I recently read an answer to a first year law student’s (hereinafter “1L” or ”student”) law school exam. While reading this particular answer, I realized the issue is whether this person had fully applied the IRAC method when formulating the answer.
First, IRAC, short for Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion, is a legal writing form that most law school professors prefer to see answers in, because this method dictates the student to spot issues, state rules, and then apply the rules to the facts to formulate a conclusion. Therefore this method first starts with requiring the 1L to state the legal issue(s) or questions. Next, he or she formulates a rule, hopefully mirroring or exacting the rule set forth in case law. The rule should follow the statement of issue because an inapplicable rule will be of no help when the 1L gets to the analysis section.
Here, not being confident with their issue or rule does not make or break the method, because the law student may redeem himself with stout legal analysis. Generally, the analysis section is worth the most points. For instance, our legal minds are all different and therefore all people will formulate slightly different issues and interpret case law into different rules. Just consider as an example how Justices Ginsburg and Scalia diverge when defining rules. Thus, in this section, the 1L is charged with using his legal mind by applying the facts to the rules. In other words, he begins to act like the high powered attorney that he plans on becoming one day. A helpful hint and good practice in this section is to start sentences with the words: here; in this instance; in this example; for instance and for example. These types of words help the 1L to ensure he is applying the facts to the rule.
Last, state a conclusion. This may seem easy. However, the law student needs to make sure that his conclusion answers the question presented or issue. Consequently, if the 1L has spotted an issue, states an applicable rule, has adequately applied the stated rule, the conclusion will most likely become the downstream result of the method. Additionally, do not be discouraged when the conclusion has changed from the initial conclusion as most law school questions, like real legal issues, are not black and white, but in the gray area of the law. Meaning they can be answered either way, negative or positive, for the plaintiff or defendant or in favor of or against the client. In conclusion, to eloquently advocate for a position is really about how one applies or distinguishes the facts to the law rather than if they are right or wrong.
Normally, people do not do this every day. So a 1L needs to train their mind to formulate answers in such a manner. It is ridiculous, I know, because you probably enrolled in law school thinking you were going to become a prose writer, but in order to be a good, or even mediocre, law student you need to train your brain to do legal analysis. This is the whole point of law school. Well there are other points too, like learning to think on one’s feet, or that the Constitution exists and what a tort is, but those issues aside, this is a pretty important piece of legal training.
Please note that IRAC is not the only method, and therefore, if a particular school or professor requires something different, be assured to follow that method. For example, CREAC (Conclusion, Rule, Explanation, Application, Conclusion), which really just requires the test taker to paste their conclusion above the issue in order to help them really consider if the conclusion answers the issue or issues. I will not go into these additional forms, because I cannot teach you everything.