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Law School Tips: Week 8

Briefing 101 (Part 4)

Analysis of the Issue—Using the I-R-A-C Formula

You’ve identified the parties, stated the facts, and defined the rule of law of the case. The next step—the core of the brief—is the issue-by-issue analysis. The analysis should be patterned after the I-R-A-C style of answering essay questions. (This stands for issue, rule of law, application of rule to the facts, and conclusion.) You should practice applying the I-R-A-C model wherever possible; this helps you prepare for your exams. Don’t be confused if your Legal Writing courses use a different acronym. Depending on style and what your Legal Writing professor chooses to emphasize, this basic formula is sometimes denoted in several different ways, including C-R-A-C, T-R-R-A-C, or I-R-R-A-C. Some cases will have more than one issue; when this happens, you should make sure to do a complete analysis for each issue.

1.    Statement of the issue

Formulating the issue is just as difficult as formulating the rule of the case; you have to make sure that your statement of the issue is neither too vague nor too specific. In many cases, the issue is really just the rule of law stated as a question. For instance, in Garratt, the issue could be restated as “has a person who knows with substantial certainty that some occurrence will result from her action committed an ‘intentional’ act?”
Determining and stating the rule of the case will help you understand the issues involved in the case, and vice versa.

2.    Rule of law

This is the rule of the case you constructed earlier (see above).

3.    Rationale (application of the rule to the facts)

Carefully read the court’s reasoning and pull out the critical points. Your reproduction of the court’s argument and reasoning should cover every major point raised in support of the holding. Most decisions can be broken down into two parts: (i) the court’s analysis of precedent and its application to this case (does the case come within the precedence, can it be distinguished, should it be distinguished, or do the facts in this case dictate a reappraisal of existing law?); and (ii) application of the rule of the case to the facts of the case. You should focus on (ii), but don’t ignore (i).

While the background behind the rule of law may be of minimal importance on your exams, your professor may choose to explore it in her classroom, and furthermore, your own sense of the structure of a subject will be enhanced if you know the development of existing law.

4.    Your Conclusion

The fourth element in the I-R-A-C format is the statement of your conclusion. This element is critical in exam answers. In case briefs, however, your conclusion is about as important as the moon in daylight. The law is what the case says it is, not what you think it should be.

Extracted from Strategies & Tactics for the First Year Law Student (Maximize Your Grades) by Lazar Emanuel and Kimm Alayne Walton.

Coming next week: Taking Notes in Class