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case study questions law

How to do legal research in 3 steps

Knowing where to start a difficult legal research project can be a challenge. But if you already understand the basics of legal research, the process can be significantly easier — not to mention quicker.

Solid research skills are crucial to crafting a winning argument. So, whether you are a law school student or a seasoned attorney with years of experience, knowing how to perform legal research is important — including where to start and the steps to follow.

What is legal research, and where do I start? 

Black's Law Dictionary defines legal research as “[t]he finding and assembling of authorities that bear on a question of law." But what does that actually mean? It means that legal research is the process you use to identify and find the laws — including statutes, regulations, and court opinions — that apply to the facts of your case.

In most instances, the purpose of legal research is to find support for a specific legal issue or decision. For example, attorneys must conduct legal research if they need court opinions — that is, case law — to back up a legal argument they are making in a motion or brief filed with the court.

Alternatively, lawyers may need legal research to provide clients with accurate legal guidance . In the case of law students, they often use legal research to complete memos and briefs for class. But these are just a few situations in which legal research is necessary.

Why is legal research hard?

Each step — from defining research questions to synthesizing findings — demands critical thinking and rigorous analysis.

1. Identifying the legal issue is not so straightforward. Legal research involves interpreting many legal precedents and theories to justify your questions. Finding the right issue takes time and patience.

2. There's too much to research. Attorneys now face a great deal of case law and statutory material. The sheer volume forces the researcher to be efficient by following a methodology based on a solid foundation of legal knowledge and principles.

3. The law is a fluid doctrine. It changes with time, and staying updated with the latest legal codes, precedents, and statutes means the most resourceful lawyer needs to assess the relevance and importance of new decisions.

Legal research can pose quite a challenge, but professionals can improve it at every stage of the process . 

Step 1: Key questions to ask yourself when starting legal research

Before you begin looking for laws and court opinions, you first need to define the scope of your legal research project. There are several key questions you can use to help do this.

What are the facts?

Always gather the essential facts so you know the “who, what, why, when, where, and how” of your case. Take the time to write everything down, especially since you will likely need to include a statement of facts in an eventual filing or brief anyway. Even if you don't think a fact may be relevant now, write it down because it may be relevant later. These facts will also be helpful when identifying your legal issue.

What is the actual legal issue?

You will never know what to research if you don't know what your legal issue is. Does your client need help collecting money from an insurance company following a car accident involving a negligent driver? How about a criminal case involving excluding evidence found during an alleged illegal stop?

No matter the legal research project, you must identify the relevant legal problem and the outcome or relief sought. This information will guide your research so you can stay focused and on topic.

What is the relevant jurisdiction?

Don't cast your net too wide regarding legal research; you should focus on the relevant jurisdiction. For example, does your case deal with federal or state law? If it is state law, which state? You may find a case in California state court that is precisely on point, but it won't be beneficial if your legal project involves New York law.

Where to start legal research: The library, online, or even AI?

In years past, future attorneys were trained in law school to perform research in the library. But now, you can find almost everything from the library — and more — online. While you can certainly still use the library if you want, you will probably be costing yourself valuable time if you do.

When it comes to online research, some people start with free legal research options , including search engines like Google or Bing. But to ensure your legal research is comprehensive, you will want to use an online research service designed specifically for the law, such as Westlaw . Not only do online solutions like Westlaw have all the legal sources you need, but they also include artificial intelligence research features that help make quick work of your research

Step 2: How to find relevant case law and other primary sources of law

Now that you have gathered the facts and know your legal issue, the next step is knowing what to look for. After all, you will need the law to support your legal argument, whether providing guidance to a client or writing an internal memo, brief, or some other legal document.

But what type of law do you need? The answer: primary sources of law. Some of the more important types of primary law include:

  • Case law, which are court opinions or decisions issued by federal or state courts
  • Statutes, including legislation passed by both the U.S. Congress and state lawmakers
  • Regulations, including those issued by either federal or state agencies
  • Constitutions, both federal and state

Searching for primary sources of law

So, if it's primary law you want, it makes sense to begin searching there first, right? Not so fast. While you will need primary sources of law to support your case, in many instances, it is much easier — and a more efficient use of your time — to begin your search with secondary sources such as practice guides, treatises, and legal articles.

Why? Because secondary sources provide a thorough overview of legal topics, meaning you don't have to start your research from scratch. After secondary sources, you can move on to primary sources of law.

For example, while no two legal research projects are the same, the order in which you will want to search different types of sources may look something like this:

  • Secondary sources . If you are researching a new legal principle or an unfamiliar area of the law, the best place to start is secondary sources, including law journals, practice guides , legal encyclopedias, and treatises. They are a good jumping-off point for legal research since they've already done the work for you. As an added bonus, they can save you additional time since they often identify and cite important statutes and seminal cases.
  • Case law . If you have already found some case law in secondary sources, great, you have something to work with. But if not, don't fret. You can still search for relevant case law in a variety of ways, including running a search in a case law research tool.

Once you find a helpful case, you can use it to find others. For example, in Westlaw, most cases contain headnotes that summarize each of the case's important legal issues. These headnotes are also assigned a Key Number based on the topic associated with that legal issue. So, once you find a good case, you can use the headnotes and Key Numbers within it to quickly find more relevant case law.

  • Statutes and regulations . In many instances, secondary sources and case law list the statutes and regulations relevant to your legal issue. But if you haven't found anything yet, you can still search for statutes and regs online like you do with cases.

Once you know which statute or reg is pertinent to your case, pull up the annotated version on Westlaw. Why the annotated version? Because the annotations will include vital information, such as a list of important cases that cite your statute or reg. Sometimes, these cases are even organized by topic — just one more way to find the case law you need to support your legal argument.

Keep in mind, though, that legal research isn't always a linear process. You may start out going from source to source as outlined above and then find yourself needing to go back to secondary sources once you have a better grasp of the legal issue. In other instances, you may even find the answer you are looking for in a source not listed above, like a sample brief filed with the court by another attorney. Ultimately, you need to go where the information takes you.

Step 3: Make sure you are using ‘good’ law

One of the most important steps with every legal research project is to verify that you are using “good" law — meaning a court hasn't invalidated it or struck it down in some way. After all, it probably won't look good to a judge if you cite a case that has been overruled or use a statute deemed unconstitutional. It doesn't necessarily mean you can never cite these sources; you just need to take a closer look before you do.

The simplest way to find out if something is still good law is to use a legal tool known as a citator, which will show you subsequent cases that have cited your source as well as any negative history, including if it has been overruled, reversed, questioned, or merely differentiated.

For instance, if a case, statute, or regulation has any negative history — and therefore may no longer be good law — KeyCite, the citator on Westlaw, will warn you. Specifically, KeyCite will show a flag or icon at the top of the document, along with a little blurb about the negative history. This alert system allows you to quickly know if there may be anything you need to worry about.

Some examples of these flags and icons include:

  • A red flag on a case warns you it is no longer good for at least one point of law, meaning it may have been overruled or reversed on appeal.
  • A yellow flag on a case warns that it has some negative history but is not expressly overruled or reversed, meaning another court may have criticized it or pointed out the holding was limited to a specific fact pattern.
  • A blue-striped flag on a case warns you that it has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court or the U.S. Court of Appeals.
  • The KeyCite Overruling Risk icon on a case warns you that the case may be implicitly undermined because it relies on another case that has been overruled.

Another bonus of using a citator like KeyCite is that it also provides a list of other cases that merely cite your source — it can lead to additional sources you previously didn't know about.

Perseverance is vital when it comes to legal research

Given that legal research is a complex process, it will likely come as no surprise that this guide cannot provide everything you need to know.

There is a reason why there are entire law school courses and countless books focused solely on legal research methodology. In fact, many attorneys will spend their entire careers honing their research skills — and even then, they may not have perfected the process.

So, if you are just beginning, don't get discouraged if you find legal research difficult — almost everyone does at first. With enough time, patience, and dedication, you can master the art of legal research.

Thomson Reuters originally published this article on November 10, 2020.

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  • How to Prepare for Law School
  • How to brief a case
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How to write a case brief for law school: Excerpt reproduced from Introduction to the Study of Law: Cases and Materials ,

Third edition (lexisnexis 2009) by michael makdisi & john makdisi.


The previous section described the parts of a case in order to make it easier to read and identify the pertinent information that you will use to create your briefs. This section will describe the parts of a brief in order to give you an idea about what a brief is, what is helpful to include in a brief, and what purpose it serves. Case briefs are a necessary study aid in law school that helps to encapsulate and analyze the mountainous mass of material that law students must digest. The case brief represents a final product after reading a case, rereading it, taking it apart, and putting it back together again. In addition to its function as a tool for self-instruction and referencing, the case brief also provides a valuable “cheat sheet” for class participation.

Who will read your brief? Most professors will espouse the value of briefing but will never ask to see that you have, in fact, briefed. As a practicing lawyer, your client doesn’t care if you brief, so long as you win the case. The judges certainly don’t care if you brief, so long as you competently practice the law. You are the person that the brief will serve! Keep this in mind when deciding what elements to include as part of your brief and when deciding what information to include under those elements.

What are the elements of a brief? Different people will tell you to include different things in your brief. Most likely, upon entering law school, this will happen with one or more of your instructors. While opinions may vary, four elements that are essential to any useful brief are the following:

(a) Facts (name of the case and its parties, what happened factually and procedurally, and the judgment)

(b) Issues (what is in dispute)

(c) Holding (the applied rule of law)

(d) Rationale (reasons for the holding)

If you include nothing but these four elements, you should have everything you need in order to recall effectively the information from the case during class or several months later when studying for exams.

