Make Your Professors Happy When Grading Your Essays: Three Components to a Great Analysis Sentence on Your Law School Exams
If you are a law student, you live and breathe the IRAC format (or a similar version of the acronym) in your law school essay exams. The “A” is sharpened in Step 8 and 9 of Law School Success Institute’s scientifically proven Nine Step Study Process™ and it’s the place where you can rack up most of your points on the essay exam.
If you’ve adopted our Nine Step Study Process™, you know that before you are ready to write an essay in the IRAC format, you must: (1) have read the call of the essay question, (2) understand the main and sub-topic being tested, (3) jot down a quick outline of the rule, (4) identify all relevant facts to the rule; and (5) understand the significance of each fact’s impact on the rule. After completing the essay writing prep, it’s time to make your professors ecstatic with great analysis sentences. Specifically, your law profs (and future judges) are looking for three things in every analysis sentence you write.
First, the analysis sentence must reference a fact or set of facts from the essay fact pattern. You can start your analysis sentence by saying: “The fact that [insert fact(s)].” Or you can just state the fact(s): “When B punched A in the face …”. If more than one fact impacts the rule for the same reason, lump those same facts together in your single analysis sentence.
Next, the analysis sentence must indicate how the fact or set of facts impact the rule. Arguably, every fact either satisfies, negates, or leans toward satisfying or negating the rule. When you have a fact that can both satisfy and negate the rule depending upon how you argue it, you’ve found a special “grey” fact your professor created to test your ability to apply the fact to the rule and potentially come to different outcomes based on your explanation of how the fact impacted the rule. These types of facts are always (dare we say) fun to analyze and are typically worth more points in your analysis.
Assume your rule is: Intent is satisfied when the actor knows with substantial certainty that the result is likely to occur. If you wanted to use the fact from above to satisfy the rule, you would continue your analysis sentence by writing: “When B punched A in the face, she knew with substantial certainty that she would harm A with this type of contact…”. If you wanted to use the fact to negate the rule, you would continue the analysis sentence by writing: “When B punched A in the face, she did not know with substantial certainty that she would harm A with this type of contact…”. Notice you don’t just write, “When B punched A in the face, she had intent…” Instead, use the full definition of the rule to better articulate the significance of the fact.
Last, the analysis sentence must explain how the fact impacts (negates/satisfies) the rule. This is everything you add after the word “because” or “since” in your analysis sentence. If you want to argue that the fact satisfies the rule, you’d write: “When B punched A in the face, she knew with substantial certainty that she would harm A with this type of contact because B has a black belt in karate and has been practicing face punches for 12 years.”
The explanation in this example was another fact that would have been included in the essay the fact pattern and not a fact that you made up. The explanation can also include: (1) your own creative explanation that is a reasonable inference from the facts, (2) a policy argument, (3) similar analysis from a case you read where the opinion explained why certain facts satisfy or negate a rule, (4) an explanation your professor gave in class when covering the case on this rule or the rule in general, (5) a discussion or hypo your classmates delved into when discussing this rule in class, and (6) an explanation you learned from a supplemental source or your study group.
A simple IRAC on the issue of intent might look like this:
A vs. B: Intent [this is the “I” or issue.]
An actor possesses intent when the actor knows with substantial certainty that a result is likely to occur. [This is the “R” or rule.]
Here, when B punched A in the face [the fact], she knew with substantial certainty that she would harm A with this type of contact [the impact of the fact on the rule] because B has a black belt in karate and has been practicing face punches for 12 years [explanation how the fact satisfies the rule]. [This is the “A” or analysis.]
Thus, A will be successful on the intent element in her claim against B for battery. [This is your “C” or conclusion on the issue of intent].
Easy peasy, right? Not exactly, it’s a skill you’ll hone as a law student and well into your career as an attorney. Make your professor happy by including these 3 components in every analysis sentence you write. Get to it!
For more information on how to study in law school and write good analysis sentences, purchase our book, Nine Steps to Law School Success: A Scientifically Proven Study Process for Success In Law School (https://cap-press.com/books/isbn/9781531000370/Nine-Steps-to-Law-School-Success) or visit us at lssisuccess.com to purchase office hours with a study expert and a learning experience that is right for you!