Chapter 1 An Introduction to Writing Law Exams 39 results (showing 5 best matches)
- This book does more than simply provide actual student essays. Instead, each student essay is subject to a detailed, line-by-line critique that describes how well the student authors implemented various exam-writing techniques discussed elsewhere in the book. Because the commentary focuses on writing rather than substance, readers can learn certain universal rules about how to write a good law exam essay. These principles apply across all subject matters, which makes this book useful to you in all your classes, regardless of the substantive content.
- Rather than focusing on study skills, time management, and the like, this book provides detailed and comprehensive information about the exam itself. Although study skills are important, they are secondary to the more critical question of how to write a good law school exam essay.
- It’s hard to write an excellent essay if you don’t know what criteria professors are using when they grade your work. Unfortunately, there is no standardized rule about what constitutes a good exam response. To some extent, every law professor has his or her own idea about what a good essay looks like. As a result, it is imperative that you ask your professor to describe his or her views about grading before you take the exam. You can also talk to other students who have taken classes with that particular professor to try to glean any additional insights, although law students are not always the best source of exam information.
- It may seem impossible to demonstrate all of these qualities within a single answer, particularly in a timed exam situation, and the standard is indeed high. However, experience shows that students can write essays of this nature, particularly if they know what the relevant standard is.
- This book helps students with this particular skill. If you look at the last chapter, you will see numerous essays written by actual students. However, these essays are not included as a means of helping you learn the content of the law. Instead, these essays are used as teaching tools to show you how actual students have approached actual law exam questions. Including multiple examples helps you understand how the various writing techniques and suggestions contained in this book are put into practice.
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Chapter 8 General Tips on Legal Writing 85 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Finally, it may help to include a few words about how to format your exam. Generally, you should be guided by your professor and your own preferences. For example, most professors prefer typed exams, although they will permit handwritten submissions. Some people may find it easier to type their exams, since they can revise their answers more easily than with a handwritten essay, but not everyone types quickly enough to make this process time effective. Regardless of whether you plan to type or handwrite your essay, you should do a few timed practice tests so that you can make sure that the method you have chosen works best for you and that you are aware of how quickly (or slowly) you write in an exam scenario.
- Students who use computers to write their exams sometimes go to great pains to italicize or underline case names and/or quotations and to include full case or statute citations in footnotes. Neither technique is necessary unless your professor makes it a requirement, which is highly unlikely. You can put case names in the text just as you would in a handwritten essay. Just be sure your references are clear and be sure to use quotation marks to indicate when you are quoting an outside source. Not only are quotation marks necessary to avoid plagiarism, but quoting other authorities can actually win you points, as discussed in chapter four, so you want to draw attention to that aspect of your essay.
- Everyone has their own unique writing style, but some styles are more accessible and appropriate to legal writing than others. While it is difficult, and in many cases undesirable, to give up your own style of writing completely in favor of another approach, you can and should think about ways to improve your writing. Younger lawyers, in particular, need to be flexible in their writing style, since their supervisors may have very strong ideas about how certain documents should be written. You may need to adapt your style to match that of the person with whom you are working.
- However, there’s another, more immediate reason why you should work on your writing style now. Quite simply, people who write well get better grades than people who don’t write well. Students with good grades get better jobs than students with low grades.
- If the proposed edits address a discretionary matter of style, you need to consider whether to follow that advice and to what extent. In some cases, you need to make the change only once, on one particular assignment. In other cases, you may need to consider making a permanent change to your writing style if the corrections deal with a firm-wide rule of style. Remember, you can learn something from almost everyone—some lawyers are good at writing opinion letters, others are better at writing memoranda of law, still others are better at writing appellate briefs. If you adopt the best aspects of each person’s writing style, you will be well on the way to becoming a better writer yourself.
