THE IRAC METHOD


          At some point in your law school career, you will be introduced to the I.R.A.C method. This acronym stands for: Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion. Although the definitions are useful as a foundation for legal writing, don't get stuck thinking (as many people do) that you have to keep these components in this specific order or that you can't style their arrangement to your needs; I kept my writing style open, and had great success in my writing assignments doing so. But, be warned, some professors will tell you exactly how you should order your paper, and you should follow their suggestions since they will be grading your writing. Here are the definitions of the components:

 

ISSUE:

          In legal writing, issues are the core of your paper or essay. If you can't spot a single issue, you will earn no points. To find issues, look for anything in the facts of a case that could raise a question, sometimes called a "question of law": Could the defendant be charged with x crime? Could he be convicted of that crime? Does he have any defenses for his actions? Is the case eligible to be heard by a jury? If a jury hears the case, would they convict even if the laws make the defendant look guilty?

          Issue spotting is easiest when you know the laws and court holdings of your state, so be sure to research and study thoroughly, but if you run across a question that is not addressed by the rules of your state, don't fret, this is a good opportunity to bring up rules from other jurisdictions that might persuade the court to make new precedence on that issue.


RULE:

          In legal writing, rules are the same as they are in the rest of life; they are statements that cannot be ignored without punishment, lower grades in our case. Rules can be found in laws, regulations, and precedents (court holdings from similar cases), but while all rules are mentionable, all do not carry the same strength. If one rule pertains to identical issues as your paper, and another has only similar issues, the most persuasive rule (which must be mentioned) is the one that is on point; it is up to you to decide whether the less persuasive rule is worth mentioning. The same differences in persuasiveness exist for rules that come from your states laws & courts versus those from other states. And of course, any ruling from the Supreme Court overrides local precedence on that issue.

 

APPLICATION:

          The application should be the simplest part of your writing. If you know the facts, can see the issues, and know the rules pertaining to those issues, the application will write itself. Simply state the issue, state the facts & rules that give rise to the issue, and tell your professor how those facts do or do not meet the requirements laid down by the rules. Then tell your professor whether you think a court would find the D guilty or not guilty based on the strength of the facts and the rules. Even though this seems simple, you must be vigilant to not leave any loose threads; address all elements of the rule and all the relevant facts. Don't try to strengthen your argument by "forgetting" to include elements or facts that hurt your argument.

 

CONCLUSION:

          The conclusion, as with all writing, is a statement that tells your reader what the result of your arguments is, or what it should be. But, as with all good writing, the conclusion should be redundant. All of your application sections should have already clearly stated the conclusion for each individual issue. I suggest using this final conclusion section only to remind the reader of those previous conclusions, and to resolve any differences between those conclusions, such as when a defendant can be found guilty of a crime, but also may have a defense. Example: "The Defendant met all of the elements of crime X, and can thus be found guilty, but it is likely the court will find that his justifiable defense of Y will prevent that conviction if they follow the precedent set by X v. Y.

 

The I.R.A.C. method is a great start, but there is much more to think about when writing an essay answer and when implementing the I.R.A.C. method, as found in Intro to Essay Writing.