Make your first attempt at the bar exam your last with Quimbee

  • 91% bar exam pass rate*
  • 100% money-back guarantee
  • 1,600+ real questions from past bar exams
*First-time bar exam takers who completed at least 75% of Quimbee Bar Review or Quimbee Bar Review+. The margin of error is 5.9%.
Bar Exam Success

How the IRAC Method Can Improve Your Legal Writing

How the IRAC Method Can Improve Your Legal Writing
Mystery is a genre that prizes suspense. The writer packs in red herrings and plot twists, keeping the reader guessing until the end of the story. Legal writing is a fundamentally different game. Unexpected twists and turns will frustrate the reader. Good legal writing follows a familiar framework: IRAC structure.
 

Introduction to the IRAC Method

In a nutshell, IRAC is a framework you can use to organize your analysis of a single legal issue. IRAC structure can help you score more points on law school exams and even the bar exam. It contains 4 parts: issue statement, rule, application, and conclusion.
 

Issue Statement

In your very first sentence, you’ll set up the legal issue. The issue statement functions like a topic sentence. Identify the claim, element, or factor you’ll be analyzing. For example, if the IRAC is dedicated to analyzing the causation element of negligence, the word “causation” (or “cause,” etc.) must be in your issue statement.
 
Remember, readers don’t like mystery, and they don’t need creative wording. On an exam, you can simply begin your issue statements with, “The issue is . . .” 
 
Some writers like to incorporate a key fact in the issue statement. Others prefer to keep it simple. Compare these options. Both are correct forms of stating the issue:
 
  • Simple issue statement: The issue is whether Declan battered Pia.
  • Issue statement with a key fact: The issue is whether Declan battered Pia when he blew cigarette smoke in her face.
 
Incorporating a key fact in the issue statement previews the application section for the reader. But it’s not strictly necessary. If you’re pressed for time, keep the issue simple. On an exam, issue statements aren’t worth as many points as rules and application.
 

Rule

The rule comes next. Using present tense, describe the standard that governs the legal issue. Rule statements can be multiple sentences. However, avoid a brain dump of every rule you know. Include only the principles needed to analyze the issue completely and accurately.
 
Many times, you’ll need a sentence with a broad rule plus another sentence that interprets or defines key terms in the rule. Order the sentences from the broadest principle of law to the most specific. Compare these examples:
 
  • Correct: Battery occurs if an actor intentionally causes harmful or offensive physical contact with a victim. Contact is harmful if it impairs someone’s physical condition or causes physical pain or illness, and contact is offensive if it would offend a reasonable person of ordinary firmness.
  • Incorrect: Contact is harmful if it impairs someone’s physical condition or causes physical pain or illness, and contact is offensive if it would offend a reasonable person of ordinary firmness. Battery occurs if an actor intentionally causes harmful or offensive physical contact with a victim.
 

Application

The application follows the rule. Use a paragraph break and begin the application with the transition word “here,” followed by a comma. Then, link the key language of the rule to legally determinative facts. Using the words “because” or “which means” can help you link the two. 
 
The application is the meat of an IRAC. Use multiple sentences, ensuring you analyze all relevant facts from the fact pattern. 
 
Watch out for sentences that contain just facts—you must connect facts with the rule. Fixing the problem isn’t hard. Just add an explicit link back to the rule. Compare these snippets from an application section:
 
  • Just facts (incorrect): Declan puffed a cigarette and stepped closer to Pia before exhaling the smoke directly in her face.
  • Rule and facts linked (correct): Declan had intent to cause an offensive contact because he puffed a cigarette and stepped closer to Pia before exhaling the smoke directly in her face.
 
What if there’s more than one reasonable way to analyze the legal issue? Consider adding a counterargument in your application. Structurally, you’ll place the strongest argument first in the application section and then cover any opposing viewpoints. Additional depth in the application section earns more points.
 

