Unlike exams in other disciplines where non-law students adopt the essay style approach in answering exam questions. In law exams however the law student is often tasked with applying his knowledge of the law to a given hypothetical fact scenario. The fact that you’ve thoroughly assimilated a material inside out is no guarantee you’ll excel in the exams if you can’t apply that knowledge correctly.
That is why the IRAC is to the law student what a traveling guide is to a tourist. Law exams are in themselves, a test of the student’s analytical reasoning ability (after all as a lawyer in practice, most of his undertakings in solving clients problems would turn on his analytical prowess). So more than head knowledge of a topic, the law student must be able to identify the area of law an exam question bothers on, and how the law has addressed it. That is the essence of the IRAC rule which stands for ISSUE (I), RULE (R), APPLICATION (A), CONCLUSION (C).
Let’s demonstrate how the IRAC is used in answering law exam questions using a hypothetical example.
John Doe, a 19 year old in celebration of his 20th birthday took expensive assorted drinks for refreshment on loan from Mrs. Bitter Good. This transaction took place in Lagos, Nigeria, and after the birthday celebration, John Doe has blatantly refused to repay the loan to Mrs. Bitter Good after countless demands.
Mrs. Bitter Good is contemplating suing him, will she succeed?
Examples like these give you only a few clues on how to go about answering them. But using the IRAC rule can help get you out of the tight angle.
The issue in a hypothetical fact scenario is usually a question of law. To discover the issue in a question, find out what facts and circumstances brought the parties to court. Once you identify the issue, couch it in general terms without alluding to the rule of law which we will be dealing with in the next stage. From the question given the issue would be:
Whether a contract entered into by an infant is enforceable at law?
The rule of law in relation to a question is the governing law applicable to these set of circumstances. It can be a rule of common law or from a law of the legislature. In this case it is a rule of the legislature as embodied in the Infant Relief Act of 1874. Now under this head, state the rule this way;
The rule is to the effect that an infant cannot enter into a binding or enforceable contract unless it’s a contract for the supply of necessaries.
In your application or analysis, you will be required to explain how the rule of law applies to the facts of hypothetical case. In analyzing you may start by giving a definition of an infant, as somebody below 21 under the Infant Relief Act, and that since John Doe was 19 at the time of the contract, he is deemed an infant and could only have contracted for necessaries. Next explain what necessaries are and decide whether the items supplied under the contract between both parties qualify as such. Then cite case law where similar decisions have been reached by the courts in support of your position.
Flowing from the issue you raised, the rule of law and your analysis of the rule and the facts of the case, reaffirm your position and conclude ending with a yes or no answer.
Patrick Herbert is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Law Student Hub. He is an LL.B. Law graduate from the University of Benin, Nigeria. He’s a life enthusiast, a budding writer and internet entrepreneur. Patrick is deeply passionate about law and research and has inspired many with his thought-provoking articles. To get in touch, follow him on social media.