This and other hilarious essays on being a lawyer appear in the book Why Lawyers are Like Lobsters (and other lessons on surviving in the law) by Marcus Elliott


Question 1

How many lawyers does it take to sue the manufacturer of a defective lightbulb?

Question 2

A problem in tort: A supplies B a bottle of ginger beer housing a decomposed snail. B sells the bottle to C but doesn’t charge extra for the snail. C drinks all the ginger beer and finds the snail. C eats the snail and orders another bottle of ginger beer. The second bottle does not contain any snail, decomposed or otherwise.

(a) How did the snail get in the first bottle?

(b) Why was there no snail in the second bottle?

(c) What was the name of the snail and how many loved ones did it leave behind?

(d) Were there any witnesses to the consumption?

(e) Did these events happen on a weekday or a weekend?

(f ) Does C have a claim against B or A for failure to include the snail in the second bottle?

(g) Is C legally obliged to pay more for the first bottle as it included a snail?

(h) Who would want to be a lawyer?

Question 3

Which of the following Acts is most relevant or least relevant and/or partially irrelevant and marginally relevant to the issue before the Court?

(a) The Dog Control Act.

(b) The Human Tissue Act.

(c) The Mental Health Act.

(d) The Unhealthy Fetishes Act.


Question 4

Hedley, Byrne & Heller has offices in:

(a) London.

(b) New York.

(c) Dubai.

(d) False.

 Question 5

A man left 70 per cent of his estate to his current wife, 50 per cent to the children of his first wife, 20 per cent to his third wife, 15 per cent to every other wife (of which there were eight or nine) and the remainder to his lawyer, who also drafted his will. Who did the man leave his spoon collection to and is it permissible to effect service of proceedings on Christmas Day?

Question 6

The Income Tax Act is:

(a) True.

(b) False.

Question 7

The usual sitting hours of the High Court are 10 am to 5 pm, Monday to Friday. What is the name of the judge who will hear the case?

Question 8

The equitable maxims ‘Equity regards as done that which ought to be done’ and ‘He who seeks equity must have clean hands’ mean that only males with clean hands are allowed to seek equity, and, even if they don’t have clean hands, equity will regard them as having clean hands because a person ought to have clean hands, especially before eating. Discuss in 5,000 words or more.

Question 9

A problem in contract: The Carbolic Smoke Ball Company placed an advertisement in the newspaper which said, ‘If you buy a Carbolic Smoke Ball and use it in the manner prescribed, we guarantee that you will not die. If you do die, we will give you £100.’ Carlill bought a Carbolic Smoke Ball and was hit by a bus on the way home. Carlill died later that day.

(a) What is a Carbolic Smoke Ball?

(b) Are they available online, and, if so, where?

(c) Did Carlill have influenza at the time, and, if so, was it the cause of death?

(d) Was there a legally binding contract between the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company and the driver of the bus?

(e) Was Lord Justice Bowen related to Carlill?

(f ) If so, could he claim the £100?

Question 10

What is the Golden Rule of statutory interpretation?

(a) If the interpretation of a statute leads to an absurdity, assume that this is what Parliament intended if the Government which passed the statute was generally absurd.

(b) To thine own self be true.

(c) Always wash behind your ears.

(d) One ring rules them all. 

Question 11

The Crimes Act is to crime as the Arms Act is to arms: true or false?

Further, if a man has no arms can he commit a crime, and, if so, what? 

Question 12

A is the registered proprietor of a block of Torrens Title land. B is the lessor. C registers a mortgage over the land. D squats on the land while B is on a three-month trip abroad. E registers a caveat. F fraudulently sells the land to G, who sells it to H for valuable consideration without notice. I claims that A has promised to leave the land to her in his will. A dies. J has a contract to build a mansion on an adjoining property and mistakenly builds it on the property. B sues A, C, D, E, G and I. C, D and E counterclaim against A and cross-claim against one another. H joins K, who has not been mentioned so far.

(a) Who does J send the bill to?

(b) Who was Mr Torrens and did he wear clean socks?

(c) Where did B go on her holiday abroad?

(d) Do you believe in God or Lord Denning or both or neither?

Question 13

The rule against perpetuities requires the Dean of Law to stand down by the end of next year, following which I will almost certainly be appointed Dean of Law. What is the Dean’s middle name and does she like pumpkin soup?

Acknowledgment by the Author: These questions were inspired by a piece written by Anton Chekhov entitled ‘Questions Posed by a Mad Mathematician’, which was published in 1882.

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