What’s the big deal with IRAC?
I don’t think I really got IRAC until I started teaching law. Prior to this time, IRAC was just a magical model that got mentioned in class when we’d answer the tutorial questions. I knew what the acronym stood for (because I am so smart! S-M-R-T!), but I don’t think I understood why I needed to do it. I just did it because it was in the marking criteria and I enjoyed following assignment instructions almost as much as double spacing my papers just before I handed them in.
For the newbies who haven’t had the ‘IRAC talk’ in their Foundations classes yet (or else weren’t paying attention!) IRAC stands for Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion. Different law schools adopt different problem solving models, such as HIRAC (Heading, Issue, Rule Application, Conclusion), CRAC (Conclusion, Rule, Application, Conclusion) or MIRAT (Material Facts, Issues of Law and Policy, Rule/Resources, Application/Argument, Tentative Conclusion). However, despite their different acronyms, all models are essentially geared towards the same thing: helping you structure a clear, persuasive response to the question. They force you to order you thoughts and to build strong analysis around a central issue.
So because IRAC is essentially a tool to get you where you want to go; you don’t need to be a slave to IRAC. This is why your tutors and lecturers might have mentioned that you can merge your Law and Application sections. This is also why your tutors and lecturers might have told you that you don’t literally use ‘Issue’, ‘Law’, ‘Application’ and ‘Conclusion as your headings (use the party actions! Ie A v B – trespass to the person). But in your rush to cast off IRAC’s rules – don’t forget that there is a very good reason it is taught at law-school – it stresses the importance of analysis and a clear structure. As an organised argument based on in-depth legal reasoning is a joy to behold, use an IRAC scaffold until you figure out how to get to this Holy Grail another way.
For more information about problem solving models, Troy Simpson provides a useful description.