At some point in your law school career you will be introduced to the IRAC method, a writing format typically consisting of four distinct sections: The Issue section, Rule section, Application section, and Conclusion section.
These four sections of the IRAC format a logical argument to clearly present the audience with: the necessary facts; pertinent rules; and detailed analysis of these rules and facts, which should lead to a self-evident conclusion.
These four sections of the IRAC method are defined below:
The Issue Section
The issue section of an IRAC is where the questions of law (or less frequently, questions of fact) are stated; these questions are the issues. An issue arises, and should be addressed, whenever the facts of the current case parallel the elements of statutes or the facts of previous cases (precedent). This is called issue spotting, and the key is to know the relevant laws and case precedent so that the issues within fact patterns stand out. For more information, see our article on Issue Spotting.
Many people use the issue section to state the issue and only the issue; like the title of an article. While this is technically ok, there are much better ways to introduce your reader to the issues at hand and the section of the IRAC is perfectly situated to do just that. Instead of one sentence you may want to provide an umbrella section here which will assist in preparing your reader for the legal analysis to follow.
I like to use this space to provide one clear paragraph stating the minimal facts that bring rise to the legal issues, then a brief roadmap of the rules, analysis, and conclusion which are to follow. Doings so may assist your reader in understanding why you are citing the rules you cite and will help lead through the logic of your analysis.
An Example Issue Section:
The questions of law here is whether Defendant (D) accepted Plaintiff's ( P) offer to purchase a car owned by D. P alleges that his offer to purchase the car was accepted by D, who claims that he did not accept the offer but in fact provided a counter offer. It is uncontested that all other elements of contract formation have been met.
This issue arose when D listed a car for sale for $4000. P offered D $3500 paid by the end of the day, and D stated "Sure." then paused, adding "If you make it $3600". P walked back to his car to discuss the price with his wife, but when he returned, the vehicle was gone; sold to another buyer.
The Rule Section
The rule section of an IRAC is where the legal rules, relevant to the issues at hand, are stated and described. These rules may consist of statutes or case precedent, and can be of varying degrees of persuasiveness. While it is best to depend primarily upon rules from the most persuasive sources; if the facts of the present case are most similar to cases from other jurisdictions, those holding might be taken into consideration by the present court.
The structure of the rule section should lead your reader through the necessary logical steps required to answer the question of law at hand. By breaking down the elements of relevant statutes and paraphrasing the relevant case law, you can essentially create a flow chart of relevant law with which to guide your reader to the logical conclusion.
To create a proper rule section, you need to research and include rules from any laws and cases that are made relevant from the facts at hand. Such sources can include: Laws from the local jurisdiction, Supreme Court rulings, rulings from local courts, and possibly holdings from cases in foreign jurisdictions. Last, but definitely not least, you should always be on the look out for conflicts of law. If the act that brought about the legal question spans multiple states, there are rules that provide for which state's law will be used to determine the conclusion.
An Example Rule Section:
In order for an offer to be accepted, State Law Z requires that there be an offer and an acceptance of that offer with no changes in terms; any changes would negate the acceptance and create a counter offer. Case X clearly states that in oral contracts the context of the offer or acceptance should not be ignored. The reasoning was that "… inadvertent statements, that do not reflect the actors intent, should not bind that actor in a contract."
The Application Section
The application section is where the facts of the current case are applied to the framework developed previously in the rule section. If you know the facts, have spotted all of the issues, and have properly developed the rule section; the application section will write itself. The most important aspect of the application section is to remain objective.
Whether this legal analysis is being written for your professor, a judge, or a boss; you need to present all of the issues (even those that hurt your side) objectively with no bias. Additionally, you must force yourself to not make any assumptions of fact or law. If a question could go two ways depending upon missing facts, give both scenarios, but do not assume one scenario is right and mention only it.
An Example Application Section:
In this case, P offered D $3500 for a car advertised to sell for $4000. Under State Law Z, this conversation is not an acceptance of the original offer for $4000, but is a counter offer; changing the terms to $3500.
D responded "Sure." paused, then stated "If you make it $3600." P alleges that the "Sure" statement is an acceptance of his offer for $3500, while D alleges that he never intended to sell for $3500 and in fact made his own counter offer; evidenced by his following statement "If you make it $3600".
Under Case X, which regards a case very similar in fact to this case, the court was specific in it's treatment of context surrounding offers and counter-offers within oral contracts. If the verbal context of an offer or acceptance clearly shows that the actor did not intend to make an offer or acceptance, then no offer or acceptance has been made. In this case, although D did make an affirmative statement after P's counter offer, his following statement showed an intent to sell only for an additional $100; creating a counter offer which P did not accept.
The Conclusion Section
The conclusion section of an IRAC states the answer to the question of law, including any points of fact or law upon which the conclusion could vary. If your application section was thorough enough, though, the conclusion section should be redundant. If the application section did it's job, the reader will have already followed your analysis of the legal rules and facts; coming to the same conclusion you stated.
An Example Conclusion Section:
D was not contractual obligated to sell the car to P for $3500, and P never accepted the counter offer for $3600. Thus, there was no acceptance of any offer and no contract was formed.