31 Jan IRAC | The Key to Studying in Law School | ALU
Studying in law school is different than the type of studying undergone in many undergraduate majors. Some students have trouble adjusting to the new course of study, which is less about rote memorization of facts and terms than becoming adept at legal analysis.
For those students having difficulty adjusting to law school studies, it is important to keep the IRAC formula in mind. IRAC (which stands for Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion) is the major building block for legal analysis—following this formula can help students more effectively study and learn as they analyze laws and casework in law school.
The Building Blocks of IRAC
To understand how the formula works, a law student should understand what is meant by the following terms:
- Issue: The facts and circumstances of the case or scenario
- Rule: Understanding the governing laws related to the issue
- Analysis: Working through how the law or laws should apply to the facts or circumstances
- Conclusion: What did the courts rule in the case, and how does it modify the rule of law?
Let’s go further in depth with each to help build the understanding of each term, and how they can help when it comes to legal analysis in terms of law school studies.
For exams and class discussions, it is important to identify the right facts and circumstances in the given example in order to properly move through the formula. You should ask yourself:
- What are the facts and circumstances that brought the case to court?
- Are legal buzzwords present (pointing towards issues studied in class)?
- Is the issue a question of fact (whether something did or did not happen) or a question of law (as in, what rules should be applied?)?
- What are non-issues that cloud the discussion (professors will often use these in class discussions and exams)?
Finding the Rule
The rule in the formula is the rule of law, which may be either common law developed by the courts or laws enacted by the legislature. Here are some questions to ask yourself when looking for the right law by which to analyze the facts and circumstances spotted in the Issue phase:
- What elements prove the rule, and are there exceptions (for example, extenuating circumstances)?
- From where is the legal authority derived (common law, statute, etc.)?
- Do public policy or social considerations have an effect on the law?
Once you have located the relevant facts and circumstances and the rule of law that is being applied, it is up to you to analyze how they work together:
- What are the relevant facts and why?
- How do the facts prove the rule?
- What are counter-arguments for other solutions?
Unlike in many forms of study, there is often no clear black and white answer on a legal question. While there are some, it is not always the case, so how you back up your answer is just as important as the answer you reach. Use your analysis to reach your answer, and make a convincing argument, but be sure not to assume, and only use facts and laws as given.
Think of it this way, and you should have no trouble getting the IRAC formula down:
- The facts suggest an issue.
- The issue is governed by a rule.
- Compare the facts to the rule.
- Reach the conclusion.
The IRAC formula, while a great study tool, is not just for law school—it is often how lawyers approach complex problems in the working world. Once you’ve mastered it, you’re not only on your way to being a successful law student, but a well-reasoned attorney as well.