Because briefs are made for yourself, you may want to include other elements that expand the four elements listed above. Depending on the case, the inclusion of additional elements may be useful. For example, a case that has a long and important section expounding dicta might call for a separate section in your brief labeled: Dicta. Whatever elements you decide to include, however, remember that the brief is a tool intended for personal use. To the extent that more elements will help with organization and use of the brief, include them. On the other hand, if you find that having more elements makes your brief cumbersome and hard to use, cut back on the number of elements. At a minimum, however, make sure you include the four elements listed above.

Elements that you may want to consider including in addition to the four basic elements are:

(e) Dicta (commentary about the decision that was not the basis for the decision)

(f) Dissent (if a valuable dissenting opinion exits, the dissent’s opinion)

(g) Party’s Arguments (each party’s opposing argument concerning the ultimate issue)

(h) Comments (personal commentary)

Personal comments can be useful if you have a thought that does not fit elsewhere. In the personal experience of one of the authors, this element was used to label cases as specific kinds (e.g., as a case of vicarious liability) or make mental notes about what he found peculiar or puzzling about cases. This element allowed him to release his thoughts (without losing them) so that he could move on to other cases.

In addition to these elements, it may help you to organize your thoughts, as some people do, by dividing Facts into separate elements:

(1) Facts of the case (what actually happened, the controversy)

(2) Procedural History (what events within the court system led to the present case)

(3) Judgment (what the court actually decided)

Procedural History is usually minimal and most of the time irrelevant to the ultimate importance of a case; however, this is not always true. One subject in which Procedure History is virtually always relevant is Civil Procedure.

When describing the Judgment of the case, distinguish it from the Holding. The Judgment is the factual determination by the court, in favor of one party, such as “affirmed,” “reversed,” or “remanded.” In contrast, the Holding is the applied rule of law that serves as the basis for the ultimate judgment.

Remember that the purpose of a brief is to remind you of the important details that make the case significant in terms of the law. It will be a reference tool when you are drilled by a professor and will be a study aid when you prepare for exams. A brief is also like a puzzle piece.

The elements of the brief create the unique shape and colors of the piece, and, when combined with other pieces, the picture of the common law takes form. A well-constructed brief will save you lots of time by removing the need to return to the case to remember the important details and also by making it easier to put together the pieces of the common law puzzle.


So now that you know the basic elements of a brief, what information is important to include under each element? The simple answer is: whatever is relevant. But what parts of a case are relevant? When you read your first few cases, you may think that everything that the judge said was relevant to his ultimate conclusion. Even if this were true, what is relevant for the judge to make his decision is not always relevant for you to include in your brief. Remember, the reason to make a brief is not to persuade the world that the ultimate decision in the case is a sound one, but rather to aid in refreshing your memory concerning the most important parts of the case.

What facts are relevant to include in a brief? You should include the facts that are necessary to remind you of the story. If you forget the story, you will not remember how the law in the case was applied. You should also include the facts that are dispositive to the decision in the case. For instance, if the fact that a car is white is a determining factor in the case, the brief should note that the case involves a white car and not simply a car. To the extent that the procedural history either helps you to remember the case or plays an important role in the ultimate outcome, you should include these facts as well.

What issues and conclusions are relevant to include in a brief? There is usually one main issue on which the court rests its decision. This may seem simple, but the court may talk about multiple issues, and may discuss multiple arguments from both sides of the case. Be sure to distinguish the issues from the arguments made by the parties. The relevant issue or issues, and corresponding conclusions, are the ones for which the court made a final decision and which are binding. The court may discuss intermediate conclusions or issues, but stay focused on the main issue and conclusion which binds future courts.

What rationale is important to include in a brief? This is probably the most difficult aspect of the case to determine. Remember that everything that is discussed may have been relevant to the judge, but it is not necessarily relevant to the rationale of the decision. The goal is to remind yourself of the basic reasoning that the court used to come to its decision and the key factors that made the decision favor one side or the other.

A brief should be brief! Overly long or cumbersome briefs are not very helpful because you will not be able to skim them easily when you review your notes or when the professor drills you. On the other hand, a brief that is too short will be equally unhelpful because it lacks sufficient information to refresh your memory. Try to keep your briefs to one page in length. This will make it easy for you to organize and reference them.

Do not get discouraged. Learning to brief and figuring out exactly what to include will take time and practice. The more you brief, the easier it will become to extract the relevant information.

While a brief is an extremely helpful and important study aid, annotating and highlighting are other tools for breaking down the mass of material in your casebook. The remainder of this section will discuss these different techniques and show how they complement and enhance the briefing process.

Annotating Cases

Many of you probably already read with a pencil or pen, but if you do not, now is the time to get in the habit. Cases are so dense and full of information that you will find yourself spending considerable amounts of time rereading cases to find what you need. An effective way to reduce this time is to annotate the margins of the casebook. Your pencil (or pen) will be one of your best friends while reading a case. It will allow you to mark off the different sections (such as facts, procedural history, or conclusions), thus allowing you to clear your mind of thoughts and providing an invaluable resource when briefing and reviewing.

You might be wondering why annotating is important if you make an adequate, well-constructed brief. By their very nature briefs cannot cover everything in a case. Even with a thorough, well-constructed brief you may want to reference the original case in order to reread dicta that might not have seemed important at the time, to review the complete procedural history or set of facts, or to scour the rationale for a better understanding of the case; annotating makes these tasks easier. Whether you return to a case after a few hours or a few months, annotations will swiftly guide you to the pertinent parts of the case by providing a roadmap of the important sections. Your textual markings and margin notes will refresh your memory and restore specific thoughts you might have had about either the case in general or an individual passage.

Annotations will also remind you of forgotten thoughts and random ideas by providing a medium for personal comments.

In addition to making it easier to review an original case, annotating cases during the first review of a case makes the briefing process easier. With adequate annotations, the important details needed for your brief will be much easier to retrieve. Without annotations, you will likely have difficulty locating the information you seek even in the short cases. It might seem strange that it would be hard to reference a short case, but even a short case will likely take you at least fifteen to twenty-five minutes to read, while longer cases may take as much as thirty minutes to an hour to complete. No matter how long it takes, the dense material of all cases makes it difficult to remember all your thoughts, and trying to locate specific sections of the analysis may feel like you are trying to locate a needle in a haystack. An annotation in the margin, however, will not only swiftly guide you to a pertinent section, but will also refresh the thoughts that you had while reading that section.

When you read a case for the first time, read for the story and for a basic understanding of the dispute, the issues, the rationale, and the decision. As you hit these elements (or what you think are these elements) make a mark in the margins. Your markings can be as simple as “facts” (with a bracket that indicates the relevant part of the paragraph). When you spot an issue, you may simply mark “issue” or instead provide a synopsis in your own words. When a case sparks an idea — write that idea in the margin as well — you never know when a seemingly irrelevant idea might turn into something more.

Finally, when you spot a particularly important part of the text, underline it (or highlight it as described below).

With a basic understanding of the case, and with annotations in the margin, the second read-through of the case should be much easier. You can direct your reading to the most important sections and will have an easier time identifying what is and is not important. Continue rereading the case until you have identified all the relevant information that you need to make your brief, including the issue(s), the facts, the holding, and the relevant parts of the analysis.

Pencil or pen — which is better to use when annotating? Our recommendation is a mechanical pencil. Mechanical pencils make finer markings than regular pencils, and also than ballpoint pens. Although you might think a pencil might smear more than a pen, with its sharp point a mechanical pencil uses very little excess lead and will not smear as much as you might imagine. A mechanical pencil will also give you the freedom to make mistakes without consequences. When you first start annotating, you may think that some passages are more important than they really are, and therefore you may resist the urge to make a mark in order to preserve your book and prevent false guideposts. With a pencil, however, the ability to erase and rewrite removes this problem.


Why highlight? Like annotating, highlighting may seem unimportant if you create thorough, well-constructed briefs, but highlighting directly helps you to brief. It makes cases, especially the more complicated ones, easy to digest, review and use to extract information.

Highlighting takes advantage of colors to provide a uniquely effective method for reviewing and referencing a case. If you prefer a visual approach to learning, you may find highlighting to be a very effective tool.

If annotating and highlighting are so effective, why brief? Because the process of summarizing a case and putting it into your own words within a brief provides an understanding of the law and of the case that you cannot gain through the process of highlighting or annotating.

The process of putting the case into your own words forces you to digest the material, while annotating and highlighting can be accomplished in a much more passive manner.

What should you highlight? Similar to annotating, the best parts of the case to highlight are those that represent the needed information for your brief such as the facts, the issue, the holding and the rationale.

Unlike annotating, highlighting provides an effective way to color code, which makes referring to the case even easier. In addition, Highlighters are particularly useful in marking off entire sections by using brackets. These brackets will allow you to color-code the case without highlighting all the text, leaving the most important phrases untouched for a more detailed highlight marking or underlining.

Highlighting is a personal tool, and therefore should be used to the extent that highlighting helps, but should be modified in a way that makes it personally time efficient and beneficial. For instance, you might combine the use of annotations in the margins with the visual benefit of highlighting the relevant text. You may prefer to underline the relevant text with a pencil, but to use a highlighter to bracket off the different sections of a case. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it works for you, regardless of what others recommend. The techniques in the remainder of this section will describe ways to make full use of your highlighters.

First, buy yourself a set of multi-colored highlighters, with at least four, or perhaps five or six different colors. Yellow, pink, and orange are usually the brightest. Depending on the brand, purple and green can be dark, but still work well. Although blue is a beautiful color, it tends to darken and hide the text.

