and she did not communicate her intention to accept the offer, if ever it were possible.
You should note that not all the facts are material. For instance, the date of the publication, color or brand of the wristwatch is immaterial. It would make no difference if it were a D&G silver watch. You can Infer that the identification for the scenario is UNILATERAL CONTRACTS if you have offered law of contract(usually taken in the 2nd year).
2. ISSUE: this refers to the subject of contention. The question of law to be determined. It usually begins with 'whether'. Using our above scenerio, we can deduce these issues:
A) whether an offer can be made to the whole world
B) whether communication of acceptance is required in unilateral contract.
3. RULE: this is a general proposition of law applicable to the issue. It should be gotten from statute or case law. On the first issue, in the above scenerio the general rule laid down in Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. Is that an offer can be made to the whole world.
4. APPLICATION: This involves applying the general rule to the issue up for determination. You state briefly the material facts and apply the general rule to it. Support your application with relevant authority(cases and statutes as well as opinion of notable scholars and jurist).
5. CONCLUSION: Draw a valid conclusion from your premise (application). You may be asked to advice the parties. Your advice may go thus: 'I advise Mr. Ade to honor the contract as he may not succeed in an action to set it aside'.
LAW ESSAY QUESTIONS
The law essay like every essay consist mainly of three parts:
1. The introduction
2. The body
3. The conclusion
1. Introduction: you introduction should be brief (usually one paragraph), it should contain the definition of the major terms and a brief outline of what to expect in the body of the essay. Your introduction might determine whether or not the examiner wishes to continue reading your essay.
2. Body: the body of the essay (usually starting with the second paragraph) should contain your answer to the examiners question with each point in one paragraph. Where there are judicial or statutory authorities, you should cite them to buttress your point.
3. Conclusion: you could draw your conclusion by way of opinion, comparison or suggestion as the question requires. Sometimes the question may require that you state the correct position of law on the subject matter.
The most distinguishing feature of the law essay from other essays is the use of 'authority'. By authority we refer to citation of statutes, judicial decisions as well as scholastic opinions. A law student must understand and use authorities when writing, otherwise little or no score would be recorded for his essay. Take this for example, the examiner has asked you to write on ACCEPTANCE in the law of contract. In defining acceptance you could cite a judicial definition (e.g TOBI J.S.C in A v. B defined an acceptance as...OR according to PROF. SAGAY on NIGERIAN LAW OF CONTRACT an acceptance is defined as....), you are allowed to provide your own definition right beneath it.
Does this mean for everything I write I have to provide an authority? What if there is none?
This by no way means you have to provide authority for every word you write, but whenever there is an authority on the subject matter, be sure to consider it, and input it.
You should write your authorities in capital letters as shown above so it could stand out, you may also write your authorities in red ink.
In the next post we shall examine common errors made by students when answering law questions.