Step-by-step plans and formulas are appealing because they help us navigate unfamiliar territory. Law school gives you formulas like IRAC to help you through the process of learning legal analysis and writing. In a recent post, we shared with you a formula for the “R” section of IRAC that was developed by Professor Hollee S. Temple of the West Virginia College of Law. Now, let’s take a look at Professor Temple’s formula for the “A” section of IRAC.
The “A” section—application or analysis—is often problematic for students because it varies more than other parts of IRAC. Legal analysis turns on rules, and since rules vary from case to case, it is hard to develop a guide. Professor Temple’s three step system is a useful place to start; let’s call it 3 Steps to Rule Analysis.
Before we walk through the steps, recall the purpose of “A” in IRAC. You have already told your reader what law applies and explained through case illustrations what key legal propositions will guide your analysis (“RE”). Now, your job is to follow those key legal propositions and draw analogies (similarities) and distinctions (differences) between the facts of the cases you have explained to the facts of your case. Direct fact-to-fact comparison is how you prove to your reader that you have reached the best conclusion. Counterargument is always part of a thorough “A” section.
Step One: Give Your Best Fact First
Start by explicitly stating the most determinative fact in your case/hypothetical that will be used by the court and tell the reader why that fact influences the decision. For instance: “Joan did x, therefore the court will likely find y.
Step Two: Explicitly Compare Your Facts to the Precedent
Next, tell the reader about the rest of the determinative facts in the client’s case and compare them to the facts in the precedent case. Explain why the client’s case is like or not like the precedent case to show why the client’s circumstances will therefore produce a similar or different result.
Your goal is to show the reader the comparison between your case and the precedent.
The best way to do this is to compare facts-to-facts, not conclusions-to-conclusions. First-year legal writers often generalize, “Like the defendant in Jones, the defendant’s conduct in this case was negligent.” Instead, you must talk about the nitty-gritty facts in Jones and show how they compare to the nitty-gritty facts of your case: “Like the defendant in Jones, who did x, the defendant in this case did y. Big sweeping legal pronouncements sound grand but decisions turn on facts. Legal facts are the information on which lawyers base their arguments.
Step Three: Connect to the Expected Result.
Finally, tell the reader how the court will rule on the element that you have been discussing. Wrap things up for your reader.
Practicing writing effective RA will also pay dividends in exams. Your analysis—applying the law to the facts in argument and counterargument—is worth big chunk of points on exams. Developing this skill is critical to being an effective legal writer.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- 3 Steps for Using Cases to Explain the Law
- Five Tips for a Great Legal Writing Assignment
- Approaching Your Legal Writing Assignment Like a Jazz Solo
- Four Legal Writing Tips From the Theatre
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