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Chapter 10 Worked Questions 49 results (showing 5 best matches)
- The preceding chapters should give you a good idea on how to write an IRAC essay in response to either a problem question or a discuss question. However, writing is difficult to learn in the abstract. What students need are examples. The problem with many exam guides is that they only provide perfect, seemingly unattainable writing samples. Students become discouraged when they read essays that they don’t believe they can reproduce. Perfect writing samples are also problematic because students don’t know why the essays are so good. As mentioned in earlier chapters, good writing is often noted more in its absence than its presence. Therefore, there is little educational value in providing a few samples and saying “just do this.”
- As this analysis suggests, drafting an essay that includes all of the necessary elements takes time and practice. The following sample essays will show both what should be done and not be done as you hone your exam-writing skills.
- There is a minor grammatical error in this sentence (a second comma is needed after K), but the overall quality of the writing makes this oversight negligible. It would be useful to note that the UPC approach to unborn children can be followed even in jurisdictions that do not adopt the UPC per capita by generation approach to intestacy, but the author is showing good judgment in not trying to make this one response perfect at the expense of the other questions that must be answered during the exam period. It is important to stick to a time schedule when answering exam questions so as to gain maximum points overall.
- Following is the first of two estates and trusts questions and responses. The first essay was written in the style of a timed, closed-book examination and provides an excellent example of the IRAC system at work. Although this essay does not cite many cases or statutes by name (there is only one named case and general references to the common law or statutory approach), the apparent absence of legal authority is somewhat acceptable here because estates and trusts law involves numerous detailed statutes that cannot be memorized for a closed-book exam. Furthermore, the author provides detailed analysis of several different approaches to the question at issue and therefore demonstrates a comprehensive knowledge of the law in this field.
- The ultimate goal on a law school exam is to evaluate the problem that has been set. However, as Bloom’s Taxonomy suggests, evaluation can only occur when four other skills—recollection, understanding, application, and analysis—have been both mastered and reflected in the exam response. For example, it is not enough that you understand the materials from a subjective perspective—you must objectively show that you understand the relevant statutes and cases before you can build an argument that properly evaluates the issue at hand.
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Chapter 2 Building the Necessary Foundation: Reading and Understanding Legal Materials 28 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Reading this additional material is an excellent way to prepare for the final exam. Students who want to do well should pay particular attention to any hypothetical fact patterns that are included in this reading. Not only do these hypotheticals act as useful mini-exams, where you can test your ability to analyze and apply the cases and statutes discussed in that section, they also help you identify what types of issues might appear on an exam. Although students often feel as if final exam questions come out of nowhere, in reality professors are pretty limited in what they might test. Fact patterns and outcomes might change, but the legally relevant material stays the same. Running through a casebook hypothetical helps you learn how to apply the substantive law to a new fact pattern. That technique captures the essence of thinking like a lawyer and provides you with the substantive skills needed to write a good final exam answer.
- The IRAC method acts like a blueprint to writing law school exams, since it provides you with a framework for analyzing and answering legal questions. However, IRAC, by itself, is not enough. To produce a worthwhile essay, you have to combine the blueprint—IRAC—with more concrete elements, namely the relevant principles of substantive law. You may have a great structure and flawless prose, but if you don’t say anything of substance, then you will not receive a good grade. The best organization and writing style in the world cannot overcome a lack of knowledge.
- The best examareas of overlap in advance if you are to do well on the exam.
- Many professors allow students to bring a single-page outline into the final exam room. This document should essentially be a table of contents to your outline. Even if you have an open-book exam, you should create this kind of abbreviated document, since it will help you spot relevant legal issues without having to search through 40 pages of notes. Other open-book exam techniques include “tabbing” your outline with multi-color sticky tabs to identify chapter breaks in your outline. This technique allows you to save precious time during the exam itself. Furthermore, you are embedding important information into your head every time you work on organizing your study materials, so the mere act of manipulating your outline can be useful.
