Essay Writing in Law School


I am almost 100% sure that most people who are reading this will know what IRAC is. If you don’t, then you will soon. IRAC/TREAT is a way to organize an essay when taking an exam. There are multiple ways you could do this but they all get at the same thing. Professors will give you set facts, and they want you to be able to identify the issue(s), give the rule/standard that governs that issue, be able to apply the rule to the present set of facts, and say a likely conclusion.


What is IRAC?

IRAC is the Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion


First, the issue is stating the question that you are trying to answer based on the fact pattern that your professor has given you. The issue can start with Whether or it can be just a question that the judge or jury needs to answer.

  • Example: Can the plaintiff prove the elements of Intentional Infliction Upon Emotional Distress (IIED)?


Second, we need to look for a legal principle that governs the issue. In this case, it would be the elements/definition of assault. The legal principle would be an


(1) an intentional act taken by the defendant

(2) conduct that is extreme and outrageous

(3) a reasonable person would suffer

(4) the plaintiff in fact suffered it


It is also important to list exceptions that you plan on using. If you want to use a rule or an exception to make sure that it is in this section!


Third, we will apply the set of facts that we have to the legal principle. When doing this is it nice to match a fact with an element of the rule. You want to make sure that you proved each element with supporting facts. This is the most important part of the essay.

  • Example: John can prove that Jim committed IIED because the defendant took an intentional act by screaming in his face in front of everyone. This conduct was extreme and outrageous because they suffered nightmares for the last week. A reasonable person would have suffered it and they did in fact suffer damages from the defendants actions.


Most of my professors in long essays like when you argue both sides.

  • For example, you can say it is IIED because the plaintiff suffered nightmares, but a reason person wouldn’t have suffered it and then give the facts to support why a reasonable person would have not suffered it.

The best way to argue the other side is to say one of the elements are missing. This is a great tool because if one of the elements are missing, then the plaintiff cannot prove the case and receive damages. You can also look to exceptions to the rule.


Finally, you need to conclude out with what you think the outcome would be likely be based on the circumstances of the fact pattern.


What is TREAT?

Treat is the thesis, rule explanation, rule application, thesis 


Why do I have TREAT on a legal blog? It actually has nothing to do with food! This is another way to approach an essay question, but it comes up more for legal memos.


T is the Thesis. This is where you start the conclusion first. The answer to the question goes in this section


R is the rule. The legal principle that governs the answer to the question.


There is RE and RA. RE is the Rule Explanation. This is where you describe what the rule is by definition and list any exceptions to the rule. RA is the rule analysis. This is where you apply the rule to the facts in the fact pattern.


T is the thesis. You restate the conclusion, but you should change it up a little.


Essay writing is important to get down in law school. I used to struggle with application. I would know the rule, but forget to apply it to the facts. One thing I have done is put [Rule + because + supporting facts] this is the magic equation that has helped me throughout taking my exams. I do not want to be too conclusory. If I write this at the top of my paper, then it is a reminder that if I am applying a rule don’t forget to apply the facts by putting a because!


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