The Compelling Case for Ditching CRAC and IRAC for UROC
“Lord, please help me,” I pray in my silent school library. Although I’m a pre-law student, I understand that law school will probably be, as my attorney siblings put it, “the hardest three years of my life.” Researching how to best tackle law school finals and the bar exam only reminds me of the daunting beast I’ve committed myself to slaying.
So far, I’ve focused my attention on the essay component of law school finals and the bar exam. I have investigated how to best structure exam essays to score the most points.
You don’t have to look far to find the traditional legal writing roadmaps, known as CRAC or IRAC. If you’ve never heard of those, I will explain them in a moment. But before I do, I want to introduce you to what I feel might be an even more effective acronym: UROC. I first found UROC through my experience as an intern at Crushendo. Adam Balinski, the founder of Crushendo, coined UROC and first publicly shared the structure through a popular tips and tricks video, which was later updated to make even better.
For those who may not be familiar with the old-school legal writing structures, known as IRAC and CRAC, here’s a short explanation. They are traditional acronym-based mnemonics (or memory hooks) for remembering when to write what on the bar exam and law school finals. Each essay will have multiple IRAC or CRAC structures, depending on the number of legal issues involved. Each letter in these acronyms stands for a key part of effective essays.
- I / C – Issue / Conclusion
As you can see, IRAC and CRAC only differ in how they start, as they both utilize “RAC.” The “I” in IRAC stands for Issue, where one identifies the issue that is at play, while the first “C” in CRAC stands for Conclusion. In other words, you can start with a question or a conclusion, depending on which traditional approach you use.
In both acronyms, “RAC” stands for “Rule, Analysis, Conclusion.” Rule identifies the legal rule that pertains to the issue, Analysis applies the rule to the issue and the facts, and Conclusion states (or restates) the likely legal outcome.
So, what makes UROC a better way to slay law school and bar exam essays than CRAC or IRAC? Well, for starters, it just sounds cooler and has some positive psychology hooked to it. When you say it aloud, it reads like, “You rock!” Meanwhile, the old methods sound more like an illegal drug or worse, an instrument of torture (to parrot some observations made in those handy tips and tricks videos).
But to fully explain why everyone should abandon CRAC and IRAC for UROC, we need to break it down letter-by-letter:
- Upgraded issue
- Operate on the facts
An Upgraded issue statement earns you an upgraded first impression with your grader. In just a couple of seconds, an Upgraded issue statement conveys a clear message that you really understand the issue and the key facts at play. You better believe that will color how the grader experiences the remainder of the essay.
An Upgraded issue statement means you don’t just settle for how the issue is framed in the prompt. To borrow an example from the tips and tricks video, an essay question may ask, “Is Jane liable for Bob’s injuries?” Sure, you could regurgitate that in your answer, but all that would tell the grader is that (1) you noticed that that was a question, (2) you knew how to copy that question, and (3) this is where you are probably going to try to answer that question. Pretty much anyone could do those things, so they don’t really prove anything, except maybe mediocrity (which is not what you want to prove).
To borrow again from the tips and tricks video, you could upgrade that basic issue statement by injecting specifics and vocabulary that scream competence, like: “Can Bob recover damages from Jane under a negligence claim when they crashed after Jane ran a red light while Bob was speeding?” Not only would that upgraded issue statement instantly set you apart from the competition, but it would also provide a rough outline for the remainder of that UROC structure.
Now, the Rule and Conclusion parts of UROC are fundamentally the same as those parts in CRAC and IRAC. And the “O” reminding you to “Operate on the facts” is admittedly much like any solid application (or analysis) section under CRAC or IRAC. However, I find the “operate” mnemonic more helpful for recalling what it means to apply the law well.
“Operating on the facts” creates a powerful visual metaphor. Like a good surgeon, you need to cut out all the bad stuff and leave the good stuff. Identify the relevant facts and purge the irrelevant ones that could be “deadly” to your analysis.
Further, good surgeons are organized and predictable. They don’t prep a knee for surgery and then suddenly slice a malignant mole from the patient’s face. Legal analysis should be just as orderly and predictable.
Another important part of the “operate” mnemonic is it reminds you to apply the law to the facts with a figurative scalpel rather than a hammer. This is the part of the essay where you dig into legal nuances and lay those out, side-by-side, with the specific relevant facts. Watch the tips and tricks video for a great example of what I mean by this.
Finally, another healthy reminder from the “operate” mnemonic is that you should not “leave behind foreign objects.” Just like how a good doctor shouldn’t stitch surgical tools up inside their patients, a good legal analysis shouldn’t conjure up “foreign objects”—facts or assumptions that go beyond what the fact pattern of the prompt actually said.
In conclusion, UROC not only sounds cooler than CRAC or IRAC, but it is also more helpful. With an Upgraded issue statement, you can impress graders right off the bat. And when you think of analysis as “Operating on the facts,” it’s easier to remember everything that good legal analysis entails.
About the Author: Scarlett Mills is an intern at Crushendo and a pre-law student at Utah Valley University. If she isn’t writing, she’s probably eating pasta, watching Netflix, or making short films.