The acronym “IRAC” stands for issue, rule, application, and conclusion. More than just an acronym, it specifically corresponds to a method for legal analysis, thus providing a predefined framework or structure for legal writing, especially for composing legal documents, position papers, issue or policy evaluation, and other reports, among others.
Below are the specific applications of the IRAC method:
• The primary application of this method is in answering hypothetical and situational questions in law schools and bar exams.
• Outside the academe, the framework has also been used in actual legal practice or other related professions that require issue and policy analyses.
• Note that it is not merely a mechanical formula. More than just providing a format, it offers students and practitioners a logical process for examining an issue.
• A more specific application of the IRAC method is in writing a case brief or a summary of a particular case in both law school and legal practice.
• Other fields have used the framework for writing position and white papers, including public administration and business management, among others.
The Four Major Sections
Remember that the method provides both a mechanical formula and a logical process for analyzing an issue, as well as writing the corresponding details and results of the analyses. The following are the four major elements or sections of the IRAC method:
1. Issue: The “issue” or “issues” are the statements or legal questions that must be answered. Note that there is an issue if the facts of the case or situation present an ambiguity that must be resolved through the identification and evaluation of relevant rules.
2. Rule: Remember that the identification of the issue or issues requires the identification of applicable rule or rules such as laws and ordinance, policies, principles, and ethical standards. In this section of the IRAC method, the analyst must provide a summary of all relevant rules used in the analysis of the entire issue.
3. Application: This section is the specific analysis part of the entire document that demonstrates the application of rules to the particular issues, as well as a justification or logical argument explaining how these rules resolve the issues. Note that this is the most important section of the IRAC method because it provides answers to the questions raised in the first section.
4. Conclusion: A conclusion simply answers the questions presented in the issue section through the synthesis of the discussions in the rule and application sections. Note that it is critical not to introduce new issues, rules, or concepts in this section.
Criticisms and Limitations
The method is a simple but extremely useful tool for analyzing legal issues or other situations that require the application of some sort of rules, as well as for organizing the manner of analysis. However, it has some drawbacks.
One of the criticisms of the IRAC method centers on its purported rigidity. In some situations, the strict format offers little to no room for expansive discussion, thus limiting the depth of the analysis, as well as the critical and creative thinking of the analysts.
Another criticism involves the supposed tendency of analysts to either oversimplify an issue or overwrite the corresponding analytical results. The oversimplification does not work in complex issues, while also disregarding the complexity of a proper legal analysis.
Other practitioners believe that a proper written analysis should be made from a thoughtful, careful, and well-researched essay using a format that highlights the strength of the particular analyst. The reason should be expressed using an open format.