IRAC WRITING - DON'T BE A SHEEPLE LAW STUDENT

April 14, 2019

OK. Pet peeve time. Specifically the IRAC method you law students seem to love so much.

 

If I had a dime for every law student who intones the words ‘but I must use the IRAC method!’ like one of the Daleks...I would be a rich man. Well maybe not rich but mildly pre GFC wealthy for sure, enough to buy a house in Bronte at least. Well maybe not Bronte, but Maroubra for sure.

 

IRAC stands for:

 

Issue

Rule

Application

Conclusion

 

It is supposedly a great way to organise your legal analysis and ensure succinctness.

 

Yes I know I know, your teachers have laid it out for you. You start with identifying the issue to be considered from the facts, the legal rule that applies to that issue, you then apply the rule to the issue and lastly you make a conclusion about the legal result that follows.

 

An example is:

 

Issue - Does Johnny have a contract with Mira?

 

Rule - A contract is created through an offer, acceptance, consideration and intention to effect legal relations.

 

Application - Johnny accepted Mira’s offer to buy 1 apple for $1 on 16 January 2019, she also gave him a receipt.

 

Conclusion - Since Johnny accepted Mira’s offer as a bona fide purchaser, they exchanged the apple for value and formalised their arrangement through the issue of a receipt, Johnny and Mira have a contract.

 

Leaving aside the fact that Johnny is unlikely to come to you for legal advice about his ill advised apple purchases, the function of law school is ultimately to teach you how to be a lawyer. There is nothing clients hate more than asking their lawyer a question and being answered by another question.

 

They want answers. They are paying you good money for your opinion and they want it NOW. You usually only have 1 - 2 sentences to give the client your opinion and you need to get straight to the point. Don’t qualify your answer with ifs, buts or maybes.

 

Example

 

Yes, Johnny has a contract with Mira. This is because he gave her 1$ for the apple and she gave him a receipt. Therefore the elements of a contract, offer, acceptance, consideration and intention to effect legal relations are all satisfied.

 

Enclosed is my bill.

 

I usually tell students to think of each paragraph like a mini newspaper article in which the topic sentence is the headline. Legal writing can be boring (especially for markers) so your paragraphs need to SCREAM - using buzzwords straight from the wording of the question.

 

The ‘answer the question’ framework is the only one you truly need. Do this and everything else will fall into place around it. IRAC was never meant for legal writing in general, only a shorthand for legal exams which typically require students to reduce answers down to dot points to save time.

 

No one seems to know the precise origin of IRAC. But Richard Neumann (one of the first academics to use it) reportedly said ‘IRAC is ‘useful for exam - taking, but ineffective for memoranda and briefs’.

 

While IRAC is popular among academics it is not without its detractors. Laura Graham writes ‘...this basic mnemonic for the steps of legal analysis will not get law students past the first week of law school; they need in-depth instruction on how to do legal analysis.”

 

Other academics have posed various alternatives such as the: MIRAT, IDAR, CREAC, TREACC, CRuPAC, ISAAC and ILAC methods, all supposedly to cure the defects in the IRAC method.

 

A personal favourite of mine is the fish method. No it doesn’t stand for anything, it just looks like a fish:

 

 

 

 

Suffice it to say that we all want to help you write better but none of us can agree on how to do it. Maybe you should use all these techniques. Or none at all.

 

One thing is for sure when it comes to legal writing rules are made to be broken. Which is a funny thing to say, coming from a Lawyer.

 

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