Using the IRAC Method on the LSAT Writing Sample

Instructor: Rachael Smith

Rachael has a background in secondary education and has practiced law for eight years.

This lesson will take you through the steps needed to write an effective LSAT essay. The IRAC Method, typically used in law schools, takes a particular set of facts and identifies the issue, states the rule, applies the rule to the facts and comes to a conclusion in order to create a persuasive, well-organized essay.

Of the five sections of the LSAT exam, the essay section is the only one that is not scored. You may ask why is it important at all? The essay section, although it does not contribute to your overall score, is nevertheless submitted to any schools to which you apply. When admissions offices are faced with similarly qualified applicants, they often look to writing samples as a type of tiebreaker. Just because the section does not receive a score, it is important. Make sure that your test preparation includes practice writing samples as well as legal reasoning

The essay portion of the LSAT exam asks takers to create an argument based on a particular set of facts. This section is only allotted 35 minutes, so it is essential that you use your time wisely.

What is IRAC?

IRAC stands for the following:

  • Issue,
  • Rule,
  • Application (or Analysis),
  • Conclusion.

This is the basis for all legal writing. IRAC can be used to brief cases as well as to analyze fact patterns, and is an effective way to take the reader through complicated legal reasoning.

How to Use IRAC Effectively

There are some simple things to remember when you prepare to write your essay. First, do not focus on finding what may be the right answer. The fact scenario is set up so that you can argue either position effectively. Law schools are interested in finding out how you support your position, not which position you choose. Second, it may be worth your time to sketch out a brief outline of your argument. Although your time is limited, you may end up saving valuable minutes by spending sixty seconds to organize your thoughts. Third, although you may feel compelled to write more, you may only use the space you are given. This means that every word you write must be important. A well-reasoned argument can be just as effective in two pages as it can be in three.

Reviewing the Facts

Each LSAT writing prompt will follow a similar format. You will be provided with a short paragraph explaining the problem. Then, you are presented with two options as to how that problem can be solved. Each solution is described in a separate paragraph. It is up to you to pick one of the solutions and create an organized and coherent argument. This is the essence of what you will be doing as a lawyer and it gives the law schools an opportunity to see your writing skills. In some cases, your LSAT essay may be the difference between being accepted and being rejected.

Issue

In some fact scenarios, the issue may be contained within the pattern itself. In some, it is slightly more obscure. When you write your issue statement, remember to frame it in the form of a question. For example, say you are given a fact scenario regarding Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Your issue statement may be something along the lines of, Is a crime committed when a child enters a stranger's home without their permission? Your issue statement should be framed in a general way, not citing specific names or facts. This way, your analysis can be applied to other scenarios.

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