WHAT IS IRAC? An acronym for Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion.
HOW IS IRAC USED? IRAC is a template for logical writing, most helpful on law exams, specifically on bar exams. But the IRAC terminology often confuses people, particularly the word “analysis.” A better term for many may be IRPC: Issue, Rule, Proof, Conclusion.
Some people hear the word “analysis” and think of the complex and varied wrinkles in legal theories and reasoning; they picture lengthy, detailed exchanges in law school classes, breaking apart and trying to understand case law. Others hear “analysis” and think of a layered literary analysis in a college English class, reflecting on the meaning, style, and value of a novel or poem.
As you will see below, a more useful mental picture for effective bar writing may require a flashback to geometry in middle school (or “junior high”) and the simple logic in a basic “proof,” rather than thinking of college or law school. Why? The term “analysis,” for many, conveys a more complex and often longer written discussion than is required for most passing bar answers. However, the word “analysis” may well represent what law professors expect on law school midterms and finals. Many law professors wish to see students weave relevant cases into their discussion, analogizing and/or distinguishing the facts in the exam to facts from cases and/or hypotheticals studied throughout the term to reason to thoughtful conclusions. Your professor may also expect a rich policy discussion in your law school exam answers, possibly noting relevant implications the issues you are discussing might have on third parties, society at large, past precedent, or future evolution of the applicable law. Bar writing is often much simpler, and heavily dependent on straightforward logic.
Let’s look at the following example as an albeit over-simplified but useful analogy to bar writing style, what I call and will explain below as “IRPC.”
An IRPC example in math
Picture a triangle, then read the passage below:
- What sort of figure does the shape above represent? ISSUE
- Three sided figures with sides coming together in three corners are generally known as “triangles.” An equilateral triangle is a three-sided figure where all three sides are equal in length and all corners have the same degree angle. RULE
- Here, side A measures x inches, side B measures x inches, and side C measures x The three sides are touching and meet respectively in three corners. And, each angle measures y degrees. PROOF (or “analysis”)
- Therefore the figure represented above is an equilateral triangle. CONCLUSION
This logic may sound more mathematical than legal but it is highly instructive for bar writing. Let’s consider another IRPC example, this one using an everyday driving scenario, and you will see the same sort of logic but in a situation that more closely resembles a law-type fact pattern. Note here we will also add a policy consideration to our logical writing (“IRPPC”). Policy concerns, while not essential in bar writing, can be helpful in improving your score. As long as you have written about all the discussable issues, using the basic components of an IRPC correctly for each, and you finish answering the entire question, adding policy considerations may indicate a further mastery of the application of the rule of law that a grader may appreciate.
The defendant and his passenger, Witness X, both testified that the defendant’s car was in the left turn lane, the green arrow was blinking and it was 3:00pm when the turn was made. Did the Defendant’s turn from Elm Street onto Main Street on December 1st violate traffic regulations?
Now let’s say you know (because you have learned the relevant rule of law) that left turns are permitted at the intersection of Elm and Main from the left hand turn lane, when the green left turn arrow is blinking, at times other than 4pm-7pm weekdays. (From 4pm-7pm weekdays such turns are not permitted even if the arrow is green.) How would we logically deconstruct the validity of the turn in question?
An IRPC example in law and daily society
Did D’s 3:00pm left turn at Elm and Main violate any traffic laws? [ISSUE]
Left turns are permitted at the intersection of Elm and Main from the left hand turn lane, when the green left turn arrow is blinking, at times other that 4pm-7pm weekdays. [RULE]
D was in the left turn lane (so in the proper location for the turn). D saw the turn arrow blinking (so D had a signal that it was safe to make his turn). D made the turn in question at 3:00pm (thus the timing was appropriate for this type of turn). Note: since it was 3pm, it did not matter which day of the week as the only bars to turning are from 4-7pm. [PROOF or analysis] Last but not least, policy would dictate that even if D had followed the technical requirements for turning, D must also confirm that it was generally safe to make the turn –i.e. there were no other obstacles, emergency vehicles or unanticipated conditions that would make the turn unsafe. Assuming D did so confirm there is no reason to indicate that the turn was unlawful. [POLICY]
Therefore, D’s turn from Elm onto Main appears to have been lawful.[CONCLUSION]
Are you starting to see why IRPC makes sense? If IRPC is clearer and more helpful for you than IRAC, think IRPC. They mean the same thing, but IRPC may just make the idea a little clearer.
One of my professors once explained bar exam writing something like this: “Many of you came to law school from lofty colleges where you theorized, you studied literature and history and the like. You read poetry and wrote beautiful essays. You sought to include metaphors and alliteration in so your words would flow. You want to continue that sort of writing now, in law school. Your minds are creative. You want to think, ‘Well, I’ll start by discussing A, but then let me foreshadow Z, then I’ll get back to B, maybe then toss in a bit of H and J to make things more vibrant.’” He then hollered, “No!” Everyone in class jumped. “Cut that out right now! From here on, instead of flowery prose, it’s “A+B+C=D. Period.”
Bar writing, in many ways, is indeed A plus B plus C equals D.
IRPC for bar writing is straightforward. IRPC makes sense. It is not mysterious or intriguing. IRPC is not eloquent. It is simple and direct. It is mathematical, likeA+B+C=D. IRPC works! Try IRPC as you write practice bar exam essay answers.
This page is excerpted from:
Pass the Bar: A Practical Guide to Achieving Academic & Professional Goals
For more on IRPC and all sorts of tips on bar exam and law school success, read PASS the Bar Exam.