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IRAC Analysis

Different fields of study require different reasoning methods to solve their problems. Legal issues are particularly complex and demanding in this regard. As a lawyer, one must possess a solid legal reasoning ability to effectively defend and convince other parties. Therefore, the cultivation of this skill should begin early on in a law student's education. Consequently, law school exams typically present students with challenging problems that require well-structured and logically sound reasoning to answer. It is essential for aspiring lawyers and legal professionals to master this skill, as it is critical to their success in the legal profession. Law students are typically evaluated based on the five key concepts: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, and evaluating. The sixth concept, creating, is generally not assessed.


Law school exams typically include two types of questions: fact pattern questions and theoretical questions. Fact pattern questions require future legal practitioners to identify and analyze all relevant facts in order to determine the appropriate course of action when representing clients. Theoretical questions, on the other hand, focus on broader legal concepts and policy issues. For example, a theoretical question might ask whether criminal law should treat minors as adults in cases of heinous crimes, and why or why not. Another theoretical question might explore the policy reasons for using the objective standard of a "reasonable person." It is essential for law students to be able to navigate both types of questions effectively in order to succeed in their legal careers.

When it comes to answering theoretical questions, many law students find it easier than fact pattern questions. However, it is still crucial to follow a systematic approach to analysis. One of the most widely used analysis methods among law students is the IRAC analysis.
IRAC stands for Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion. This approach is commonly used in the UK, the US, and Australia, and it involves breaking down an issue into its component parts. While it is important to include each of these elements in every legal problem answer, students should not be overly rigid in their application of the structure. Some modification may be necessary in certain cases. However, the general framework of IRAC should still be adhered to in order to ensure a comprehensive and effective analysis.

Issue (I)

In legal writing, an "issue" refers to a cause of action, and its sub-issues relate to the elements needed to prove the cause of action. When identifying issues, it is important to find all issues, including sub-issues, for all parties involved in the fact pattern. However, one should not introduce hypothetical parties or new facts. It is also important to limit issues to those relevant to the paper being written and to focus only on sub-issues that are in contention. The drafting of an issue should be formulaic, consisting of one to two sentences. For open questions, the issue should include a list of all elements required to prove the cause of action and the most contentious sub-issue. For narrowly prompted questions, the issue should be more specific. It is also important to handle multiple issues, parties, and claims separately. By following these guidelines, legal writers can effectively identify and articulate the issues in a given case.


Rule (R)

In the planning stage, it is important to list all possible authorities broadly, including negative as well as positive authorities, and to consider their relevance to the facts and legal issues at hand. It is also important to remember the need for support and to be prepared to harmonize and distinguish cases. While policy rationales can be listed, it is important to remember that they are always a secondary source, and to be explicit about which public policy is being referenced, as well as to introduce contrary policies. Once a broad list of authorities is compiled, it is important to focus on only those that are most relevant to the argument at hand, considering defenses as well as affirmative matters. When analyzing and writing, the inverted triangle approach should be used to prioritize the best authorities and arguments within the available time and space. The "rule" in legal writing refers to the legal principle or standard that defines or relates to the issue or sub-issue being discussed. It is made up of cases, statutes, and legal commentary, with case citations and names being introduced whenever possible. In order to cite the rule applicable to the issue or sub-issue in full, all elements of a claim, for example, must be given. Exceptions to the rule should also be identified, though long chains of exceptions that are not relevant should not be listed. Relevant defenses to the rule should also be identified. In the planning stage, a broad list of authorities should be compiled, including both positive and negative authorities, and the relevance of each to the facts and legal issues should be considered. The need for support should also be remembered, and cases should be harmonized and distinguished as necessary. Once a broad list is compiled, it should be culled down to those authorities that are most relevant to the argument at hand, considering both defenses and affirmative matters.

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Application (A)

When planning the Application section of your legal analysis, it's important to start by identifying the relevant facts. Although you may have already done this when reading the question, it's a good idea to confirm that you have all of the necessary information. Make sure to discard any irrelevant or non-material facts. Don't worry about any other facts that you think you might be missing, as your instructor will have included everything they think is important. Consider how your facts apply to the law, or how the law applies to your facts. This is why you previously considered the law in a vacuum, to identify the relevant legal standard that will control your dispute. When drafting the Application section, it's crucial to remember that this is where the facts finally come in. Do not simply repeat the facts from the question. Here, you are 'applying' facts to the law or vice versa. Your reader will be patient, as long as the authorities and discussion in the R section were relevant to the facts you will discuss in the A section. Correlate the facts to the legal authorities and standards described previously. The most important word to use in this section is 'because'. This section should be shorter than your 'R' section. If you remember an authority now or it's only a passing reference, you can introduce it here, but try to keep the 'R' and 'A' sections distinct. Again, remember to show your work (A + B, etc.). Consider the pros and cons explicitly.


Conclusion (C)

The Conclusion (C) is the final and most important part of the IRAC method. It can be a brief one-liner but is essential as it determines the outcome of the case. In this section, you need to weigh the merits of the claim versus the applicable defenses and decide who wins and what they win. It's not essential to arrive at the "right" conclusion as there is seldom a right answer. However, it is vital to go through all four analytical steps. Generally, you should do each IRAC analysis separately and explicitly state what you're referencing and incorporating. You may combine IRAC analyses if two parties have an identical claim, but the defenses must be treated separately. In conclusion planning, you should identify your likely conclusion, and in conclusion drafting, a formulaic sentence is sufficient to summarize your reasoning and decision. A conclusion must be reached, just like a judge, but it seldom requires additional facts, and the law is usually not so evenly weighed that you can't reach a conclusion.


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