SQE2 Update: Understanding the New SQE2 Legal Research Format

Published
June 7, 2024
Reading Time
6 Mins

Previous Format of SQE2 Legal Research

In the previous format of the SQE2 Legal Research exam, candidates received a brief email from a supervisor, outlining a research task on legal issues outside the SQE syllabus. This was designed to test their research skills comprehensively. The exam lasted 60 minutes, during which candidates were provided with various legal resources, some relevant and others not. They were required to produce a two-part report: a formal written report offering advice and a section citing relevant legal authorities. Candidates had to demonstrate their ability to identify and use appropriate legal sources without internet access, relying solely on provided materials.

New Format Requirement

The new format for the SQE2 Legal Research exam has been streamlined to consist of a single section, integrating sources, advice and legal reasoning behind that advice. This change aims to simplify the structure and improve clarity for candidates. The new format presents a scenario with relevant facts, followed by a detailed analysis of the legal issue at hand, supported by appropriate legal references and reasoning. The answer template no longer separates the advice and legal reasoning into distinct parts but combines them into one comprehensive report.

Differences Between the New and Former Formats

  • Structure:
    Former Format: Divided into two sections – one for formal written advice and one for citing relevant legal authorities.
    New Format: Consolidates advice and legal reasoning into a single, integrated section.
  • Clarity and Simplicity:
    Former Format: Candidates had to navigate and structure their answers in two separate parts, which could potentially lead to confusion and redundancy.
    New Format: Provides a more straightforward approach, allowing candidates to present their analysis and conclusions cohesively in one section.

New Legal Research Structure:

  1. Factual Summary: Begin by outlining the key facts of the scenario.
  2. Identification of the Legal Issue: Clearly state the legal issue to be addressed. For instance, determine whether the client  is liable under the relevant legislation.
  3. Examination of Legal Provisions: Analyse the relevant legal provisions.
  4. Case Law and Legal Reasoning: Cite pertinent case law and legal principles that support your analysis to illustrate how you interpreted and  applied the  law to your specific case. 
  5. Conclusion: Draw a conclusion based on your analysis, for instance by stating whether the individual is likely liable for the offence. 

By following this structured approach, candidates can ensure their legal research answers are comprehensive, logically organised, and well-supported by relevant legal authorities.

SRA Sample Answer - Past Format: 2 Parts Legal Report

Part 1: Advice to the client We should advise the client that it is likely that he has committed a criminal offence in relation to the incident where Digger ran out of the house and bit a Postman. The offence is failure to keep a dog under proper control under s 3(1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (the 8Act9). S 3(1) of the Act provides that it is an offence to have a dog “dangerously out of control” in any place (whether a public place or not). The offence is aggravated if the dog while so out of control injures a person. Unfortunately, Digger did bite the postman. “Dangerously out of control” is defined by s 10 of the Act and covers the situation where there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that the dog will cause injury to any person. Digger ran out of the house before he bit the postman, which would most likely have caused reasonable apprehension of injury. In any event, case law has established that even if a dog bites without warning, this is in itself capable of being conduct giving grounds for reasonable apprehension of injury. Thus it appears that Digger was “dangerously out of control”. The offence is one of strict liability and does not require any fault on behalf of the client. It does require that some act or omission of the client’s (with or without fault) contributed in a more than minimal way to the dog being out of control. However, as the client opened the door, allowing the dog to run out, this is clearly satisfied. Thus unfortunately it is likely that the client has committed the aggravated offence under s 3(1) of the Act.

Part 2: Legal reasoning mentioning any key sources or authorities Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, s 3 (1) If a dog is dangerously out of control in [any place in England or Wales (whether or not a public place)]4 (a) the owner; and (b) if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog, is guilty of an offence, or, if the dog while so out of control injures any person [or assistance dog], an aggravated offence, under this subsection. Dangerously out of control is defined by s 10 of the Act. (3) For the purposes of this Act a dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person [or assistance dog], whether or not it actually does so, but references to a dog injuring a person [or assistance dog] or there being grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will do so do not include references to any case in which the dog is being used for a lawful purpose by a constable or a person in the service of the Crown. In Rafik v Folkes (1997) 161 JP 412, per Auld LJ, "the act of causing injury, a bite or otherwise, is in itself capable of being conduct giving grounds for reasonable apprehension of injury. Robinson-Pierre [2013] EWCA Crim 2396, [2014] 1 WLR 2368 as cited in Blackstone9s Criminal Practice: s 3(1) requires 'proof of an act or omission by the defendant (with or without fault) that to some more than minimal degree caused or permitted the prohibited state of affairs to come about' (per Pitchford LJ at [42]).

