Since the first semester of law school, you likely learned that the key method of writing exams was to use IRAC. You may wonder, “Is the bar exam any different?” “Surely,” you may think, “I can leave IRAC behind me now that I am no longer in law school.”
False! IRAC is a method of legal analysis and writing that you will carry with you and use throughout your entire legal career, which can only begin by you using it to pass the bar.
You Should Use IRAC for the Bar Because It Helps Examiners Determine You Are “Legally Competent”
Regardless of where you take the bar, in order to pass, you need to prove to the person or people reviewing your test answers that you are legally competent. The fact is bar examiners have an incredibly short amount of time to review your essays. This means that the easier you make it on them, the more likely you will pass. Why? Lawyers should be organized and have an ability to write well and explain the law as applied to the facts clearly. Enter IRAC.
But how does IRAC do this? IRAC helps you demonstrate you are legally competent because, by using it, you provide the reviewer with an easy-to-follow roadmap to your answer. If you use IRAC (particularly with headers and sub-headers, as necessary), the examiners can easily identify whether you understand:
(I): The legal Issue (and sub-issues) at hand;
(R): The Rules that are implicated;
(A): The Analysis (or application) necessary to critically evaluate how the rules relate to the legally significant facts at hand (and vice versa), which likely includes addressing legal ambiguity and potential counterarguments; and
(C): The likely outcome or resolution (i.e., Conclusion) of the issue at hand, in light of the implicated rules and legally significant facts.
Do you want your bar examiners going on a scavenger’s hunt to determine under strict time constraints whether you have everything in your answer you need in order to pass? No, of course not. You want them to be able to quickly confirm you are ready to practice law.
Think about it like this, instead of viewing the bar examiners as the enemy holding your bar acceptance hostage, think of them as your treasure seeking partner where the treasure is you passing the bar. Your job is to provide them with a map to the treasure (i.e., submitting answers demonstrating you are legally competent and, therefore, worthy of joining the bar). Their job is to locate the treasure and bring it back to you (i.e., determining you’re legally competent and letting you know that). Do you want the bar examiners having no idea how to follow your map or where the treasure is located? Again, of course not. This is a collaborative process, so help them help you by using a method that works.
You Should Use IRAC for the Bar Because It Helps You Stay on Track
Have you ever faced a long essay fact pattern that makes your head spin? I know I have. Can using IRAC help? You bet.
Using IRAC (along with outlining before you begin writing your answer) will help you survive and thrive no matter what fact pattern you face. When I faced essay questions in law school, I found it incredibly helpful to use IRAC to structure an outline to my answer before I began writing the actual answer. The IRAC structure helped me recognize which facts were important and place them under appropriate headers. Further, it saved me from becoming so distracted by a bizarre fact that I forgot to analyze an element or defense altogether. I found this to be particularly true when taking the bar. Taking the bar is stressful enough, so use a method of analysis you have been honing throughout your legal education.
Use IRAC When Writing Answers to Practice Essays
Imagine a world in which you have already passed the bar (feels good doesn’t it?). When you meet with future clients, they do not know what law (if any) is implicated by the situation they have come to you for help. All they know is they need your assistance to accomplish their goal and certain facts may or may not help them accomplish their goals.
When viewing your future legal practice in that light, it is easy to see how your ability to (1) spot issues, (2) identify applicable legal rules, (3) analyze the law to the facts, and (4) reach a conclusion are of paramount importance. That is why IRAC was critical and law school and or paramount importance on the bar and when you begin practicing law.
Now some of you may be nervously thinking, “This is all well and good, but I did not form good habits in law school. I am pretty much doomed, right?” If you passed law school (which you need to do before you can sit for the Bar), you have the ability to use IRAC, but you may need help developing your skills and you certainly need to practice, practice, practice.
No matter your comfort level with using IRAC, do not wait to use it when you study for the bar. As soon as you begin writing practice essays, incorporate the use of IRAC into each of your answers. In doing so, you will be in a better position to demonstrate that you are ready and deserving to be granted permission to practice in the jurisdiction of your choice.
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Did you find this post helpful? Check out some other great articles:
- Do You Need IRAC to Beat the California Bar Exam?
- Why Do We Have to Write Out Practice Answers?
- 5 Things I Did Differently the Second Time to Pass the Bar Exam
- Best Bar Exam Tip: Think Like a Grader
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