Conclusion

The final step is the conclusion statement. The conclusion communicates the expected result of the analysis. As in the issue statement, you should include the claim, element, or factor you’ve just analyzed:
 
  • Example: Thus, Declan is liable for battery.
 

Do I need more than 1 IRAC in my exam answer?

Often, yes. The type of legal rule you’re dealing with determines the right large-scale structure for your exam answer. For rules made up of elements, multiple IRACs are appropriate. For rules that balance factors or consider the totality of the circumstances, one IRAC should do the trick. 
 
For example, the tort of false imprisonment is an element-based rule. False imprisonment occurs if an actor (1) intentionally (2) confines a victim (3) to a bounded area and if (4) the victim is either aware of the confinement or harmed by it. You could structure your analysis using 4r IRACs. Use 1 IRAC per element:
 
  • IRAC (intent)
  • IRAC (confines)
  • IRAC (bounded area)
  • IRAC (aware of or harmed by confinement)
 
By contrast, a balancing test will generally use only 1 IRAC. For example, a court may exclude relevant evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 403 if the evidence’s probative value is substantially outweighed by a danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, waste of time, or needlessly presenting cumulative evidence. In a single IRAC, you can balance the probative value of the evidence against the identified dangers or considerations.
 
Remember, let the rule be your guide. Multiple elements will usually yield multiple IRACs.
 

Friends of IRAC: CRAC and CREAC

Legal writing is an acronym-heavy discipline. Your professors might have mentioned other writing formulas, such as CRAC and CREAC. These acronyms vary slightly from IRAC, but they’re all getting at the same core idea: legal analysis must flow in a prescribed rhetorical formula to meet the needs of a legal reader.
 
CRAC swaps out IRAC’s issue statement for a conclusion statement at the beginning. Both an issue statement and a conclusion have the same core purpose. They communicate the legal concept (claim, element, or factor) that you will analyze. Compare these examples:
 
  • Issue statement (IRAC): The issue is whether Declan battered Pia.
  • Conclusion statement (CRAC): Declan battered Pia.
 
It’s perfectly fine to use CRAC instead of IRAC on an exam. If you immediately know the conclusion that the analysis will reach, feel free to start with a conclusion statement. If you’re not sure, go for an issue statement. With an issue statement, there’s less pressure: you don’t need to know the result of the analysis to start writing. You just need to figure out the conclusion by the end of the IRAC!
 
Note you must begin with a conclusion statement in persuasive writing. Persuasive legal analysis appears in practice-oriented documents such as briefs and demand letters. But the typical law school exam doesn’t require a persuasive tone.

CREAC takes CRAC one step further. There’s an E in there. That E merely reminds you that you must explain the rule. Even though IRAC doesn’t have a separate letter dedicated to rule explanation, explaining the rule is necessary for IRAC, too. In all legal writing, the rule statement must explain the rule, incorporating the principles necessary to analyze the issue completely and accurately.
 
In your legal-writing class, you might equate the E with case illustrations. Case illustrations are short snippets describing precedent cases—they explain how the governing rule was applied in the past. Case illustrations are usually beyond the scope of exam analysis.

Fundamentally, IRAC, CRAC, and CREAC are all trying to help you write organized legal analysis. Don’t sweat the minor distinctions.
 

What’s the Best Way to Learn IRAC?

Hands down, the best way to learn is practice. To prepare for your exam, write out the answers to practice questions. Be sure to assess your work. Compare your response to the sample answer. For visual confirmation that you’re following the proper structure, try highlighting each part of IRAC in a different color. With practice, you’ll master IRAC and be on your way to success in law school and beyond. You can practice the IRAC method with essay practice exams.

Make your first attempt at the bar exam your last with Quimbee

  • 91% bar exam pass rate*
  • 100% money-back guarantee
  • 1,600+ real questions from past bar exams
*First-time bar exam takers who completed at least 75% of Quimbee Bar Review or Quimbee Bar Review+. The margin of error is 5.9%.

You also might be interested in: