To be successful in legal research and writing, you need to master the writing style that the legal world expects and recognizes. Whether you want to write a brief, a memo, or an essay, some form of IRAC writing style will be used, regardless of where you study or work.
The IRAC writing style is a format often used to effectively answer law school test problems. And if used appropriately and according to its requirements, it can help any law student score exceptionally high marks.
Besides, mastering the IRAC writing format is considered an essential foundation in training in legal research and writing.
After graduation from law school, you won’t be done with writing legal essays yet, you will be looking to pass your Bar exam and start a career as a law professional.
Therefore, arming yourself with a mastery of the IRAC writing style will come in handy in handling any legal writing using the IRAC method. We will equip you with tips and tricks on how to write an IRAC style essay.
What is IRAC?
To understand how to write an IRAC style essay, you need to familiarize with the IRAC format is a representation of the following concepts of a legal issue:
- I: The legal issue at hand. So, identify and define what the issue is, the parties involved and the give sufficient background of the problem
- R: The rule or expected outcome
- A: The analysis or explanation of the relevant laws and case law. Often the ‘A’ is referred to as the “answer.” Regardless, the content is the same
- C: The conclusion or summary of the legal analysis. Be sure to conclude on a strong note, while sticking to the facts.
How to Write an IRAC Style Essay
Here are some of the considerations on how to write an IRAC style essay. when using the IRAC format when writing legal issues.
Before understanding how to write an IRAC style essay, More often than not, students tend to let their thoughts get away with them or cut their thoughts short. With the IRAC, it is necessary to be brief. If a sentence doesn’t clarify the issue, it shouldn’t be included in the first place.
Keep in mind that you are pursuing to be a lawyer and not a novelist. As such, make sure you stick to the facts and be concise, plain, and straight to the point. There is no point, it is of no use.
Use who, what, when, where, why, and how in your legal essays, briefs, and memos writing. Technically these terms are not part of IRAC, but they are very important, especially when you want to be brief.
Always be sure to double-check your facts, especially when you are exploring aspects of laws , legal issues and legal terms. Read and reread carefully before submitting your document. Besides, make sure the document is free from grammar and punctuation errors.
Present the Issue statement
When you hand in your essay or memo, the first thing your reader should be able to see is the question you are trying to answer.
More importantly, that question should be the issue you intend to address and therefore your answer needs to tackle all the major legal aspects of the issue.
However, don’t use definite names, rather keep them as common as possible. This can serve as a guide:
Under law when ?
By using “under,” you narrow down to location, for instance, the state the issue is happening before moving on to the issue of crime or liability.
The Rule should be Clear and Simple
The rule should be the shortest portion of your IRAC. However, there is no rule of thumb to go with it since every law school or employer has its inclinations. Regardless, keep the following in mind:
Your tone should be neutral and don’t mention the names of those involved as well as other proper nouns, just like you did with the issue.
Also, be brief about what the law is. Essentially, assume your audience is familiar with the law already. Alternatively, explain briefly what you expect the legal outcome to be.
However, if numerous could apply to the issue, consider having more than one rule statement. Moreover, as you proofread, be sure to check how many rules match the number of issues you stated.
Consider using a definitive tone even when the case laws or statutes referenced are not firmly relevant to the issue.
Be Specific in the Analysis
When learning on how to write an IRAC Style Essay. Without a doubt, the analysis is the most challenging section of the IRAC. This is because it requires you to write in a specific manner even though the style is usually inconsistent.
Therefore, it is important to have grammatical and style rules as set forth by your professor at your fingertips for you to write an IRAC essay that passes scrutiny. Here are some of the general tips to keep in mind on how to write an IRAC Style Essay.
Make sure you are as geographically specific as possible. So, if a past case occurred in the same region or state as the issue at hand, refer to it extensively.
By rule, criminal law cases need a statute to be referenced. Conversely, civil cases don’t necessarily require appropriate statutes.
Both civil and criminal cases require at least two sources as a minimum. Moreover, ensure the sources and the relevant laws are properly cited, so make use of the Bluebook and Association of Legal Writing Directories whenever citing your cases.
