Updated: Jan 13
Note that there is a fee for the LNAT, but that you can apply for a bursary if you meet the criteria. Further information is available here.
Section B of the LNAT is one of the most difficult parts of the application process for prospective law students. The purpose of this guide is to provide you with some ideas regarding methods and essay content for this part of the LNAT. It is important to note that there are infinite ways to write an essay and that the methods I propose are not perfect. Instead they are helpful strategies for composing clear and effective arguments.
Before I introduce you to the method I used during the LNAT and Cambridge Law Test (Cambridge’s proprietary test which is now discontinued) I thought it important to give a short overview of what Section B actually entails. In brief Section B of the LNAT requires you to write an unprepared essay from a choice of three topics in 40 minutes. The recommend length of the essay is around 600 words with an absolute maximum of 750 words. Section B topics are varied and can range from questions on funding of space travel to euthanasia. While this does make the test difficult to prepare for outside of mere essay practice, there are some strategies you can utilise. This guide will provide a short introduction to basic essay structure before delving into specific adaptable content that can be leveraged when dealing with LNAT questions.
A good plan is the crux of every good essay. I would suggest spending between 10 and 15 minutes on your essay plan, ensuring that it is clear and flows logically. This will save you a lot of time during the writing stage. I would then suggest spending up to 25 minutes writing and around 5 minutes editing at the end.
While some students like to brainstorm on the whiteboards given to them at the LNAT test centre, I prefer to plan on the computer, using my introduction as my initial brainstorm. When writing the introduction it’s important that it is both concise and clear. It should first introduce the reason why the essay is being written. Thinking about the core contention that has prompted the essay will give you an idea of where you may want to develop your argument and counter opposing views. The introduction will then define any necessary terms and identify the scope of the essay. Finally, it will identify the core argument that you will set out. The conclusion mirrors the introduction in that it summarises the argument that you have made. However, it should often seek to do more than this, presenting a more nuanced view of your thesis or making recommendations as well.
The body of your essay should be planned in layers. Overall arguments can be fleshed out with various conceptual supporting points underneath them. Don’t be afraid to use headings to mark the overall argument of a section while utilising signposting language and paragraphing to identify conceptual shifts between ideas underneath.
When dealing with such complex topics I find that simple structures often work best. During my LNAT preparation I mainly made use of two adaptable structures. The first is a simple ‘for and against’ structure with a nuanced concluding section and the second is a ‘general versus specific ‘structure. The for and against sections of the first structure are fairly self-explanatory but the nuanced concluding section requires slightly more explanation. This section is where you illustrate your ability to argue finely by demonstrating how it may be legitimate to limit the ’against side’ slightly as the ‘for side’ is stronger. You may couch this limitation by imposing conditions such as: the limitation must be proportional to the harm it seeks to reduce; the limitation must not be arbitrary; and the limitation must be subject to judicial review. For example, there are both arguments for and against utilising COVID-19 vaccine passports. However, we could argue that as long as they don’t onerously infringe on people’s rights and their imposition is subject to judicial review, their welfare benefits should be slightly prioritised over their infringement on autonomy. This shows a willingness to engage in arguments beyond the dichotomy of right and wrong into matters of degree. A ‘general vs specific’ structure is similar in its approach. This structure begins by illustrating how one side of the argument is generally acceptable. It then however illustrates that in specific cases (or indeed in the specific scenario of the question) another side of the argument should triumph. For example, in general, funding for the arts is morally, political and economically advantageous. However, in the current period of macroeconomic turbulence perhaps such funding ought to be reduced.
Now that you have an idea of possible structures for essays, I will provide you with examples of content which can easily be shaped into a multitude of essays. This can enable you to consistently achieve both breadth and depth in your essays. The premise of this method is that under each overall section of an essay, you would include paragraphs on a variety of conceptual topics to support your argument. This section will provide a brief introduction to a number of such topics. While I don’t have the scope to explain in detail each one of these concepts, a brief search of any that interest you will present you with more than enough information to add any to your intellectual toolbox!
Social contract: Rousseau believed the ‘General Will’ of the people was the most ethical expression of democracy. Use this concept to oppose ideas such as Judicial Review where a non-democratic body seeks to impose measures.
Kant’s Fiduciary Principle: This can be used to argue that the State has a moral relationship with its citizens.
When Paternalism is Excessive: Consider the risk and gravity of harm against the cost of prevention and the social utility of the action.
J.S Mill’s Harm Principle may be useful in this regard.
Deontology: Kant believed humans have inherent worth, that they were ends not means. Use this view to defend human autonomy and rights.
Consequentialism: Bentham’s Utilitarianism is the most famous form of consequentialism and argues that the ethical decision is one which creates the greatest happiness for the greatest amount of people.
