Ben’s guide to answering hypothetical (problem) questions...hope it helps

Simple tips and tricks –


If possible, work out who you are advising as soon as you start reading the question. This can often be achieved by reading the last couple of lines first. Knowing who you are going to advise from the beginning, can help with your understanding of the problem!

If you are lucky, the last couple of lines may also give you the following information:
an overview of the some issue(s);
whether your client is the complainant (plaintiff, appellant) or the accused (defendant, respondent); and
who some of the other parties in the hypothetical are and what role they play (for example whether they are a complainant or respondent or just an observer.

Often it is a good idea to circle the names of the parties the first time they are mentioned in the hypothetical. This should ensure you a quick way to look back over the question after you have read it the first time and ensure that you have accounted for all the parties involved.

If you cannot work out the relationship between the parties (for example who the complaint (plaintiff, appellant) and respondent (defendant) are, then draw yourself a simple mindmap or diagram to show their connection to each other. This is often helpful when there are several parties who may be jointly or severally liable. This approach is often helpful in answering particularly long questions.

If you do have a long question then you may need to read it twice. Although this can be time consuming, it is often not possible to discern all the facts of a hypothetical the first time. Furthermore it is even more difficult to discern the key issues and legal principles when you have only read the hypothetical once.

Underline the key points, such as dates, conditions or comments made by the parties. At the same time think about any time limitation problems that might occur for...