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LW113 Courts and Dispute Resolution Hypothetical The University of the South Pacific

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The University of the South Pacific

LW113 Courts and Dispute Resolution Hypothetical The University of the South Pacific

LW113 (2016) – Topic Notes THE IRAC METHOD
AND LEGAL REASONING
Introduction
Courts apply relevant legislation and theratioof relevant previously decided cases to resolve disputes broughtbefore them. Similarly, lawyers identify and analyse client’s legal issues by applying relevant law and preparing a ‘letter ofadvice’ or ‘opinion’ which explains whether the client has a legal dispute and whether the client is likely to be successful should the dispute go before a court. At law school, rather than having real clients with real legal issues, law teachers use hypothetical disputes to enable students to practice their legal problem solving skills in particular subject areas of law. Problem-solving of this kind – drawing out legal principles from fact scenarios,whether real or hypothetical – is an essential task for legal professionals, whether they are practising lawyers ormembers of the judiciary. In fact, there is not much difference between a lawyer writing a legal opinion for a client and a judge writing a judgment in a case before him. While there are many names for what is essentially the same approach, theIRAC methodis
meant to prepare students to solve such problems.1This is closely tied to different varieties of legal reasoning:deduction,induction,analogy, etc. IRAC
Introduction
Law students will often be presented with a hypothetical situation created by their lecturer. This set of facts will usually involve a potential dispute between different parties and students will be asked to do one of two things. They maybe required to advise one or more of the parties regardingtheir legal rights. Alternatively, they may be asked to act asa judge and make a final decision. Such problem-solving questions can
IRAC was developed by Patrick Keyser and can be found in greater detail in his bookLegal Problem Solving: A Guide for Law Students(1994)Butterworths, NSW, Australia cause students, especially new students, some difficulty. This is largely because they do not understand how to approach answering the question and how to dissect, analyse anddiscuss it. To make it more complicated, legal problems rarely have one clear and undeniably correct solution. For example, theoutcome of a legal problem might depend on whether or not the court accepts a particular interpretation of how the law should applyto the facts. For this reason, good answers to hypothetical problem-solving questions should demonstrate understanding of likely alternative arguments and the most likely conclusion.
This is where a structured methodology such asthe IRAC methodcan help students. IRAC stands for:
ssue(s)or Identifying and Stating the Issue(s)
ule(s) (sometimes called ‘relevant law’)or Identifying and Stating the Rule(s)
pplicationor Applying the Rule(s) to the Facts
onclusionor Stating the Conclusion
IRAC is a ‘top down’, analytical method for organising,analysing,and deciding legal issues. It is modelled on the process that judges and lawyers will follow in their work. Applying the IRAC method enables students to identify legal issues which mayarise from a set of facts and analyse how the law ismost likelyto apply to each issue. With practice, IRAC enables themto prepare accurate legal advice that is comprehensive and presented in a logical way. Obviously, there are numerous ways
in which this could be taught.2
IRAC may appear to be a rather simplistic process where each element operates in an unconnected way with the others.In fact, there is considerable overlap between the stepsand the process is not always straightforward. A student may need to go through the process several times before they are satisfied with their solution. For example, a student might find that they have identified an issue and applicable legal rules, but in applying the rules to the facts, new issues arise. An example of thismight be where the relevant law regarding the issue requires the application of several tests in order to reach a conclusion. Identifying and Stating the Issue(s)
A good answer to a problem question identifies theissues relevant to the problem. If the facts of the problem relate to the tort of false imprisonment, an answer should not include issues Among the possibilities are CREAC (Conclusion – Rule– Explanation of Rule –Application of Rule – Conclusion) and IREAC (Issue – Rule – Explanation of Rule – Application – Conclusion.

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LW113 Courts and Dispute Resolution Hypothetical The University of the South Pacific

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