Therefore we recommend that you save blue for the elements that you rarely highlight.

For each different section of the case, choose a color, and use that color only when highlighting the section of the case designated for that color. Consider using yellow for the text that you tend to highlight most frequently. Because yellow is the brightest, you may be inclined to use yellow for the Conclusions in order to make them stand out the most. If you do this, however, you will exhaust your other colors much faster than yellow and this will require that you purchase an entire set of new highlighters when a single color runs out because colors such as green are not sold separately. If instead you choose to use yellow on a more frequently highlighted section such as the Analysis, when it comes time to replace your yellow marker, you will need only to replace your yellow highlighter individually. In the personal experience on one of the authors, the sections of cases that seemed to demand the most highlighter attention were the

Facts and the Analysis, while the Issues and Holdings demanded the least. Other Considerations and

Procedural History required lots of highlighting in particular cases although not in every case.

Experiment if you must, but try to choose a color scheme early on in the semester and stick with it. That way, when you come back to the first cases of the semester, you will not be confused with multiple color schemes. The basic sections of a case for which you should consider giving a different color are:

• Procedural History

• Issue (and questions presented)

• Holding (and conclusions)

• Analysis (rationale)

• Other Considerations (such as dicta)

Not all of these sections demand a separate color. You may find that combining Facts and Procedural History or Issues and Holdings works best. Furthermore, as mentioned above, some sections may not warrant highlighting in every case (e.g., dicta probably do not need to be highlighted unless they are particularly important). If you decide that a single color is all that you need, then stick to one, but if you find yourself highlighting lots of text from many different sections, reconsider the use of at least a few different colors. Highlighters make text stand out, but only when used appropriately. The use of many colors enables you to highlight more text without reducing the highlighter’s effectiveness. Three to four colors provides decent color variation without the cumbersomeness of handling too many markers.

Once you are comfortable with your color scheme, determining exactly what to highlight still may be difficult. Similar to knowing what to annotate, experience will perfect your highlighting skills. Be careful not to highlight everything, thus ruining your highlighters’ effectiveness; at the same time, do not be afraid to make mistakes.

Now that we have covered the basics of reading, annotating, highlighting, and briefing a case, you are ready to start practicing. Keep the tips and techniques mentioned in this chapter in mind when you tackle the four topics in the remainder of this book. If you have difficultly, refer back to this chapter to help guide you as you master the case method of study and the art of using the common law.

Have questions about law school? Check out our Facebook page , follow us on Twitter or start networking with law students and lawyers on LexTalk .

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Legal case studies and written exercises

As part of the recruitment process, in this kind of exercise you are given a set of papers relating to a particular situation and asked to make recommendations in a brief report. The firm will pick a case study relevant to the work they do. You are provided with a large amount of factual information. 

The most common written exercise is writing a letter to a client on whether or not to proceed with a business proposal, once you have read the relevant documents. You may be asked to present advice to the client (usually played by a partner) or answer questions on the case. You are being tested on your ability to: 

  • Analyse information
  • Think clearly and logically
  • Exercise your judgement
  • Express yourself on paper/ present yourself to a client

Examples of exercises

  • Investment project - given a bundle of documents including letter from the bank, background information on accounts. Should the client invest?
  • Write a report summarising the information given about an energy firm wanting to take over an urban community regeneration scheme. Look at the strengths, risks, obstacles to scheme and suggestions about whether it should move forward.
  • Given a lengthy consultant's report with half an hour to read and then draft a presentation recommending whether to go ahead on buying the company - followed by questions.
  • The client, a steel company, is losing money due to a rival. There's also a proceeding against your client. The rival company is thinking of merging with / acquiring your client's company. Look at the extract of a contract between the client and the steel supplier and advise your client of the pros and cons regarding the proceeding.
  • Given an accident and medical report and photos - written answers to a series of questions.
  • Proposed M&A - pick out the relevant parts to read and then present to the interviewers on what you feel is the correct course of action.
  • Legal interpretation question based on fictional health and safety legislation.
  • Interpret a section of the mental health act - answer questions from the interviewer.
  • Employment service contract - review in order to answer 10 set questions.
  • Five passages to rewrite in layman's terms.
  • Draft a letter of complaint to a local electrical store regarding faulty goods.
  • Read a case study on police ill treatment and then draft a report on the legal matters arising from it.

Individual tasks

Candidates generally work independently on such an exercise and their recommendation or decision is usually to be communicated in the form of a brief written report and/or a presentation made to the assessors. Ensure your thought processes are clearly articulated and available for the scrutiny of the assessors. Of paramount importance, if the brief requires a decision to be made, ensure that a decision is made and articulated.

Group tasks

You may be asked to do a case study as a group. It is likely to be along the lines of the first two exercises in the example with information given to the group to sift through and pull out the key facts. At the end the group will be asked to present to the interviewers, outlining the issues involved and key recommendations and then take questions as a group.

Letter drafting criteria

If in the exercise you are involved in drafting a letter, as part of the assessment the interviewer will check that it:

  • Protects the interests of the client
  • Meets the client's objectives
  • Addresses all relevant factual and legal issues
  • Identifies relevant options
  • Is logically organised
  • Is consistent and coherent
  • Is clear and concise

Other preparation

In addition to the general preparation your course provides, you could also:

  • Find out what sort of cases your employer specialises in
  • Practice a Watson Glaser test, a critical reasoning test often used by firms at assessment centres
  • Practice 'skim' reading which is an important skill. This feedback from a candidate demonstrates this: 'The exercise was very time-pressured and I made the mistake of reading all of the information given before starting to write anything down. I got the impression that not all of the info was supposed to be relevant and that they were testing our ability to sift through written material to extract the most important things.'

Don't focus on the technicalities

Non-law students often do well on these exercises as they do not have the relevant knowledge of the law and so focus on sifting the information, whereas law students often get too involved with trying to understand the information in legal terms.

Useful Information

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Legal Case Study Interviews

Many commercial law firms require candidates to undertake a case study at the final interview stage.

There is not one single format, so it is advisable to ask the recruitment team what you can expect. Below are some general points and tips which have been put together from feedback from students who have gone through the process and what we have learned from law firms. 

Legal Case Study and Commercial Awareness Exercises

Bear in mind that recruiters are always trying to improve their processes so it is likely that they will find new ways to assess candidates each year. It is therefore unlikely that you will find comprehensive resources to practise legal case studies in the same type of ways that you might for management consultancy case studies (in the consulting industry, case studies are extremely well established and follow a broadly similar format during the interview).

Generally speaking legal case studies are not intended to test out technical legal skills – this is partly because they need to be fair to both law and non law students.  Instead they are more likely to test the skills required to be an effective lawyer within the world of (private practice) work. So focus your efforts on your specific law firm research, ways to demonstrate your motivation, and the practice of skills they are seeking rather than on preparing for specific types of exercises.

What Is Being Tested?

The following skills and attributes are likely to be tested throughout the interview process:

  • commercial awareness – for example, are you thinking about the client and the issues they may be facing? Are you thinking of the law firm as a business?
  • logical thinking - are you able to think in a structured way and use your common sense to arrive at a practical solution?
  • analytical skills - can you identify the key issues from a lot of information, perhaps under time pressure?
  • judgement - can you summarise the main points of the arguments and come to a conclusion given a certain set of facts?
  • time management - can you manage your time effectively? Can you prioritise information and activity? Will you get flustered if presented with a large volume of unfamiliar  information to read?
  • dealing with pressure  - can you work under time pressure and stay focused and effective? Can you deal with unfamiliar facts or people and stay calm?
  • resilience  - how do you respond to being challenged? How do you respond when something does not go your way or in the face of a difficult problem? Can you defend your point of view?
  • interpersonal skills. Are you confident in what you are saying, are you collaborative, can you develop a good rapport and productive working relationships, do you listen well, are you open to feedback, do you have a positive attitude?
  • communication.  Can you communicate equally effectively on paper (e.g. in writing a letter/email to a client) and face to face ( e.g. in making a presentation to a group)?  Are you clear? Do you think about the tone and the reader/ audience? Do you have a high standard of general literacy? Is your answer well structured, communicated in plain English and to the point?
  • negotiation skills - are you clear about what you are trying to achieve and what, if anything you are prepared to negotiate on?  If you are acting on behalf of someone, are they clear about what you are doing?
  • motivation – are you enjoying this even if you feel slightly nervous?

Types of Exercise and Tips for Managing Them

These exercises vary from firm to firm and can be part of an individual interview or a group exercise. The material could be given to you in any of the following formats:

  • a paragraph which may be about a current affairs issue or something specifically legal: read and then discuss
  • an article from, for example, the Financial Times : read and discuss/answer questions
  • a one or two page client scenario with a question posed at the end. For example, 'should this new client be taken on?'
  • Summary of the situation – could be in the form of an email or letter
  • Client or competitor strategy
  • Financial statements
  • Information about employees/equipment/other assets (property)
  • Contracts, leases, licences
  • Litigation, possible actions, non disclosure
  • Regulatory information

Tips for the paragraph and article exercises

  • Read carefully
  • Think about how you would summarise what the article is about in two or three sentences
  • Think about the argument/point of view that is being voiced throughout the article. What would be the counter argument if you had to make it?
  • Identify two or three key issues – think about political and economic aspects
  • There may not be an obvious connection to the law firm. The interviewer may be wanting to stretch you intellectually and see how you think, and find out whether you have an opinion that you are able to defend
  • If the article has been reproduced by the firm and is set out in numbered paragraphs, this is so that you can refer to the paragraphs by number in the discussion.

