Welcome to my Law blog specifically intended as an aid to law students. I will post comments and white papers, from time to time, and I am happy to carry on conversations with students who are in need of help in law school.

I am most conservative and appropriate in my approach so if you comment and/or have questions to ask, please do so with an equal degree of appropriateness.

I am a Professor of Law at Concord Law School, an Internet Law School located in Los Angeles, though I live, teach and otherwise work out of Lakewood, Colorado, resting up against the foothills just west of Denver.





I have no set schedule of posting, but I hope you will check in from time to time.


Friday, January 1, 2010

5 - Law School Essay Exams - Intro




At my Law School, we teach the IRAC model for essay test taking. We do so because we believe that it conforms best to the California Bar Exam Examiners and because it is a relatively simple method. Having said that, I recognize that there are many published methods and some who publish material regarding law school essay test taking techniques sometimes are critical of other methodologies and models. I teach IRAC because my Law School asks me to do so AND because I believe it is the best model. Now, having said THAT, most of the alternate models are very similar to the IRAC model. From here on out, “law exam” will mean a “law school essay exam.”

The point is this: If one attempts to “wing it” through a law exam, this person will likely end up searching for a new profession. It is critical, in my judgment, that one uses a structured approach to take a law exam. Whatever the method, generally bar examiners (and most law professors) want a student to recognize a main legal issue and the relevant sub-issues, state good, concise legal rules, analyze and apply the facts to the rules and come to some reasoned conclusion regarding main issues and sub-issues.

So, do what your professor or law school suggests to you, but follow this general method. If your professor or law school makes no suggestion, then you can’t go wrong with the IRAC model.

Intro to IRAC

I = Issue - Recognize and state the issue. Start with the main issue. For instance, if you are taking a torts essay, start with the first main tort. If the question deals with intentional torts, note that there are up to nine of them (some say 5 and others go up to 9), and then you will have to decide which ones are applicable. Let's presume that you decide that the applicable intentional torts are assault, battery and false imprisonment. It is best to start with the tort asked first in the call of the question. If the call does not mention anything specific, then go with the tort that is first introduced in the fact situation. Let's say that is assault. Your first main issue, thus the first issue statement, then is: "Is A liable for the assault of B?" Always state that as a question. Only deal with one main issue at a time!!!! In other words, don't go to battery and/or false imprisonment until you finish with assault. In addition, your rule for assault will have several elements or parts). For now note that each element of the main rule will be treated as a “sub-issue” of the main issue. More on that later.

R = Rule – Here is where you state the rule statement (rule of law) that pertains to your issue. Since the main issue you are dealing with first is assault, the main rule statement is the rule of law for assault. State it concisely and completely. A good rule statement for assault is: Volitional act done with the requisite intent which causes the victim to suffer reasonable apprehension of an immediate battery. You can substitute “plaintiff” for “victim” and “harmful or offensive touching” for “battery” if you want. I also tell my students to add “without consent or privilege” to the end so they won’t forget to discuss defenses.

(Note: Normally, using the IRAC model, you would now begin the "A," meaning "analysis," but here is how you can judge that: Generally a rule statement for a main issue, such as assault, as here, will have a number of "elements" for you to discuss. Whenever there is more than one element in the main rule, you can't begin your analysis just yet. Each element of the main rule becomes a sub-issue. For example, the first element of assault is the "volitional act." So the first sub-issue would be "Did A commit a volitional act?" Again, written as a question.)

(sub)Issue: Did A commit a volitional act?

Rule (for this sub-issue): Here is where you state the rule for volitional act.

A = Analysis - In the analysis, you take the facts from the fact situation and determine if the facts support the rule. So here look for the facts to see if they support the rule for volitional act. This section is probably the most important part of the essay since you will generally get more credit for your analysis than, for example, the rule. Look in the facts to see what tends to support or not support defendant’s act as volitional.

C = Conclusion – Here is where you state your conclusion for the specific issue or sub-issue with which you are concerned. In this case, you are discussing the sub-issue of volitional act. So you will state something like: "Therefore, A’s act was (or was not) volitional.”

At this point, you have finished with the first sub-issue for the tort of assault. Next go back up to your rule statement for assault and take the next element and state it as your next sub-issue. For instance, if your next element is "requisite intent,” the next sub-issue would be: “Was A’s act intentional?” Then you will proceed through IRAC, as above, to complete this sub-issue. Repeat this process until you finish all of the elements on assault and then conclude whether or not there was an assault. Then you can move to your next tort. Here that would be battery. Follow the same process to complete the exam.

Yes, it seems formulaic and cumbersome, but it will allow you to write a quality answer.

Next, I will show you an IRAC template.

Professor Doug Holden
© 2009 Douglas S. Holden.  All Rights Reserved.