Capitalism vs. Socialism: Locke believed in the moral value of private property whereas Rawls illustrated that society itself creates the circumstances for profit and that private wealth cannot be insulated from the community.
Cost of Legal Procedure – Some reforms are economically difficult to enact.
Law and Legal Theory
Jurisprudence: Instead of arguing purely on the basis of legal fairness, use the Rule of Law as the conceptual core of arguments in this sphere.
Human Rights: HRA, UNDHR. Ethical justification for Human Rights can be found in theNatural law tradition. Finnis’ idea of ‘Human Flourishing’ is a good example of this.
Purpose of Law: Evaluate whether a proposed arguments aligns with the purposes of the legal area it is dealing with.
E.g. Criminal Law: Punishment, Rehabilitation, Deterrence, Societal Vindication.
Example Essay Plan
Should the government mandate citizens to register their DNA to combat crime?
Freedom and bodily autonomy vs. increased ability to safeguard welfare by identifying criminals
Assume that all citizens over 18 will be obliged by to law to be registered
This essay will argue that while the law has a duty to respect the autonomy of its citizens as well as a duty to ensure the welfare of its citizens, where there is a legitimate threat to welfare, the law can proportionally limit its citizens’ autonomy and require DNA registration.
It can be argued that the law should respect the autonomy of individuals and allow citizens to choose to register their DNA
Moral: Deontological right to autonomy
Moral: Consequentialism – Mill’s harm principle states the law should only intervene where one’s actions cause harm to another. Pre-emptive registration violates this.
Legal: Human Right to privacy (UNDHR, HRA)
Political: DNA registration enables abuse of executive power
It can be said that the law should ensure the welfare of citizens by requiring DNA registration
Moral: Deontology – the state has a Kantian fiduciary relationship to protect the welfare of citizens
Moral: Social Contract – the legitimacy of a nation comes from its ability to protect its citizens from harm (a ‘state of nature’)
Legal: Right to life, not only a negative right not to cause death but also a positive human right to safeguard welfare
It is legitimate for the law to require DNA registration with adequate justification
Without welfare there can be no autonomy – prioritise autonomy where:
Scientifically proven widespread benefit of DNA registration (proportionality)
Imposition subject to judicial review
Restate nuanced conclusion
List of Sample Questions
What are the arguments for and against legalising euthanasia?
Is there ever justification for holding a person liable for damage that he or she does not cause? If so, in what circumstances?
The jury system should be abolished. To what extent do you agree or disagree?
Should the courts allow a child to refuse a blood transfusion because he is a Jehovah’s Witness, even though without the blood transfusion the child might die?
Should squatters in a property ever get a right to continue living in the property?
The government should legalise the sale of human organs, discuss
Should a drug dealer ever be punished for the death of someone who overdoses on drugs that he has supplied?
Should there be such a thing as a war crime?
The Criminal Justice System violates human rights of minorities and the poor at a systemic level
What is your response to the view that the purpose of education is to prepare young people for the world of work?
Law should always be created by Parliament and no one else. To what extent do you agree?
The law of intellectual property protects people’s rights in such things as inventions, trademarks and ideas. Do you think the following should be protected as intellectual property and, if so, what do you think might be the consequences of such protection:
o (a) a perfume;
o (b) your name;
o (c) information that a famous model has had cosmetic surgery?
In English Law Companies are said to have their own legal personality which means that they can make contracts, must pay taxes, can sue and be sued. Do you think companies should be capable of being convicted of crimes? If so, in what circumstances should they be convicted?
Should the UK Have a Written Constitution?
Do we owe greater moral duties to our family and friends than we owe to all other people in the world? Why, or why not?
Some forms of conduct that would normally constitute a criminal offence will not constitute such an offence if the person affected by the conduct has consented to it. (Do you think this is a sensible position for the law to have been adopted?
Would it be a failure of UK democracy if a majority of UK adults supported restoration of the death penalty, but the UK Parliament consistently voted to maintain its abolition? Discuss.
It is often suggested that the state should incarcerate without trial those whom it suspects might perpetrate terrorist or other criminal activity. Might such a practice ever be justifiable?
Who benefits from freedom of speech? Who loses?
The Government has a duty to use DNA registers to fight crime. Discuss.
Is there ever justification for attacking the values enshrined in foreign legal systems, or for attacking the ideas of right and wrong found in the cultures of other nations?
In some legal systems, judges are allowed to refuse to enforce laws which they consider to be contrary to fundamental principles such as human rights. (a) Do you think that judges should have such power? and (b) If you were asked to draft rules setting out the circumstances in which judges should be allowed to refuse to enforce laws, what considerations would you wish to take into account?
Should the arts continue to be funded?
Is the pursuit of space travel a worthwhile human endeavour?