IRAC: Law School Essay Formatting Method

IRAC: Law School Essay Formatting Method

The IRAC method is the most popular organizational method used on law school exams, with IRAC standing for Issue, Rule, Analysis (or Application), and Conclusion. Without a solid organizational system, students miss issues and fail to do the kind of deep analysis that law professors are looking for.  Having graded thousands of law exams I can tell you that no student has ever gotten an “A” without good organization skills.

The Method


The issue statement provides the topic that you are going to discuss in the paragraph.  For example, one paragraph might deal with the intent element in a battery action.  The issue statement might read: Does Henry have the necessary intent to commit a battery? If the essay deals with contract formation, then the issue statement might state “Does John have a valid contract with Maria.” The key is to let the reader know what you are about to discuss. This means providing enough information so that the reader understand what is going to follow. Also, when writing a law school essay, you should assume the reader does not know the facts or the law. You must lead the reader along, explaining everything. If you don’t explain it, then don’t expect to receive credit.


Sign says "know the rules." Used in IRAC

The second sentence in the paragraph is the rule. For intent, you should have something like this: Intent is defined as the desire or knowledge to a substantial certainty that the contact would occur. You must not only provide rules for the main issues, but also definitions for any legally significant terms.


Third comes the analysis, which is the section that connects the facts to the rule. Here, you want to demonstrate that you understand why and how the facts are connected to the rule of law. The biggest mistake in this section is when students merely copy facts from the question they were given. Without explaining why the facts are important, all you are doing is sharing a story. Narratives get few to no points when graded.


And finally, provide a short conclusion, which must follow from your analysis. For example, it might read like this: Henry meets the intent element for battery. By the way, if you are struggling with battery, you might want to take a course on the intentional torts.

Nested IRAC

When you follow the IRAC method, it is not enough to IRAC only main issue, like negligence, contract formation, or involuntary manslaughter. You must create a separate IRAC for each element or legal term. This is called Nested IRAC, and students who organize their answers this way end up with higher grades. In a tortious battery, you will always need at least four paragraphs. The first paragraph to introduce battery, and then paragraphs for intent, contact, and harmful or offensive.

Form and SubstanceA plus law school graded exam for law school exam bank.

Please keep in mind that IRAC, as good as it is, will not move you into the “A” category by itself.  Unfortunately, there are students that earn D’s and F’s while using the IRAC method. In other words, IRAC is not a panacea that does the heavy lifting on an exam.  So yes, use IRAC as a formatting tool and then work hard on Issue spotting and Analysis. That is what will help you the “A” grades you want.

Exam Preparation

Your essay will only be as good as your exam preparation.  Work on creating a strong law school outline, as that is where the R in IRAC comes from. Next, learn the rules well by using the Leitner box flash card method. Finally, you can write most of an essay before you ever see it with the model answer preparation method. All this takes lots of time, at least initially. But soon you will master the science behind exam taking, which will lead to higher grades and less preparation time.

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