Tips for the client scenarios

Possible scenarios may include a client (or a potential client) who is considering merging or acquiring another company, or a client who is being acquired by a competitor or who is looking for some legal services. The amount of material and time you are given will determine the level of detail you are expected to cover.  In general it is advisable to cover as many aspects as you can broadly, rather than cover only one or two in great detail.

You may be asked a general question such as ‘what advice would you give to the client?’ or three or four specific questions. For the latter it is most important to address all the questions rather than focusing on the detail of one and ignoring others.

It is also very useful to have researched the firm carefully. By doing do you will know facts such as where the firm has offices located (useful when there are several jurisdictions involved in the scenario) and which practice areas it has (allowing you to suggest bringing in expertise from elsewhere in the firm if appropriate).

Tips for “bundle of document” exercises

Some firms will give you anything between 5 and 20 documents to read and answer one or more questions. You may be asked to give a short presentation followed by a discussion with the interviewer(s).

  • Read the question(s) carefully and follow instructions
  • Flick through quickly to establish the contents and make sure you look at the back page. You may even find an index to help you
  • Take a minute to plan your time and leave enough to produce a presentation or at least review your thoughts before the interview
  • Use a highlighter
  • Identify key elements relevant to the question(s)
  • Don’t forget to consider whether the deal should even be done. Is there a deal breaker? Is there another option?
  • Consider risks to the client and/or to the firm. For example are there any reputational issues associated for either party? Is there any “conflict of interest” for the firm?
  • Structure the presentation: beginning, middle and end which should be short summary with recommendations. Be close to the maximum time allowed
  • Be confident in your recommendations, even if you feel that your chosen line of argument is marginal. You can assess the pros and cons of a given situation, but conclude with “on balance, I recommend xyz”. Remember that solicitors are paid to make decisions and that clients need to trust their legal advisers to make them!
  • Consider your audience
  • Imagine this was actually a real situation at work where you were involved in working with this client – what would you really say to them?
  • Check your grammar, spelling and punctuation.


Here are some suggestions to help make you feel ready and confident to tackle these exercises:

  • Make sure that you research the role of a solicitor carefully such that you have a realistic view of their daily work (in the relevant setting), their responsilbilites and activities and even an awareness of the SRA's Code of Conduct for legal service firms and individuals.
  • Have a clear idea of the firm’s practice areas, what type of work they specialise in, where their offices are located, how they differentiate themselves from their key competitors and the challenges that law firms face.
  • Read the firm’s annual report or review (and compare it to a competitor), follow their news on Twitter in the weeks ahead of the interview.
  • Be aware of what is happening in the legal world.
  • Keep up to date with current affairs including areas of business that interest you.
  • Learn some basic business language, have a broad understanding of mergers and acquisitions and how they are structured. Know how to read a balance sheet.
  • Be clear on the importance of technology for all businesses.
  • Practise reading business articles in a set time and then summarise the key points.
  • You may find it useful to become familiar with some basic analysis tools used in business such as SWOT and PESTLE as they may help you think of areas to consider in some responses.  Don't go overboard with these though as they might hinder your ability to write a clear and appropriate response if they are used incorrectly.
  • Complete some of the exercises that firms offer in their online work experience/online internship schemes. Many are listed on Forage.

Resources for Building Commercial Awareness

Good resources for City and global firms are:

All You Need To Know About The City by Chris Stoakes, and Commercial Law Handbook by Jake Schogger are useful preparation for understanding business terms, how deals work and general commercial awareness as it applies to the legal industry.

Useful websites include:

  • My experience on case study interview: How should you prepare for a case-study interview? - a Legal Case Study on LawCareers.Net
  • Chambers Student: Commercial Awareness Resources - Legal Blogs
  • Chambers Student: Legal industry trends
  • LawCareers.Net commercial awareness weekly round ups 
  • UK Government guidance on how to set up a business
  • BBC News: Business
  • How to Read a Balance Sheet (The Non-Boring Version)
  • Linklaters “Commercial Awareness” advice  
  • Virtual work experience programmes for several law firms including Linklaters, White & Case and Pinsent Masons are available on the Forage platform.
  • Warwick Place: news articles about challenges faced by law firms
  • – has a free newsletter rounding up key changes and news in the legal sector.
  • Our self directed learning information pages contain resources for free online courses 
  • Investopedia has a good dictionary for business terms.

Building Your Commercial Awareness Skills at Oxford

  • Attend skills sessions run by law firms online as well as those run by The Careers Service , the  Oxford Law Society , the Oxford Bar Society and the Law Faculty
  • The Oxford Strategy Challenge – ideal for building up team work, commercial awareness and skills in working with business clients. Run regularly throughout the year (online).
  • Insight into Strategy and Management  – a short course, run each term, to improve your business knowledge.
  • Develop your employability skills  – includes many ideas for building these at Oxford including practical suggestions for developing your “business awareness”.
  • Presentation and other assessment centre skills advice
  • CareerConnect VACANCIES
  • CareerConnect EVENTS

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Allan Rouben

Case Studies

Explore case studies of previous cases which Allan Rouben has represented. Find examples of case studies in all focus areas of law.

Legroulx v. Pitre: Striking Jury Notice, Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Rules of Civil Procedure

Background: A complicated action was proceeding in Ottawa before Justice Denis Power and a jury. The plaintiff’s injuries, arising out of a car accident, raised difficult issues of causation and required that complex medical evidence be heard. The plaintiff’s lawyers considered the medical issues were too complex for the jury and brought a motion to …

Legroulx v. Pitre: Striking Jury Notice, Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Rules of Civil Procedure Read More »

Lucia’s Case: Appeal, Civil Litigation, Jurisdiction and Forum non Conveniens

Background: Lucia resides in Ontario with her family, and was involved in a car accident in Michigan. She brought suit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against the driver and owner of the vehicle, as well as her own insurer given that the Michigan defendants claimed the accident was caused by an unknown vehicle. …

Lucia’s Case: Appeal, Civil Litigation, Jurisdiction and Forum non Conveniens Read More »

Patrizia’s Case: Appeals, Civil Litigation, Negligence and Minimum Maintenance Standards

Background: Patrizia was driving to work early on a snowy morning in April. The roads in Milton were snow covered and slippery. Weather forecasts from the day before predicted an 80% chance of snow, yet the Town of Milton had not scheduled an evening patrol to monitor the roads and clear the snow. Tragically, as …

Patrizia’s Case: Appeals, Civil Litigation, Negligence and Minimum Maintenance Standards Read More »

F.A.’s Case: Criminal Law, Appeals, Sexual Assault and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Background: F.A. worked in a medical facility with a much younger female co-worker. There was flirting between them. They went out together one evening, meeting up in a park and later driving around in F.A.’s car. He said he had a surprise for her at the office so they parked close by. Instead of going …

F.A.’s Case: Criminal Law, Appeals, Sexual Assault and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Read More »

Clare’s Case: Labour Law, Duty of Fair Representation and Ontario Labour Relations Board

Background: Clare had been working for General Motors for 23 years before his termination. The company claimed that he had threated a supervisor after being told that a urine sample he had given was diluted. Clare denied the allegation and asked the Union, Canadian Auto Workers Local 222, to grieve the termination. He communicated frequently …

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Law Case Study – How To Answer Case Studies in Law

One of the major challenges students have in business law and other law courses are answering questions under the case study. In this article, I will explain how to answer any law case study question following the same rule you are aware of and which is generally recommended. The IRAC or IDAC Principle.

Law Case Study Tips

IRAC Principle is an acronym which depicts,

“I” for Identification

“R” for Rule(s)

“A” for Analysis

“C” for Conclusion

While the IDAC Principle depicts the same but “D” stands for Definition.

Law Case Study – Question 1

Chuddy requested Kris to transport goods from Lagos to Darlington’s estate in Enugu state for the sum of N200,000.00. Kris replied that he was only prepared to transport the goods for N300,000.00.

Chuddy wrote back to Kris asking him to reconsider the initial price, but Kris did not reply to his letter. Two days later, Chuddy delivered the goods to the business premises of Kris, who transported them to Darlington’s Estate in Enugu State.

Chuddy has refused to pay the N300,000.00 demand by Kris, saying that there was no concluded contract. Advise the party using relevant authorities.

 [Question 1, First Semester Exam 2014/2015. BAM – YABATECH]


Let’s make use of the IRAC Principle to answer this question, but before this, let me quickly explain how it works.

“I” – Identification.

First of all, you need to identify under which law the case falls, if it is LAW OF CONTRACT then you consider the elements of the law of contract which are Offer, Acceptance, Consideration, Invitation to treat etc…

  • So, from the case above, after reading the question/case, you’ll find out that it is AN OFFER . An offer is a definite undertaking with the expectation that it will become binding when the person accepts but since there was no acceptance between Chuddy and Kris, it means that the offer was terminated.

“R” – Rules

From the above rule, we can say that the offer is a counter-offer because the terms [amount involved] were not accepted by both parties which also means that it was rejected.

So, what are the rules for termination of an offer?

  • An offer can be terminated through or by Revocation by rejection, the death of either party, the lapse of time and counter-offer [it varies the terms of an offer]

 “A” – Analysis

By Analysis, you are expected to analyze the case study on some facts and principles that are similar in the area of law . [Always remember to lay emphasis on established facts and principles]

Since we have identified the rules applicable stating that it is a counter-offer and it was rejected then let’s see what it means.

  • Counter Offer: In a nutshell, counter offer varies the terms of an offer
  • By rejection: It means the offeree did not accept the terms of the offer.

“C” – Conclusion

Here, you are expected to conclude your judgment based on legal facts and principles you have identified. Your conclusion should also entail which party has the right to sue or succeed if the matter is taken to court for legal actions.