- As you will see in chapter four, there will seldom if ever be only one case relevant to your analysis, regardless of which of these three scenarios appear on an exam. However, you cannot (and should not) try to discuss every case that has been mentioned in class. Instead, you must
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Chapter 3 Step One in the IRAC Method: The Issue 43 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Assume you have three hours to complete an exam with four questions. One question is worth 50% of your grade, one question is worth 20% of your grade, and two questions are worth 15% of your grade. Three hours is the equivalent of 180 minutes. Therefore, you should spend no more than 90 minutes on the first question (180 x 50% = 90), 36 minutes on the second question (180 x 20% = 36), and 27 minutes on each of the last two questions (180 x 15% = 27). Check your math by adding the minutes together (90 + 36 + 27 + 27 = 180). Then, figure out when you need to change from one question to another. For example, if your exam starts at 9:00 and you start with the first question, you should change to the second question at 10:30. Write this number down in the margin so that you don’t forget it or have to recalculate it. You should start the third question at 11:06 and the fourth question at 11:33. However, it is often wise to build some “wiggle” room into your calculations. Thus, for example...
- Although IRAC is primarily known as an exam-writing method, the system has its roots in the style and form of argument used by attorneys, particularly litigators. When an attorney presents a case to the court, he or she must identify and discuss:
- Do not try to format your exam answers like a legal memo or client letter, even if the professor asks you to draft a memo or letter. The professor is testing your ability to analyze a legal problem, not remember formats taught in legal research and writing.
- Never write an exam as if the professor already knows the relevant issue or
- One point bears mentioning. Although this book encourages you to spend a significant amount of time planning your essays, you still need to be aware of the amount of time you are spending on any particular question. This concern is particularly acute with respect to the first question you answer. Lots of students fall into the trap of spending too much time on the first point in their essay or on the first essay of a multi-essay exam. Typically, professors provide you with some idea about how much time to spend on each question, usually by telling you how many points are allocated to each part of your exam. Always do the math to determine how many minutes you should spend on each question. ninety minutes, you must stop writing your essay to that question after ninety minutes. While you may be earning extra points if you continue writing, those points will be relatively minor as compared to the large number of easy points that can be answered on later questions.
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Chapter 4 Step Two in the IRAC Method: The Rules 42 results (showing 5 best matches)
- When considering whether and to what extent legal authority is required in a law school exam, law students can draw certain lessons from each of these examples. For instance, the fact that law school is built on a litigation model means that law students must respect the concept of when writing their law school exams. While there may be good reason to change the law—and, like the courts, you may wish to recommend legislative reform—your final conclusion must be based on pre-established legal principles, not on common sense or even on logic.
- As you begin to write your “R” analysis, remember the following points. First, students who rely only on general statements of law will likely pass an exam, but they will not get top grades. You must demonstrate detailed knowledge of the law and provide an in-depth analysis to do well.
- This book considers all primary authority to be binding authority, since most law professors teach from national casebooks that include cases and statutes from many different jurisdictions. As a result, it is impossible for you to distinguish between primary persuasive authority (such as a Third Circuit opinion when you reside in the Ninth Circuit) and primary binding authority (such as a Ninth Circuit opinion when you reside in the Ninth Circuit) on an exam. Therefore, you should consider all primary authority to be binding authority on a final exam, unless your professor tells you otherwise. This rule would obviously differ when you take the bar exam, since those examiners are looking for you to know the law of that particular state.
- People who studied the humanities (literature, history, politics, and the like) as undergraduates have a leg up in law school because they are familiar with the need to use supporting texts to illustrate various theories created in response to an exam question. To do well in a humanities course, you need to find as much support as possible for the position stated. While some students have been known to introduce and rebut contrary arguments, the most popular exam model is to identify a position and provide as much logical support as possible without considering any evidence that would lessen the forcefulness of the argument.
- When writing a law essay, be as organized as a mathematician who writes a simple proof.
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Table of Contents 22 results (showing 5 best matches)
Summary of Contents 15 results (showing 5 best matches)
Chapter 7 Adapting IRAC to “Discuss” Questions 18 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Although the IRAC system of exam writing is particularly helpful in answering problem questions (also known as fact pattern questions), it can easily be adapted for use with so-called “discuss” questions, meaning questions that focus on matters of legal policy, legal reform, or legal history rather than on litigation-type scenarios. The preceding chapters have already provided you with some tips on how to use IRAC to answer discuss questions. This chapter will address a number of additional items in more detail, including:
- There is no way that you can anticipate what questions will show up on the exam. However, as mentioned in chapter two, you can develop your critical thinking skills by considering these deeper issues throughout the term and during your exam preparation. That way, when you are presented with a novel question in an exam, you will know how to go about analyzing the question.
