Step One: Issue / Conclusion – What is the legal question that I need to analyze?
First, start with a sentence that identifies the legal issue that you are trying to solve and predicts the likely outcome of the case. A good issue sentence should incorporate the facts that give rise to the issues you are trying to answer.
Examples in an exam:
“The issue is whether Joe committed a battery when he shoved Ronnie into the swimming pool.” opening an unlocked door to a building at twilight to commit a theft is sufficient to constitute a charge of burglary.”
Step Two: Rule / Explanation – What is the governing law for the issue?
Second, state the rule or legal principle that the court will use to resolve the issue. Briefly state the holdings of cases, and only include relevant facts and conclusions. You may also be expected to explain how courts have applied the rule in the past (and also how they have chosen not to apply the rule) and explanation of the policy behind the rule.
Examples in an exam:
“Battery is the intentional infliction of a harmful or offensive contact upon another.” (Rule). Courts have defined “offensive” and “harmful” using the reasonable person standard. (Explanation (CREAC) or further expansion of the Rule (IRAC)). A Defendant is assumed to know the prevailing standards and may be liable even if they meant no offense. (Explanation (CREAC) or further expansion of the Rule (IRAC)).
Step Three: Application – How does the rule apply to the facts in my case?
Third, apply the rule to your facts, using the rule / rule explanation section and avoiding conclusory statements. Use transition words such as “Here,…” “In this case,…” Be sure to include any arguments by the counter-parties. The application section is the most important part of the analysis since this is where your critical thinking skills will be tested.
Example in an exam:
“Here, when Joe shoved Ronnie out of the way so he could get ahead in line at the grocery store, he committed an offense contact. Even though Ronnie was not injured, battery only requires that the contact be harmful or offensive, and a reasonable person in Ronnie’s situation would find being intentionally shoved offensive.”
Step Four: Conclusion – What is the outcome of the issue?
Lastly, state one or two sentences concisely stating (or re-iterating) the likely outcome of your case, based on the application of the rule to the facts of your case.
“Therefore, because Joe committed an offensive contact upon Ronnie by shoving him, Joe is liable for battery.”
Sample Law School Exam Answer Using IRAC Using Negligence
The issue is whether the defendant was negligent. (ISSUE) To establish negligence, the plaintiff must prove a duty existed, a breach of that duty, causation, and damages. (RULE) As a matter of law, we all owe a general duty of care to reasonably foreseeable plaintiffs whenever we act. (RULE explanation specific to DUTY) Here, the facts show that [discuss facts that show a duty]. However, the defendant may argue that a duty does not exist because [discuss facts that show no duty owed]. Nevertheless [discuss facts or legal doctrines that break the tie one way or the other] which strongly suggests that the plaintiff was reasonably foreseeable to the defendant. (APPLICATION) Therefore, a court will likely find that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff. (CONCLUSION)
The next issue is whether the defendant breached his duty to the plaintiff. (ISSUE) A duty is breached when an actor fails to meet the standard of care under the circumstances. (RULE explanation specific to BREACH) Here, the fact that the defendant used an ABC tool instead of the customary XYZ tool suggests that the defendant may have breached his duty…” [repeat IRAC steps].