  • So, since a counteroffer cannot give rise to a binding agreement, it means that Kris should not take the issue to court because, by the means of a counteroffer, there was no agreement between both parties.

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4 thoughts on “Law Case Study – How To Answer Case Studies in Law”

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Thanks bro…. Bless you too

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Wonderful! Am excited that u are doing this bro. God bless u

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Nice one bro, good breakdown

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case study questions law

Commercial Law Academy

Interview case studies.

This course talks you through 14 case studies based on actual commercial law interviews, including questions, answers and advice covering the role of law firms, pitching, written exercises, contract and legislation analysis, disputes, M&A, and more.

Course curriculum

Introduction to interview case studies.

What can case studies involve?

Structuring answers to case study questions

Introduction to case study frameworks

SWOT Analysis: reviewing a business' strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

PESTLE Analysis: assessing the impact of external factors

Profitability Framework: understanding revenue, costs and profit

Porter's Five Forces: analysing the competitive landscape

Business Situation Framework: analysing businesses and their markets

M&A case study: a law firm's role on a transaction

Acquisition of a famous central London hotel

The key advisors involved

Private equity vs venture capital

Structuring your answer

Real estate

Intellectual property


Dispute resolution

Pitching a law firm to a client

Pitching Freshfields to FIFA - Question

Pitching Freshfields to FIFA - Answer

Why clients choose law firms: introduction

Why clients choose law firms: capabilities

Why clients choose law firms: reputation and experience

Why clients choose law firms: value for money

Why clients choose law firms: approach to building client relationships

Why clients choose law firms: values

Written exercises

Introduction to written exercises

Written exercises: case studies and commercial scenarios

Written exercises: writing and proofreading tests

Proofreading techniques

Proofreading checklist

Proofreading exercise: correcting typos

Proofreading exercise: spelling and grammar

Contract-based case study

Joint venture shareholders' agreement - Question

Joint venture shareholders' agreement - Answer

Joint venture shareholders' agreement - Advice

Legislation-based case studies

Dangerous Dogs Act - Question

Dangerous Dogs Act - Answer & Advice

Clean Air Act - Question

Clean Air Act - Answer & Advice

Dispute-based case studies

Commercial Law Books - Question

Commercial Law Books - Answer & Advice

Resolving a dispute - Quesion

Resolving a dispute - Answer

Scenario-based case studies

Scenario involving teamwork and conflict resolution - Question

Scenario involving teamwork and conflict resolution - Answer & Advice

Scenario involving balancing competing responsibilities - Question

Scenario involving balancing competing responsibilities - Answer

Other scenario-based interview questions and advice

Business case study

Setting up a football league in the Middle East

Strategy case study

GoodBattery - Question

GoodBattery - Answer

Market sizing and brainteaser case studies

Introduction to market sizing and brainteaser questions

How to approach market sizing and brainteaser case study questions

Market sizing case study example

Brainteaser case study example

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Court’s New Chevron Analysis Likely to Follow One of These Paths

Richard Pierce

In Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo , the US Supreme Court will decide whether to overrule one of its most frequently cited precedents—its 1984 opinion in Chevron v. NRDC . The decision in Loper may change the language that lawyers use in briefs and professors use in class, but is unlikely to significantly affect case outcomes involving interpretation of the statutes that agencies administer. In practice, it’s the court’s new major questions doctrine announced in 2021 that could fundamentally change how agencies operate.

VIDEO: ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ Could Lead Supreme Court to Overturn Chevron

In Chevron , the Supreme Court instructed courts to apply a deferential test to agency interpretations of agency-administered statutes. The test first requires the court to analyze whether Congress spoke directly on the question, which would determine the answer.

“If, however, the court determines that Congress has not directly addressed the precise question at issue, the court does not simply impose its own construction on the statute, as would be necessary in the absence of an administrative interpretation,” the Chevron court wrote. “Rather, if the statute is silent or ambiguous with respect to the specific issue, the question for the court is whether the agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.”

After the oral argument in Loper , it’s clear that a majority of the justices will make one of two decisions. They will either “Kisorize” Chevron and leave it in effect or they will overrule Chevron and replace the Chevron test with the test the Supreme Court announced in its 1944 opinion, Skidmore v. Swift & Co . I’ll explain each of the court’s likely paths.

‘Kisorizing’ Chevron

The term “Kisorize” is a reference to the Supreme Court’s 2019 opinion in Kisor v . Wilkie . In that case, a five-justice majority decided not to overrule the highly deferential test for deciding whether to uphold an agency’s interpretation of one of its own rules that the court had announced in its 1997 opinion in Auer v. Robbins . The majority noted it had already qualified the deferential Auer test in several ways.

A court shouldn’t uphold an agency’s interpretation when it is “plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation.” It shouldn’t defer to an agency’s interpretation when deferring “would seriously undermine the principle that agencies should provide parties fair warning of the conduct a regulation prohibits or requires or results in unfair surprise.”

And, a court shouldn’t uphold an agency’s interpretation “when there is reason to suspect that the agency’s interpretation does not reflect the agency’s fair and considered judgment on the matter in question,” such as “when the agency’s interpretation conflicts with a prior interpretation” and “when it appears that the interpretation is nothing more than a convenient litigating position” or when it appears that the interpretation is a “post hoc rationalization advanced by an agency seeking to defend past agency action against attack.”

The court cited opinions that support each of those qualifications, so the Kisor opinion didn’t actually change the law. It cataloged in one place the qualifications the court had previously added to the Auer test. There is no reason to believe that Kisor changed the outcome of any post- Kisor case in which a court applied the Auer test in the process of reviewing an agency’s interpretation of an agency rule.

Kisorizing Chevron would have little if any effect on the outcome of any case. It is already clear that most, perhaps all, of the qualifications that the court added to Auer deference apply equally to Chevron deference. Kisorizing Chevron would just place all the pre-existing limits on Chevron deference in a single opinion.

Skidmore Deference

The only other plausible outcome of Loper is a majority holding that overrules Chevron and replaces Chevron deference with Skidmore deference. Skidmore deference is generally considered to be somewhat weaker than Chevron deference.

In Skidmore , the Supreme Court said that in reviewing agency interpretations of agency-administered statutes as “not controlling” but litigants and courts “can resort to them for guidance.” The weight of the agency’s judgment “will depend upon the thoroughness evident in its consideration, the validity of its reasoning, its consistency with earlier and later pronouncements, and all those factors that give it power to persuade, if lacking power to control.”

A decision replacing Chevron deference with Skidmore deference would have no effect on the outcome of any case in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court hasn’t applied Chevron in any case since 2016 even though it has decided many cases in which it reviewed agencies’ interpretations of statutes during that period.

The court has never applied Chevron on a consistent basis. It ignored Chevron far more often than it applied Chevron over the past 40 years. If the court doesn’t overrule Chevron , it will continue to ignore it.

A decision replacing Chevron deference with Skidmore deference probably would change the outcome of some cases in circuit courts. In a 2017 law review article , two scholars found that circuit courts upheld agency interpretations of statutes 21% more often when they cited Chevron than when they cited Skidmore .

There are reasons to be cautious about using that finding as the basis for an expectation that a decision replacing Chevron deference with Skidmore deference would have a large effect on the outcome of circuit court decisions today, however. The 2017 study looked at circuit court opinions issued between 2003 and 2013. The court added many important qualifications of Chevron deference after many of those cases were decided. An empirical study of more recent decisions would yield a more modest difference in outcomes depending on whether a court cited Chevron or Skidmore .

I am much more concerned about the court’s 2021 decision to create the “major questions doctrine” and to apply it in four other cases than I am about the effects of a potential reversal of Chevron in Loper . Lower courts are beginning to rely on the major questions doctrine as the basis to overturn scores of agency decisions. That doctrine has potential to make it impossible for any agency to take any significant action.

The cases are Loper Bright Enterprises, et al., Petitioners vs. Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Commerce, et al., U.S., No. 22-451 and Relentless, Inc., et al., Petitioners vs. Department of Commerce, et al., U.S., No. 22-1219

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg Industry Group, Inc., the publisher of Bloomberg Law and Bloomberg Tax, or its owners.

Author Information

Richard J. Pierce Jr. is professor of law at George Washington University Law School. He has written over 20 books and 130 articles on administrative law and regulatory practice.

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To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at [email protected] ; Alison Lake at [email protected]

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Moore v. United States: A Supreme Court case that could upend the tax code

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The definition of income —what it is and how it’s taxed—is a core issue of a Supreme Court case that could have far-reaching effects for taxpayers.

Moore v. United States, argued before the court in December, concerns the taxation of unrealized income. A finding on whether the plaintiffs, Charles and Kathleen Moore, must pay taxes on their profits as partial owners of a multinational corporation, could lead future courts to strike down other parts of the U.S. tax code. A ruling is expected this spring or summer.

Sloan Speck , associate professor of law specializing in taxation and tax policy, offers his take on the potential repercussions of the Moore v. U.S. ruling.

Sloan Speck

Associate Professor Sloan Speck

What’s at stake in this case?

First is a structural threat to the entire income tax system as we know it. Moore is setting a stage for future litigation that may have concrete stakes for ordinary taxpayers.

Second, Congress historically has defined income by statute. Congress generally taxes only realized income—where something has happened, such as a sale, to fix and identify that income. This statutory realization requirement has had a simplifying effect on how the income tax system has operated.

