THE PARADIGM FOR PREDICTIVE LEGAL WRITING: Using “IRAC”
I. INTRODUCTION This handout sets out the basic paradigm, or organizational structure, of predictive legal analysis, referred to throughout this course as “IRAC.”1 IRAC is a general analytical paradigm; as you gain experience in your legal writing, you will be able to modify this paradigm to fit a particular legal issue. Once you understand the IRAC structure and are able to use it fluently, you can decide when it might be appropriate to modify the IRAC paradigm in a particular situation. Understand that an IRAC is not a stand alone legal document. The IRAC analysis is part of the discussion section of an office memorandum. You will learn how to do a complete office memo later in the semester. In law offices, a memorandum of law is generally written by an associate lawyer for the benefit of a supervising lawyer who, along with the client, will make case management decisions based on the legal conclusions (the predictions) the associate has made in the memorandum of law. Predictive legal writing uses IRAC structure because it is a logical way to explain and justify prediction. Because of this, lawyers have come to expect that structure when they read an intraoffice memorandum of law. If the document deviates from that structure for no apparent reason, it will confuse the reader and force him or her to work harder to understand what you have written. This means that you may lose your audience and that your reader may not trust the document as much as he or she would have if you had followed the expected structure.
For more detailed explanation of the IRAC paradigm, see Linda H. Edwards, Legal Writing: Process, Analysis, and Organization 83-100, 103-17 (4th ed. 2006) (“Edwards”).
II. IRAC ORGANIZATION OF A SINGLE ISSUE Once a lawyer has identified the issues which must be considered in a legal memo, he or she must begin the careful process of analyzing each issue separately, showing the reader each step in the reasoning process that leads to the prediction or conclusion. The IRAC structure helps the reader to follow the complex reasoning process involved in supporting a legal conclusion: I R Identification of the issue Rule of law (for that particular issue) with explanation: Rule Statement Rule Explanation Application of the law to new facts (your client’s), including counter-analysis Conclusion on that particular issue
Edwards discusses the issue and rule of law together in Chapter 7. She identifies the issue and rule together as rule explanation. Edwards discusses the application and conclusion together in Chapter 8. She refers to the application and conclusion together as rule application. III. DRAFTING AN IRAC OF ONE ISSUE A. ISSUE (identifying the legal problem to be solved) Identification of the issue The first sentence in your IRAC introduces the issue you are about to discuss and draws the reader’s attention to the legally determinative facts that are relevant to that issue. The legally determinative facts are those that are key and on which you rely in your analysis. Thus, an issue might read as follows:
The next element concerns whether Green had notice of the problem when Brown did not speak with Green but instead left a message on Green’s malfunctioning answering machine. The issue is whether Timberline Stamps constitutes a dwelling, given that the store contained a back room with kitchen, bath, and sleeping facilities, and that the room had been used as a temporary residence previously and was still used sporadically for overnight stays. The first example above indicates that the sub-issue of “notice” is under scrutiny; the second example indicates that the “dwelling” element of the crime of second-degree burglary is under analysis. Each sentence then continues by setting forth facts that are legally determinative with respect to that particular subpart. 2
Identification of the issue in...