- Over the course of your education, you have gained numerous essay-writing skills. These skills have obviously contributed to your academic success, and you should continue to use them. This is particularly true in your responses to discuss questions, since the discuss format is most similar to the type of essays you wrote in your undergraduate career. You may, however, find a few additional tips helpful.
- Often the most difficult aspect of answering a legal history question is identifying the proper point at which to start the analysis. Scholarly articles provide misleading models, since they sometimes go all the way back to the founding of the nation. It is rarely necessary to reach that far back in a law school exam essay, although there may be exceptions.
- When identifying your issue, you need to remember that every law essay, whether it is in response to a problem question or a discuss question, has to build an argument and take a perspective on the issues discussed. A good exam essay cannot be absolutely indifferent to the merits of the different viewpoints, although you must be objective in your analysis of the opposing arguments.
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Chapter 5 Step Three in the IRAC Method: The Application 21 results (showing 5 best matches)
- While this approach shows an admirable respect for legal authority, objective presentations of the law, without more, are nothing but narrowly focused mini-treatises. While your discussion of the law should make sense on its own and should be placed in the kind of context that suggests how the materials will be used in the application section, a well-written “R” section does not eliminate the need for a well-written “A” section. Remember the example of the practicing lawyer from the beginning of this chapter: a practitioner cannot just present his or her client with a list of legal authorities and consider that list to constitute adequate legal advice. The lawyer must explain how and why those authorities are relevant to the question at hand. You must do the same thing in your final exams. No matter how clear and obvious the link between the law and the facts is in your mind, you must connect the dots for the professor, for several reasons.
- To excel on a law exam or essay one must show both knowledge (i.e., recollection of the law) and judgment (i.e., the ability to apply and analyze the law.)
- If the study of law simply involved the determination of a single, objectively correct answer, then there would be no need for essays: a single sentence (“Jim is liable”) would be sufficient. However, you know that if you submitted a single sentence like that in an exam scenario, not only would you fail to earn a high grade, you would most likely fail to pass the exam, even if the
- important word in a law school exam is
- The preceding chapter discussed how to identify the rule in the IRAC method of legal essay writing and how to present legal analysis in a concise and logical manner. Up until this point, you have not explicitly referred to the facts of the case but have instead focused on identifying the issue and relevant sub-issues and setting forth the applicable legal authorities. Now, in the third part of your essay, you can begin to bring the specific facts of your question into your essay. This is also the section where you can demonstrate some originality in your thinking and writing style, since this is where you attempt to persuade the reader of your argument. Although the “R” portion of the essay is, in many ways, the most important, since it demonstrates your knowledge of the materials presented during your course, the “A” portion comes a close second, since a properly written evaluation of the facts in light of the law demonstrates your legal judgment.
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Chapter 9 Adapting IRAC for Professional Practice 28 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Earlier chapters discussed the use of footnotes and case citations in law school exam essays. The suggestion there was that you did not need to include either footnotes or full case citations in an exam scenario unless your instructor required you to do so. The brevity of academic essays, as well as the problems associated with remembering case names in an examination scenario, removed the need to use formal citation methods.
- As discussed earlier in this chapter, identifying the question is an important feature of nearly every written assignment you will receive in practice. Going through the analysis can take some time and effort, but once you have figured out what the question is, the hard work is done. Once you have identified the question, writing up your answer is almost mechanical in its simplicity.
- When drafting exam answers using the IRAC system, you demonstrated legal judgment not only by what you included in your essay, but by what you excluded. The same is true in practice.
- This chapter has focused on issues that arise in professional practice. However, you cannot enter practice without completing law school and passing a state bar exam. Therefore, the following chapter will provide detailed comments on student essays to further solidify your understanding of the basic IRAC method.