In Moore, the question is whether there is a realization requirement under the U.S. Constitution. If the court says there is a constitutional realization requirement or leaves that question open, which I think is extraordinarily likely, that raises a question about how the realization requirement actually operates. Is it a clear rule, or is it more like a legal standard—something that is fuzzy, hard to apply, and requires being resolved after the fact through litigation?

I think it’s a standard, and one that would, to some extent, flip income tax on its head by giving certain taxpayers a new weapon they could use to invalidate different provisions of the income tax law. And the narrow facts in Moore really give no sense of how far taxpayers could take a constitutional realization requirement.

The final stakes for Moore are with respect to wealth taxes. It's well-known that the Biden administration proposed a billionaire tax early on that has not gone anywhere, but it would have explicitly taxed unrealized gains each year and imposed a 20% minimum tax for all people with a net worth in excess of $100 million. Moore is a proxy fight about whether that provision works, and it's an effort to foreclose billionaire taxes before they are enacted and prevent future litigation over those instruments.

What are realized gains?

Realization hasn't ever been clearly defined, but it's fairly intuitive. So the basic case is: I own a piece of property that I sell to another person and get cash back. I can pay the tax that's due on that sale, and I recognize that income as the difference between the cash I have in my pocket and what I paid for the asset to begin with. It works for shares of stock and personal-use property like automobiles and your home.

But there are lots of harder questions about realization. The Moores are taxpayers who own a significant stake in a foreign corporation that's incorporated in India, and the U.S. doesn't tax foreign corporations. While the Moores owned the company, it earned money. Like a lot of corporations, it reinvested that money back into the business and never paid out any of its earnings in dividends. The Moores never got cash in their pockets with respect to their stock, but they’re better off—they’ve made money—because they own part of a successful company.

Their argument is that there was never realization. And that’s the question we're concerned with: Has there been realization because the corporation earned money, or do the Moores actually have to receive those earnings as cash in their pockets?

What would a winning verdict for the Moores mean?

It could undermine big chunks of the Internal Revenue Code. The best example that came up in Supreme Court oral arguments are the partnership tax rules. A lot of people, from high earners down, are partners in a partnership. A lot of small businesses and real estate ventures are partnerships. And the way the partnership tax rules work today is that, if the partnership earns income, the partners pay tax on that income whether they get cash or not.

And for many partners, they don’t get cash. Instead, these partners reinvest their earnings back into the business. That’s the business deal. If there is a constitutional realization requirement, then it could be unclear what rules apply to these very common business arrangements. There would be a lot of uncertainty about how to file taxes for a bunch of small businesses.

In Moore, the government essentially argues that none of this partnership income would be taxable, which is hard on federal revenues but easier on small businesses. Another possibility, however, is that these partnerships could become taxable like corporations, where there would be two levels of tax paid by the partnership and then the partners. 

That would be really bad for all of these businesses. It would dislocate the entire sector because everybody's made their business deals on the assumption you can plow your earnings back in and your partners pay the tax. If suddenly the partnership is paying tax, that's going to materially change what partnership businesses look like, and it will be extremely hard on those business operators and owners.

Finally, there are a bunch of other provisions that are effectively anti-abuse rules that operate on non-realization principles. If those anti-abuse rules were to fall, high earners would be able to avoid paying taxes even more so than they already do. And if the government needs revenue, it will need to look to middle earners. That could cause a shift and who pays what and how much.

What is the most likely ruling?

It doesn't really matter whether the Moores win or lose —that's not the important thing to watch. The outcome of this case is much less significant than the rationale the court provides and the language of the opinions, which is going to shape what happens going forward.

Like the overwhelming majority of Supreme Court decisions, this decision is likely to be bipartisan. So we should expect the opinion to be a heavy compromise between what the liberal and conservative justices want.

It’s been clear for a while that there would be litigation supported by conservative advocacy groups that would target different aspects of income tax. And the Moores were chosen. They stepped forward as a vehicle for advancing questions that have been raised among conservative commentators and advocacy groups for more than a decade.

This is not a surprising case, and its outcome is just one point on a larger arc. It’s the first step and what will probably be a long and difficult path for the government in defending current income tax law.

Even if the decision itself is not destabilizing, it will affect what Congress and the Treasury Department do because they know they will need to defend rules on this basis going forward. And that will shape the income tax law, probably in a way that shifts the burden of the income tax toward middle-income households and away from higher earners.

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How to prepare for a law firm assessment centre.

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We are a team of qualified lawyers from US, Magic Circle and Silver Circle law firms law firms.  We publish articles like this one every fortnight to give you the inside scoop on how to secure your training contract.

With years of experience analysing and reviewing documents for some of the world's most sophisticated clients, we've channeled the same level of care and attention into curating our database of successful applications to world's best commercial law firms.

Introduction to training contract assessment centres

Law firm assessment centres are daunting events, but they are the final hurdle that you need to clear to secure a vacation scheme or training contract.  

This article explains how to prepare for the two most common assessment centre exercises at commercial law firms.  We will cover:

  • Competency / motivational interviews which focus on whether you have the right skills and attitude to succeed on your training contract
  • Commercial case studies which test your ability to think logically and deal with common commercial topics

You may encounter additional tests which form part of the recruitment process at your assessment centre (e.g. group exercises, written exercises, psychometric tests or negotiation exercises). We plan to release other articles covering common topics like how to succeed in group exercises at assessment days shortly.

Competency / Motivational Interview

This interview is by far the most common kind of assessment you will face at law firm assessment centres. Although they vary in time, length and structure, most candidates will have to answer competency and motivational interview questions.

  • Competency questions focus on your skills. These questions are open-ended (e.g. ‘tell me about a time when…’) and then state a situation or a particular skill. For example, ‘tell me about a time when you demonstrated good teamwork’.
  • Motivational questions are questions which relate to your motivations or commitment towards a career in commercial law or the law firm you are interviewing at. Such questions may be phrased as follows: ‘why do you want to pursue a career in commercial law?’, or ‘why do you want to train at [ insert firm here ]?’.

Many candidates find these kinds of questions challenging. They are personal in nature and require preparation in advance.  It’s unlikely that you can improvise an answer of sufficient quality on the spot. The aim is prepare so effectively that your answer ticks all of the boxes on your interviewer’s marking scheme while sounding completely natural.


It's worth over-indexing on preparation before your assessment day.

The first step is to prepare a table of competency/motivational questions: write down typical questions on the left-hand side and leave space for your answers in the right-hand column.  

You should write out your answers in full. However, we would suggest putting a word limit of 400 words per answer. The average person speaks at approximately 150 words per minute. This means that a 400 word answer would take you just over 2.5 minutes to get through. It’s important to speak at a pace that is easy to follow, so a 2.5 minute answer should take about three minutes to deliver at interview.

By writing out your answers, you are able to formulate a strong, logical structure and provide yourself with a safety net should your mind suddenly go blank in the interview.

For illustrative purposes only, it may look something like this:

Example of format to use when preparing answers for interview

Naturally, your table will have far more rows that the one above. We would recommend that you prepare answers for the following basic competencies:

  • Teamwork and leadership skills
  • Organisation and time management
  • Communication skills (including examples of dealing with difficult people/persuasion/negotiation)
  • Entrepreneurship/innovation
  • Determination/motivation
  • Dealing with a set-back/failure
  • Adaptability/flexibility

After you have prepared your answers, you may then want to transition to flashcards. Write the question on one side, and a bullet point version of your answer on the other side. Mix up the cards and test yourself on them until you can confidently answer the questions with responses that range from one to three minutes long.


When you are in the real interview, it is unlikely that it will be a robotic question-and-answer process. Your interviewer is likely to adopt a conversational tone and expect that you do the same.  Notwithstanding your thorough preparation, it is important that you deliver your answers in a natural manner

Once you know your answers off by heart, you should take some small liberties with the script you have prepared. This will allow your tone to be more natural and appear more spontaneous. This is an old actors’ trick: you must know your lines so well that you are able to act as though that they are coming to your head in the moment, just like the character in the scene would have happen to them.

Some interviewers will ask you direct questions, whilst some will amend the questions, which will force you to change your answer in the moment. However, so long as you have done your preparation, you need not worry – you already have the answers in your head.  All you need to do is shuffle the content around to provide an appropriate response.

For example, your interviewer may ask you ‘tell me about a time when you have demonstrated strong organisational skills’. You may give your response, and the interviewer replies with, ‘that is great – but what about when that does not work out? How do you deal with that?’. This question is technically a follow-up question about your organisational skills but alludes to your ability to deal with set-backs and failure.

Consequently, you should answer with a response that transitions from your organisational answer to your set-backs answer. Again, if you have done your preparation, this will come naturally as you will not be trying to quickly make up a retort on the spot.

Case Study / Presentation Exercise

Pen on paper with the words "tackling case studies"

One of the most challenging assessments that candidates face at assessment centres is the case study/presentation exercise. This assessment is a test of your comprehension skills, commercial awareness and your application of technical knowledge.  It differs to group exercises because it's usually 1-1, rather than alongside other candidates.

The exercise will usually involve you receiving a bundle of documents to review over the course of 30-45 minutes. You will probably receive some prompts and questions within the documents and, at the end of the allotted time, you will relay your findings to a partner over the course of a 5-15 minute presentation.

Like mock exam papers, the best way to prepare for a case study is to carry out practice tests before your assessment day.  The NCL practice case study is our own custom case study that covers many of the areas that law firms will assess you on.  By itself, though, that’s not enough – you need feedback on improvement points and visibility of what the best answers involve.  Our case study therefore includes step-by-step commentary with a model answer and an explanation of the concepts employed.

