IRAC (legal writing)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

judge doing paperwork
IRAC (issue, rule, analysis, conclusion) can serve as a useful guide to doing legal analysis, but keep in mind that it's only a guide, not a rigid formula. (Paul Bradbury/Getty Images)

Definition

IRAC is an acronym for issue, rule (or relevant law), application (or analysis), and conclusion: a method used in composing certain legal documents and reports.

William H. Putman describes IRAC as "a structured approach to problem solving. The IRAC format, when followed in the preparation of a legal memorandum, helps ensure the clear communication of the complex subject matter of legal issue analysis" (Legal Research, Analysis and Writing, 2010).

Pronunciation

I-rak

Examples and Observations

"IRAC is not a mechanical formula, but simply a common sense approach to analyzing a legal issue. Before a student can analyze a legal issue, of course, they have to know what the issue is. Thus, logically, step one in the IRAC methodology is to identify the issue (I). Step two is to state the relevant rule(s) of law that will apply in resolving the issue (R). Step three is to apply those rules to the facts of the question--that is, to 'analyze' the issue (A). Step four is to offer a conclusion as to the most likely result (C)."

(Andrew McClurg, 1L of a Ride: A Well-Traveled Professor's Roadmap to Success in the First Year of Law School, 2nd ed. West Academic Publishing, 2013)

Sample IRAC Paragraph

- "(I) Whether a bailment for the mutual benefit of Rough & Touch and Howard existed. (R) A pawn is a form of bailment, made for the mutual benefit of bailee and bailor, arising when goods are delivered to another as a pawn for security to him on money borrowed by the bailor.

Jacobs v. Grossman, 141 N.E. 714, 715 (III. App.Ct. 1923). In Jacobs, the court found that a bailment for mutual benefit did arise because the plaintiff pawned a ring as collateral for a $70 loan given to him by the defendant. Id. (A) In our problem, Howard pawned her ring as collateral to secure an $800 loan given to her by Rough & Tough.

(C) Therefore, Howard and Rough & Tough probably created a bailment for mutual benefit."

(Hope Viner Samborn and Andrea B. Yelin, Basic Legal Writing for Paralegals, 3rd ed. Aspen, 2010)

- "When faced with a fairly simple legal problem, all the IRAC elements may fit into a single paragraph. At other times you may want to divide the IRAC elements. For example, you might wish to set out the issue and the rule of law in one paragraph, the analysis for the plaintiff in a second paragraph, and the analysis for the defendant and your conclusion in a third paragraph, and the transitional phrase or sentence in the first sentence of yet a fourth paragraph."

(Katherine A. Currier and Thomas E. Eimermann, Introduction to Paralegal Studies: A Critical Thinking Approach, 4th ed. Asen, 2010)

The Relationship Between IRAC and Court Opinions

"IRAC stands for the components of legal analysis: issue, rule, application, and conclusion. What is the relationship between IRAC (or its variations . . .) and a court opinion? Judges certainly provide legal analysis in their opinions. Do the judges follow IRAC? Yes they do, although often in highly stylized formats. In almost every court opinion, judges:

- identify the legal issues to be resolved (the I of IRAC);

- interpret statutes and other rules (the R of IRAC);

- provide reasons why the rules do or do not apply to the facts (the A of IRAC); and

- conclude by answering the legal issues through holdings and a disposition (the C of IRAC).

Each issue in the opinion goes through this process. A judge may not use all of the language of IRAC, may use different versions of IRAC, and may discuss the components of IRAC in a different order. Yet IRAC is the heart of the opinion. It is what opinions do: they apply rules to facts to resolve legal issues."

(William P. Statsky, Essentials of Paralegalism, 5th ed. Delmar, 2010)

Alternative Format: CREAC

"The IRAC formula . . . envisions a time-pressured exam answer . . ..

"But what's rewarded in law-school exams tends not to be rewarded in real-life writing. So the coveted IRAC mantra . . . will produce mediocre to worse results in memo-writing and brief-writing. Why? Because if you were to write a one-issue memo using the IRAC organization, you wouldn't reach the conclusion--the answer to the issue--until the end.

. . .

"Knowing this, some legal-writing professors recommend another strategy for writing you do after law school. They call it CREAC, which stands for conclusion-rule-elaboration-application (of the rule to the facts)-conclusion (restated). Although you'd probably be penalized for that organizational strategy on most law exams, it's actually superior to IRAC for other types of writing. But it, too, has a serious shortcoming: Because it doesn't really pose an issue, it presents a conclusion to an unknown problem."

(Bryan A. Garner, Garner on Language and Writing. American Bar Association, 2009)

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "IRAC (legal writing)." ThoughtCo, Mar. 6, 2017, thoughtco.com/irac-legal-writing-1691083. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, March 6). IRAC (legal writing). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/irac-legal-writing-1691083 Nordquist, Richard. "IRAC (legal writing)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/irac-legal-writing-1691083 (accessed January 17, 2018).