I’m a fan of IRAC, or even better, CRAC, for several reasons. First, it saves times on exams. If you follow this go-to structure, you don’t have to waste time thinking about how to organize your answer, so you can spend more time working on the analysis.
Second, IRAC represents the fundamental components of legal analysis. Every case involves the identification of issues and the application of legal rules to facts to reach a resolution.
Finally, CRAC is preferable to IRAC because it encourages you to reach a conclusion before you start writing, rather than rambling your way toward a conclusion as you write. (Of course, you should reach a conclusion during the outlining stage.) Some professors prefer CRAC because it lets them know where you’re headed before you get there. This makes grading easier.
IRAC is so well established, and so useful, that it comes as a shock when a professor says, “I don’t want you to IRAC the exam.” What is a student to do? The best solution is to ask your professor what she expects. But let’s explore this deviation from standard practice.
Why Not IRAC?
Why would a professor ditch IRAC? The answer may lie with the form of questions on the exam. IRAC is perfectly suited to issue-spotting exams but not necessarily to short answer questions. For example, a student shared with me a series of short hypos pertaining to supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. The professor wanted the students to state whether the federal district court would have supplemental jurisdiction over each claim and asked students not to IRAC.
There was no benefit in restating the same, complex rule multiple times, especially under time pressure. A student could demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the rule by applying it and reaching the correct conclusion. For example, “The court does not have jurisdiction because this is a claim by a plaintiff proposed to be joined under Rule 19 who is a citizen of the same state as the defendant, thus destroying diversity.”
What To Do Instead of IRAC
What about traditional fact pattern, issue-spotting questions? The most likely answer is that you need to include the content of IRAC but you need not organize around IRAC. Rather than setting out the rule separately and then applying it, you can use a streamlined approach in which you demonstrate your knowledge of the rule while applying it. Here’s a simple example.
Facts: In a suburban, residential neighborhood, P built a driveway and detached garage adjacent to his house. The driveway and garage were on property owned by P’s neighbor, O. P used the driveway and garage every day for 25 years. When O put his house on the market, O discovered the encroachment. Who owns the disputed land?
Elements of Adverse Possession:
(1) Continuous, uninterrupted possession;
(2) Hostile to the interests of the true owner;
(3) Open and notorious, sufficient to put the true owner on notice of the possession;
(4) Actual, constituting a trespass;
(5) Exclusive, not shared between P and other potential claimants;
(6) For the statutory period, often 20 years.
The IRAC approach would set out the elements (R) of adverse possession and then apply (A) each one. Some might group all the elements together and then apply them in order: IRAAAC; some might explain each element, apply it, and then do the same for the next element: IRARARAC.
A non-IRAC approach is structurally similar to IRARARAC, but combines the R + A seamlessly. The rule isn’t stated separately; it’s inferred from the analysis. It might look like this:
P’s possession of the land was continuous because he used the land “every day for 25 years.”
P’s possession of the land was hostile to O’s interests. By building a driveway and garage on the land, P prevented O from using the land.
P’s possession of the land was open and notorious. He built a driveway and garage on the property in full view of O. Thus, O should have been on notice of P’s presence.
P’s possession of the land was actual because he physically trespassed on O’s land by building a structure and using it daily.
P’s possession of the land was exclusive because it was not shared with any other person or the public. P used the driveway and garage as an owner would, to park his car and store items.
The statutory period is met because P used the land for 25 years, thus exceeding the 20-year minimum requirement.
This is an extremely simple example, intended to demonstrate a structural approach. An actual exam answer would involve more complex facts and more detailed analysis, including possible counterarguments.
If your professor says, “Don’t IRAC,” ask what she means by this. If you don’t get a clear answer, consider the streamlined approach demonstrated here.
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And check out these helpful posts:
- How to Throw Out IRAC Without Breaking the Rules
- From Bare Bones to Meaty Analysis: How to Skeleton Outline Your Essay
- The Elusive Mini-IRAC
- Rely on Systems, Not Willpower
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