How to select the principles from case law to apply to the facts of your problem question

May 20, 2023

Case law is crucial for your legal essays, and it is a necessary skill to apply principles from case law to the facts of your problem question. We at Alignthebar aim to help students with understanding how to curate strong essays, and as such, we have laid out how to select these principles from case law below!

The first step would be to look at statute books, law reports, textbook, your notes, and relevant websites to learn the law around the issues identified in the problem question and create some quick notes. It does not need to be very detailed as you are looking for supporting authorities and case law to apply to the facts of your problem question.

You should then select case law that applies to the question, and aim to make it clear to the reader that  you are aware of what needs to be proved, and supporting your statements with case law (alongside statutory law). 

Case law (or judicial precedent) is law which is made by the courts, and operates under the principle of stare decisis which means “to stand by decisions”. This principle means that a court must follow and apply the law as set out in the decisions of higher courts in previous cases. This means that you should make sure that the case law is currently relevant and see if there was any judicial considerations.

You also do not always need to go into detail facts of the case law you have cited, usually just giving the name of the case being cited as authority for a broad general proposition of the law will suffice. High grades do not depend on how many cases you mention, but rather the quality of your argument and analysis of the issues you have identified. However, you should use case law to evidence all specific issues and apply cases to the authority if it is directly applicable.

An example of this in practice is when applying the RULE stage (IRAC, Issue-Rule-Apply-Conclude essay structure) where you must state the statutes and case law and explain why they are relevant to the circumstances. For this example, a relevant statute would be the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The case law should also be used to demonstrate the relevant principle, such as if you were to discuss the tearing of the skin for a wound, for GBH; you would illustrate this by stating that the case of JJC v Eisenhower [1984] evidences this principle. This foundation is vital for when you come to apply the fact pattern of the question to the case law.

To get more support on how to write strong essays and answer problem questions, check out our tutoring sessions! We offer personalised online consultations with an experienced tutor, and give you advice on how to structure your essays and problem questions to achieve maximum grades! Meet Our Tutors and Book your session today: .

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