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What is IRAC?

Below is a great explanation of what IRAC is and its significance to your next NCA exam.

Legal Analysis & the IRAC Method

Your eyes quickly glazed over. You were just presented a complex legal fact pattern involving, in part, five parties, an argument over property rights, a potential trespass claim, a lost championship golf ball, and a claim to rights to sell the golf ball. The list went on and on. You knew you needed to analyze the fact pattern for all of the potential legal issues, but you had no idea where to begin. Thankfully, you had just learned about IRAC, which stands for issue, rule, application, and conclusion, and is a methodology of legal analysis that helps a writer break down, organize, and ultimately present a complex legal analysis.

As you settled in and began to break down the facts, the legal issues began to emerge from the muddy and complex fact pattern. You began to relax and started to enjoy the legal analysis. Your pencil was sharp and your ability to focus became sharper.

As a law student or reader of legal writing, you will often encounter very complex sets of fact patterns, court decisions, and legal analysis. In order to fully understand a particular case's facts and holding, it is often necessary to break down the case opinion and/or fact pattern into smaller component parts. The IRAC methodology is one way to do so.

IRAC's Utility

An organized approach to legal analysis is useful for a variety of reasons. First, legal writing is often confusing. The IRAC method helps break down complex terminology, fact patterns, and legal analysis into easier to understand blocks of text.

The IRAC methodology is intended to provide a useful way to organize your thoughts. Absent instructions to the contrary, you should look to the IRAC methodology as a guideline that can be modified to best suit the task at hand. For example, you might at times consider including an additional section, if doing so would improve the clarity and organization of your shared analysis. You might also reorder and/or remove a section in order to present a clear and organized summary of a particular legal scenario. Look to IRAC as a guide for organizing your thoughts, and not a strict or rigid outline.

You also want to be careful to avoid over-simplifying the stated facts and analysis. For example, if a fact pattern is rich in detail and discusses the presence or involvement of multiple parties in a possible assault, battery, or trespass case, you will want to make sure to address all potential relationships. Focusing on only two parties, for example, could over-simplify both your presentation of the facts and the related legal analysis.

The IRAC methodology can also be used to summarize a legal opinion and prepare a case brief. A case brief is a concise summary of a formal court opinion. Case briefs can be used when doing legal research, preparing for a court appearance, studying for an exam, and/or explaining a case to others. The IRAC methodology provides an efficient way to outline a court opinion.


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