If your legal writing is addressing more than one issue, you must use subheadings to define the individual legal topics. Equally, be sure to draw similarities between the case you are writing and the ones you are referencing by writing analogies.
For example, “Like the plaintiff who was injured by the defendant’s dog, our client was scratched by the neighbor’s cat.”
Make a Comprehensive Conclusion
The conclusion section is perhaps every lawyer’s favorite section of the IRAC since it means they are at the tail end of their writing. Just like in your college or high school essay you ever wrote, the conclusion is where you summarize all your legal findings.
Make sure that your conclusion isn’t any longer than a paragraph and requires restating the legal issue. Should you have more than one legal problem, ensure each one is restated. Moreover, your conclusion should offer the expected legal ruling.
Even though no two conclusions are ever accurately the same in legal writing, here is an example of how yours might be:
“Mr. Cook cannot be sued for Mr. Golden’s slip and fall from the roof because Mr. Cook offers employees’ compensation to his workers; hence, he is safeguarded against a personal injury lawsuit. Therefore, the civil claim should be dismissed.”
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The Don’ts to Writing a Killer IRAC Style Essay
Don’t be Deceived – It is Harder than it Looks
It looks quite easy, right?. The concept behind IRAC is simple and easy but very challenging to achieve. Regardless, the easiest way to get it right on how to write an IRAC essay is to focus on the things that are likely to trip you up when using it.
Don’t Write an Introduction
In most university courses, college, and during high school, we are taught to rehash the issue or facts as a prerequisite of an introduction for any answer we offer. However, at law school, an issue-based question doesn’t need an introduction.
Alternatively, write down the legal matter either as a statement or question. For instance, “The issue in this situation is whether plaintiff’s title to the property is indefeasible.” With that, you can proceed on to the rule section.
The challenge most law students face is failing to effectively adapt to the academic environment of law school. Certainly, it takes time to depart from the old habits and realize that an introduction in the law essay is not compulsory.
Don’t Pad your Answer
When answering legal questions or issue statements, the answer should be not only concise but with relevant facts as well. With IRAC format, you will get this right; however, you still need to consider all that you write and ask whether it is relevant.
Being fluffy and padding won’t deliver you any marks and certainly will not make up for the fact that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Certainly, you can beat around the bush on a legal problem or issue. But, why is being concise so important?
Word limit is often used to identify students who comprehend the most important concepts from those who understood the general concepts. Law students can get the most marks if they:
- Can identify the most important issues (relevance)
- Can comprehensively consider the issues for each concisely.
For instance, a 30 marks essay capped at 1200 words may have 40 marks available subject to what your answer is. Ideally, this gives tutors some scope when marking law essays.
However, you will need to write over 1200 words to comprehensively discuss all the issues to accrue all those marks, which is certainly not allowed. So, write concisely and with precision to increase your chances to score full marks in your legal essays.
Don’t Revisit your Answer in your Conclusion
Don’t rewrite your answer in your conclusion. Essentially, the conclusion should be a “yes” or “no” response to the problem. For example, “the plaintiff’s title to the property is not indefeasible.”
Equally, limit your conclusion on the issue to at least a sentence and focus most of your effort on the analysis section. It is in the analysis section where all the marks are!
Be Flexible with the Rule and Analysis Sections, and Structure your Answer to Help the Reader
The ultimate question to answer is one where the different issues that your need to deliberate are completely distinct from each other while your structure is plain: Issue; Analysis; and Conclusion.
Generally, most questions have overlapping problems and this is where the IRAC structure comes in handy. For written assignments and essays, you will certainly have enough time to plan this out well.
However, in exams, it will have to come down to practice, therefore, make you do as many exam practices as possible so that you master the best structure for any legal question.
Generally, the IRAC method isn’t as challenging as you may think. It only requires a bit of practice and exceptional memory. Gather all your ideas around your brain and write them down on paper first, before you start arranging them while following the IRAC method.
Besides combining all the tips we have given you on how to write an IRAC style essay, don’t fall short of using several examples to guide you for the upcoming on how to write an IRAC Style Essay.