- The logistical purpose of a written document can be determined by its role in the litigation or transaction. For example, the logistical reason for writing a letter may be to respond to another letter. An attendance note may be created to summarize the content of a telephone call or in-person meeting, and a memorandum of law may be meant to answer a particular question given to you by a senior lawyer. It is good practice to identify the logistical purpose of your document at the outset so that your reader understands what you are doing and why. This technique may seem unnecessarily pedantic at first, but you will see how useful it is when you look back at a piece of your writing two years later, with fresh eyes. The clarity of this approach will amaze you.
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Chapter 6 Step Four in the IRAC Method: The Conclusion 20 results (showing 5 best matches)
- Once you get to the writing stage, you should aim to use one sentence to describe the legal outcome of the dispute. For example, in a tort case, you might write, “For the reasons mentioned above, Joe will fail in his claim of negligence but will prevail on his claim of nuisance, and will receive compensatory damages equal to the cost of his damaged rhododendrons.” One sentence should be enough.
- How you ultimately decide the legal issues in your exam or essay is far less important than how you arrived at your decision.
- Law exams test your judgment and discretion as well as your knowledge of the law.
- If this happens, don’t worry. While your goal is to be as organized as you can be before you start writing, the process of writing often clarifies your points for you in an entirely new way. Your shift in perspective will probably be visible in your writing, which is objective (i.e., non-biased) but which still takes a view as to the weight of the opposing arguments. However, because you have begun your essay with a discussion of the basic principles of law that are applicable to the situation (the “R” step), you should be able to make a mid-course correction in the “A” step without too many problems. In any event, there is no shame in changing your mind. If you suddenly recall a new case or realize that you misread the question, it is better to say so than to hold firm to an indefensible point out of a misplaced sense of pride or the fear that any sort of waffling will undermine your argument.
- Using the IRAC method helps you write powerful essays, but there is more you need to do to get high grades. As important as structure and content are, style also plays a role in a persuasive legal argument. Although they may seem trivial, spelling or grammatical errors can detract from an otherwise persuasive essay and pull you down from a high grade to an average grade. By the time you move into the working world, you are expected to have mastered the art of writing. Although you can always ask the advice of your supervisors, your peers, and your assistants, you cannot expect them to proofread every piece of writing you produce. You are responsible for your work and must know the basic rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling. While there are entire books devoted to this subject, chapter eight will give you some tips in these areas. Before moving to that discussion, however, we will address the second type of law essay: the response to the “discuss” question.
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Index 22 results (showing 5 best matches)
Preface 1 result
- Legal writing is deeply influenced by the demands of legal practice, and I want to acknowledge the advice and guidance I received in practice. In particular, I would like to thank former colleagues in the New York and London offices of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and the Chicago office of Baker & McKenzie LLP.
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- Publication Date: September 14th, 2020
- ISBN: 9781647080990
- Subject: Academic Success
- Series: Academic and Career Success
- Type: Academic/Prof. Development
Written for every law student who ever wondered how to get better grades in law school, How to Write Law Exams: IRAC Perfected provides students of all levels with a detailed, comprehensive, and practical guide to success on law school exams. What’s more, How to Write Law Exams applies equally to all subject matters, making this text an ideal supplement for every law school course.
- Focuses on law school and bar exams rather than the kind of assignments seen in legal writing class. As such, the book helps students improve their grades in all of their substantive courses, not just in their first year legal writing class.
- Provides readers with a proven and easy-to-implement means of maximizing points on a law school exam. Rather than repeating vague generalities about grammar and style or providing simple bullet-point lists as other writing guides do, this text breaks the well-known IRAC method of legal writing into comprehensible segments and gives students the tools needed to master their law exams.
- Provides readers with detailed student-written examples of the IRAC method in action. Annotated with line-by-line critiques, these sample essays show readers exactly what can go wrong in a law school exam and how to fix those problems before they appear on a graded paper.
Combining in-depth analysis, easy-to-understand writing, and innovative design features, How to Write Law Exams: IRAC Perfected is the answer to every law student’s exam questions.