Other than the NCL case study, there are some other ways to supplement your knowledge. Crucially, you should be looking to build your technical knowledge. By technical knowledge we mean your financial, commercial, and legal knowledge. This includes topics like:

  • Acquisition structure (sale purchase or asset purchase).
  • Acquisition financing (debt or equity).
  • Representations, warranties and indemnities.

Alongside this, you will also need to have broader commercial acumen. You will be expected to analyse a situation and consider whether it makes good commercial sense. For example, you may be asked whether your client, an e-commerce business, should acquire a high-street retailer who only has bricks-and-mortar stores. If your client only wants to expand its online presence, the acquisition seems like a bad idea. Furthermore, bring in your knowledge of current affairs: the pandemic has accelerated the decline of the high-street. Hence, even if your client wants to have a physical presence, you may want to advise them on the risks of pursuing that objective.

Building your commercial awareness and technical knowledge is a staightforward but time-consuming process.  We recommend the following actions:

  • Listen to the Financial Times News Briefing podcast every morning. It's about 10 minutes long and gives an excellent summary of the most important commercial news stories
  • Read the Financial Times or the Economist's business section as much as possible
  • Read the same legal press that the law firm partners read. Legal Business is particularly insightful
  • Watch one hour of Bloomberg TV a day (it is free for one hour each day). This is more advanced but will give you an excellent insight into financial matters and provide you with some top-level analysis
  • Read some basic introductory books on commercial concepts (e.g. Stoakes’ ‘All you need to know about the City’)
  • Use Investopedia to look up concepts you do not understand and to build some deeper knowledge
  • Take online courses on commercial concepts (like private equity) on platforms like Coursera or edX

Once you have amassed a decent amount of knowledge, it is vital that you put it to the test in a practice case study/presentation exercise.  Testing yourself against a practice case study exercise is the best way to know whether you at the appropriate level to succeed or if more work is required.

After you have used the practice case study materials, you will be able to identify gaps in your knowledge and thoroughly prepared for the actual assessment. Then, all that remains is to do the real thing!

This article has summarised the two main kinds of assessment you are likely to face at a law firm assessment centre. The first is the competency/motivational interview. To prepare for this, we recommend drafting a question-and-answer table, writing flashcards, and rehearsing answers.

The second assessment is the case study/presentation exercise. To prepare for this, we strongly recommend getting a hold of our practice case study exercise and practicing. We also recommend, in tandem, building your commercial awareness and technical knowledge by reading, listening, and watching a variety of media that is designed to educate you on a broad range of commercial and financial concepts.

Get your copy of case study/presentation assessment here .  Remember, unlike others, our case study exercise comes with a detailed commentary which walks you through the exercise, provides model answers, and explains the relevant commercial concepts.

We hope you found this article useful – if you did, please share it with other candidates who might find it helpful!

So, what next?

If you are ready to move from research to action, you should look at our application database BEFORE you put pen to paper on your applications. You wouldn't walk into an exam hall without carefully reviewing past papers.  It's exactly the same with applications to law firms. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.

Most candidates read a few well-intentioned but obvious articles on how to apply to law firms.  Most candidates then spend a couple of hours writing an application before optimistically submitting it.  But most candidates don't even get an interview.  Every year, thousands of candidates are part of the 90% that are rejected at first round.

Join us as part of the successful 10% instead. Let us give you an unfair advantage: through our comprehensive analysis of successful applications to every major law firm, our qualified lawyers will break down the ingredients of a phenomenal application.  We will help you beat the odds, secure your interview and then avoid final-round failure at your assessment centre.

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The Supreme Court will hear the case against the abortion pill mifepristone on March 26. It's part of a two-drug regimen with misoprostol for abortions in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images hide caption

The Supreme Court will hear the case against the abortion pill mifepristone on March 26. It's part of a two-drug regimen with misoprostol for abortions in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

A scientific paper that raised concerns about the safety of the abortion pill mifepristone was retracted by its publisher this week. The study was cited three times by a federal judge who ruled against mifepristone last spring. That case, which could limit access to mifepristone throughout the country, will soon be heard in the Supreme Court.

The now retracted study used Medicaid claims data to track E.R. visits by patients in the month after having an abortion. The study found a much higher rate of complications than similar studies that have examined abortion safety.

Sage, the publisher of the journal, retracted the study on Monday along with two other papers, explaining in a statement that "expert reviewers found that the studies demonstrate a lack of scientific rigor that invalidates or renders unreliable the authors' conclusions."

It also noted that most of the authors on the paper worked for the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of anti-abortion lobbying group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, and that one of the original peer reviewers had also worked for the Lozier Institute.

The Sage journal, Health Services Research and Managerial Epidemiology , published all three research articles, which are still available online along with the retraction notice. In an email to NPR, a spokesperson for Sage wrote that the process leading to the retractions "was thorough, fair, and careful."

The lead author on the paper, James Studnicki, fiercely defends his work. "Sage is targeting us because we have been successful for a long period of time," he says on a video posted online this week . He asserts that the retraction has "nothing to do with real science and has everything to do with a political assassination of science."

He says that because the study's findings have been cited in legal cases like the one challenging the abortion pill, "we have become visible – people are quoting us. And for that reason, we are dangerous, and for that reason, they want to cancel our work," Studnicki says in the video.

In an email to NPR, a spokesperson for the Charlotte Lozier Institute said that they "will be taking appropriate legal action."

Role in abortion pill legal case

Anti-abortion rights groups, including a group of doctors, sued the federal Food and Drug Administration in 2022 over the approval of mifepristone, which is part of a two-drug regimen used in most medication abortions. The pill has been on the market for over 20 years, and is used in more than half abortions nationally. The FDA stands by its research that finds adverse events from mifepristone are extremely rare.

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, the district court judge who initially ruled on the case, pointed to the now-retracted study to support the idea that the anti-abortion rights physicians suing the FDA had the right to do so. "The associations' members have standing because they allege adverse events from chemical abortion drugs can overwhelm the medical system and place 'enormous pressure and stress' on doctors during emergencies and complications," he wrote in his decision, citing Studnicki. He ruled that mifepristone should be pulled from the market nationwide, although his decision never took effect.

case study questions law

Matthew Kacsmaryk at his confirmation hearing for the federal bench in 2017. AP hide caption

Matthew Kacsmaryk at his confirmation hearing for the federal bench in 2017.

Kacsmaryk is a Trump appointee who was a vocal abortion opponent before becoming a federal judge.

"I don't think he would view the retraction as delegitimizing the research," says Mary Ziegler , a law professor and expert on the legal history of abortion at U.C. Davis. "There's been so much polarization about what the reality of abortion is on the right that I'm not sure how much a retraction would affect his reasoning."

Ziegler also doubts the retractions will alter much in the Supreme Court case, given its conservative majority. "We've already seen, when it comes to abortion, that the court has a propensity to look at the views of experts that support the results it wants," she says. The decision that overturned Roe v. Wade is an example, she says. "The majority [opinion] relied pretty much exclusively on scholars with some ties to pro-life activism and didn't really cite anybody else even or really even acknowledge that there was a majority scholarly position or even that there was meaningful disagreement on the subject."

In the mifepristone case, "there's a lot of supposition and speculation" in the argument about who has standing to sue, she explains. "There's a probability that people will take mifepristone and then there's a probability that they'll get complications and then there's a probability that they'll get treatment in the E.R. and then there's a probability that they'll encounter physicians with certain objections to mifepristone. So the question is, if this [retraction] knocks out one leg of the stool, does that somehow affect how the court is going to view standing? I imagine not."

It's impossible to know who will win the Supreme Court case, but Ziegler thinks that this retraction probably won't sway the outcome either way. "If the court is skeptical of standing because of all these aforementioned weaknesses, this is just more fuel to that fire," she says. "It's not as if this were an airtight case for standing and this was a potentially game-changing development."

Oral arguments for the case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA , are scheduled for March 26 at the Supreme Court. A decision is expected by summer. Mifepristone remains available while the legal process continues.

  • Abortion policy
  • abortion pill
  • judge matthew kacsmaryk
  • mifepristone
  • retractions
  • Abortion rights
  • Supreme Court

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Judiciary Exams » How To Write A Case Study In Law Exam: Expert Guide

How To Write A Case Study In Law Exam: Expert Guide

Writing a case study can be a challenging task for law students as it requires a lot of thinking. The situation gets worse when you have to write a case study for a law exam. As it is a part and parcel of law exams, it is impossible to evade it. Hence, you should do everything possible to master this subject and write it excellently.

How To Write A Case Study In Law Exam

To curate any case study, you should consider the following facts:

In-depth analysis: You should study a subject in-depth which is quintessential. Deep analysis of a subject ensures that you don’t miss out on any part of the subject unturned.

Take Notes: It is always important to note down the important points and facts of the subject that you study.

Gather facts: To ensure the accuracy of your study, it is necessary that you make a note of the facts.

Get perfect solutions: Your first step is to identify the problem and look out for ways to get perfect solutions.

A law case study is a detailed and intensive study of a person, group, or social phenomenon. Usually, you conduct a study on a case that is solved by a judge. It investigates a problem, analyses solutions with supporting evidence. A case study helps you determine the success or failure of a case. You can use the law to solve various case scenarios. Check civil judge salary .

While you have an overview of case studies in law exams, now it’s time to understand how to write a case study in a law exam.

              [Download Free Study Material For Judiciary Exams by Judiciary Gold]

How to write a case study in a law exam?

Read to understand

Once you identify the case, the next step is to study the case. You need to check if your case meets the following criteria:

  • Provides insights into the subject you are studying.
  • Challenge the existing theories.