SRA Sample Answer - New Format: 1 Consolidated Advice

From: Candidate To: Partner Sent: [date of exam] Subject: Keith Foster Keith Foster is due to attend the police station in connection with an incident involving his pet dog, Digger. I understand that the dog rushed out of Keith’s house into the front garden and bit the postman on his arm as he tried to deliver a parcel to his address. Keith has been told by the police that the postman’s employer wanted the police to investigate the incident, and Keith is understandably concerned that he may have committed a criminal offence because of the behavior of his dog. I have researched whether Keith is criminally liable and concluded that it is likely that he has committed a criminal offence, because his dog was ‘dangerously out of control’. The criminal offence is set out in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA), s.3 (1). Section 3(1) of the DDA provides that it is an offence to have a dog ‘dangerously out of control’ in any place (whether a public place or not). In Blake v CPS [2017] EWHC 1608 (admin) (as cited in Blackstone’s Criminal Practice), the court held that the offence can be committed in a private place as well as a public place, and includes visitors to the home such as postmen. In this case the incident took place in Keith’s front garden and not a public place. The issue is whether the dog was ‘dangerously out of control’. ‘Dangerously out of control’ is defined in s.10 of the DDA and covers the situation where there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that the dog will cause injury to any person. For the purposes of this DDA, a dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person [or assistance dog], whether or not it actually does so, but references to a dog injuring a person [or assistance dog] or there being grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will do so do not include references to any case in which the dog is being used for a lawful purpose by a constable or a person in the service of the Crown. In Rafik v Folkes (1997) 161 JP 412, per Auld LJ, “the act of causing injury, a bite or otherwise, is in itself capable of being conduct giving grounds for reasonable apprehension of injury. Keith has told us that when he opened his door to the postman, his dog ran out of the house and bit the postman on his arm causing a wound which required stitches. Therefore, the postman would have had grounds for reasonable apprehension that Digger would have injured him. The dog will be considered to have been ‘dangerously out of control’. The offence under the DDA, s. 3 is one of strict liability and does not require any fault on behalf of the client. However, it does require that some act or omission of the client’s (with or without fault) contributed in a more than minimal way to the dog being out of control. Robinson-Pierre [2013] EWCA Crim 2396, [2014] 1 WLR 2368, as cited in Blackstone’s Criminal Practice (B20.9), the offence requires ‘proof of an act or omission by the defendant (with or without fault) that to some more than minimal degree caused or permitted the prohibited state of affairs to come about' (per Pitchford LJ at [42]). It could be said that as Keith opened the door, allowing his dog to run out, this element would be clearly satisfied. In addition, Digger, whilst being dangerously out of control, actually bit the postman. Keith should therefore be advised that it is likely he will also be found liable for the aggravated offence under the DDA, s. 3(1).

The Assessment Criteria remain the same

The assessment criteria for legal research are similar to the past format:

Skills

1. Identify and use relevant sources and information.

2. Provide advice which is client-focused and addresses the client’s problem.

3. Use clear, precise, concise and acceptable language.

Application of law

4. Apply the law correctly to the client’s situation.

5. Apply the law comprehensively to the client’s situation, identifying any ethical and

professional conduct issues and exercising judgement to resolve them honestly

and with integrity.

Conclusion: What This Means for SQE2 Students 

While the format of the answer template has changed, the legal content remains the same. The instructions to candidates are unchanged and the requirement to identity and only use relevant legal authorities remains consistent.  The only difference is that students should now  integrate legal advice, reasoning and sources into one cohesive section, ensuring clarity and logical flow.

Adapting to this new format will be crucial for success in Legal Research.

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