To write a case study, the candidate should have proper knowledge of the subject. The candidate should read the case study opinions and facts, later analyze the situation carefully. He/she should take short notes and highlight the points that are important.

Concentrate on Analysis

While analyzing, the candidate should focus on 2 to 5 fundamental problems of the case. It can include questions like Why do they exist? What are the impacts, and who’s responsible for these problems? At the start of the paragraph, the candidate should introduce the protagonists, then include the topic of the case.

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Describe the synopsis

Drafting a summary of the case is important to completely understand the case. The candidate should describe all the characters of the story chronologically and also the problems included.

Curate the best solutions

Candidates should perform trial and error methods to find the best solutions that fit the problem. Reviewing course readings, recalling discussions, and candidates’ own experiences can help find the best solutions. Brainstorming is one of the best possible ways to find the solution.

Choose the Best solution

In the brainstorming session list out all the possible solutions and choose the best one. To choose the best, the candidate should examine the strengths and weaknesses of the answers listed. Considering strong evidence and its pros and cons can help in finding the right solution.

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Use IRAC rule

IRAC stands for Issue, the Rule of Law, Analysis, and Conclusion. In this method, the candidate should first discover and identify issues in the case. Let’s understand each part of the rule below:

Issues will not be visible sometimes, so the candidate should look for the issue carefully. Problems vary based on the matter for example they include negligence, malpractice, abuse of power, several liabilities, amongst other subjects. One case can have several issues, so it’s better to discuss the problems separately. Before moving ahead, the candidate should confirm if he/she has spotted the issue that the model writer intended.

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The Rule of Law

The candidate should determine the rule of law that should be incorporated in the case study. For every issue discovered, the candidate should find the best rule of law. Ensure that they are relevant. There is no need to note down every rule of law while writing a case study. The candidate should only review each rule of law cautiously.

The candidate should analyze the case study to discover the possible solutions to the problem. He/she should relate the practical part with the theory part while writing a case study in the law exam. The candidate should not only suggest a solution but also present some facts to support the suggested solutions.

The candidate should ensure that they have chosen a relevant rule of law. After selecting the rule of law, they can apply it to the situations discovered. The candidate should make lawyerly arguments on behalf of the defendant and also the plaintiff. Imagining what the plaintiff would argue and what the defendant would say on their part will help analyze the case study.

The candidate should be more creative while making any arguments. Candidates should argue based on the facts and how they integrate them in one way or another. Also, the candidate can state the policy reason and why the case should turn one way and not the other. Candidates can also argue based on why one should use the model rule instead of the traditional rule.

The conclusion is the final part of writing a case study. It should be based on the reasons why the issue was raised based on the rule of law and use the judgment of relevant use case laws. While finalizing the case study, the candidate should write the final verdict of each situation. Preferably, the candidate can state that the plaintiff is likely to win for the defendant.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q). What is the full form of IRAC?

A). IRAC stands for Issue, the Rule of Law, Analysis, and Conclusion.

Q). How to choose the best solution to a problem?

A). To choose the best, the candidate should examine the strengths and weaknesses of the answers listed. Considering strong evidence and its pros and cons can help in finding the right solution.

Q). How to find the problems?

A). While analyzing, the candidate should focus on 2 to 5 fundamental problems of the case. It can include questions like Why do they exist? What are the impacts, and who's responsible for these problems?

Q). Why is in-depth analysis necessary?

A). Deep analysis of a subject ensures that you don’t miss out on any part of the subject unturned.

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Federal Appeals Court Rejects Trump’s Claim of Absolute Immunity

The ruling answered a question that an appeals court had never addressed: Can former presidents escape being held accountable by the criminal justice system for things they did while in office?

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Former President Donald J. Trump in a blue suit. He is walking between blue curtains being held open for him.

By Alan Feuer and Charlie Savage

A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected former President Donald J. Trump’s claim that he was immune from prosecution on charges of plotting to subvert the results of the 2020 election, ruling that he must go to trial on a criminal indictment accusing him of seeking to overturn his loss to President Biden.

The unanimous ruling, by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, handed Mr. Trump a significant defeat. But it was unlikely to be the final word on his claims of executive immunity: Mr. Trump, who is on a path to locking up the Republican presidential nomination, is expected to continue his appeal to the Supreme Court.

Still, the panel’s 57-page ruling signaled an important moment in American jurisprudence, answering a question that had never been addressed by an appeals court: Can former presidents escape being held accountable by the criminal justice system for things they did while in office?

The question is novel because no former president until Mr. Trump had been indicted, so there was never an opportunity for a defendant to make — and courts to consider — the sweeping claim of executive immunity that he put forward.

The panel, composed of two judges appointed by Democrats and one Republican appointee, said in its decision that, despite the privileges of the office he once held, Mr. Trump was subject to federal criminal law like any other American.

“For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become citizen Trump, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant,” the panel wrote. “But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as president no longer protects him against this prosecution.”

The three judges cast Mr. Trump’s immunity claims as a danger to the nation’s constitutional system.

“At bottom, former President Trump’s stance would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the president beyond the reach of all three branches,” they wrote. “Presidential immunity against federal indictment would mean that, as to the president, the Congress could not legislate, the executive could not prosecute and the judiciary could not review. We cannot accept that the office of the presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter.”

A spokesman for Jack Smith, the special counsel who brought the case against Mr. Trump, declined to comment on the decision.

Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Mr. Trump’s campaign, said the former president “respectfully disagrees” with the decision and would appeal it.

“If immunity is not granted to a president, every future president who leaves office will be immediately indicted by the opposing party,” Mr. Cheung said. “Without complete immunity, a president of the United States would not be able to properly function.”

The panel’s ruling came nearly a month after it heard arguments on the immunity issue from Mr. Trump’s legal team and from prosecutors working for Mr. Smith. While the decision was quick by the standards of a normal appeal, what happens next will be arguably more important in determining not only when a trial on the election subversion charges will take place, but also on the timing of Mr. Trump’s three other criminal trials.

In addition to the federal indictment charging him with seeking to overturn his election loss in 2020, he faces similar charges brought by a district attorney in Georgia. In a footnote, the panel stressed that its decision did not address the separate question of whether state prosecutors could charge a former president over official actions.

Mr. Smith, the special counsel appointed to oversee the federal prosecutions, has also brought a case in Florida accusing Mr. Trump of mishandling highly sensitive classified documents after leaving office and obstructing efforts to retrieve them. And Mr. Trump is scheduled to go on trial next month in Manhattan on charges related to hush-money payments to a porn star during the 2016 campaign.

When Mr. Trump first sought to have the federal election case dismissed on grounds of immunity , it was an attempt to expand the protections the Supreme Court had already granted to sitting and former presidents against civil lawsuits concerning their official actions.

While not accepting that Mr. Trump’s actions were official — the panel noted that presidents have no constitutionally prescribed role in counting electoral college votes — the judges rejected his arguments about being immune from criminal charges.

“We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a president has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power — the recognition and implementation of election results,” the judges wrote. “Nor can we sanction his apparent contention that the executive has carte blanche to violate the rights of individual citizens to vote and to have their votes count.”

The unsigned decision was issued by all three judges: Karen L. Henderson, an appointee of former President George H.W. Bush, and two appointees of President Biden, Judges Florence Y. Pan and J. Michelle Childs.

During the arguments last month, the judges signaled particular concern after Mr. Trump’s lawyer argued that a former president could avoid criminal prosecution even for ordering SEAL Team 6, an elite group of Navy commandos, to assassinate one of his political rivals unless the Senate had first convicted him at an impeachment trial.

The panel rejected the Trump legal team’s arguments about the necessity of an impeachment conviction before bringing criminal charges.

And in another significant part of their decision, the three appellate judges also circumscribed Mr. Trump’s ability to use further appeals to waste more time and delay the election case from going to trial — a strategy the former president has pursued since the indictment against him was filed in August in Federal District Court in Washington.

The panel said that Mr. Trump had until Monday to ask the Supreme Court to get involved in the case and continue a stay of all the underlying proceedings. The case was initially put on hold by the trial judge in December .

But the panel imposed a rule designed to discourage Mr. Trump from making an intermediate challenge to the full court of appeals. It said that if Mr. Trump instead took that route, trial preparations could begin again after Feb. 12.

If the question does reach the Supreme Court, the justices will first have to decide whether to accept the case or to reject it and allow the appeals court’s ruling against Mr. Trump to stand.

If they decline to hear the issue, the case would be sent directly back to the trial judge, Tanya S. Chutkan. She scrapped her initial March 4 date for the trial last week, but has otherwise shown every sign of wanting to move the charges toward trial as quickly as possible.

If, however, the Supreme Court does accept the case, the crucial question will become how quickly the justices act in asking for briefs and in scheduling arguments. Should they move rapidly to hear the case and issue a decision, there remains the chance that a trial on the election charges will occur before the general election in November.

But if the justices take their time, it is possible a trial could be delayed until after the election. If that were to happen and Mr. Trump were to win, he would be in a position to ask his Justice Department to dismiss the case or even seek to pardon himself.

Even though Mr. Trump put three of the justices on the bench, the Supreme Court has not shown much of an appetite for wading into issues related to his efforts to tinker with the mechanics of American democracy.

But the question of how to handle Mr. Trump’s immunity claim is heading the Supreme Court’s way as it prepares for arguments on Thursday about another momentous question related to the former president: whether he can be disqualified from the ballot for having engaged in an act of insurrection by encouraging his supporters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Alan Feuer covers extremism and political violence for The Times, focusing on the criminal cases involving the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and against former President Donald J. Trump.  More about Alan Feuer

Charlie Savage writes about national security and legal policy. More about Charlie Savage


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