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Using Formulas to Help Students Master the “R” and “A” of IRAC Professors Hollee S. Temple and Grace J. Wigal West Virginia University College of Law 2006.

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Presentation on theme: "Using Formulas to Help Students Master the “R” and “A” of IRAC Professors Hollee S. Temple and Grace J. Wigal West Virginia University College of Law 2006."— Presentation transcript:

1 Using Formulas to Help Students Master the “R” and “A” of IRAC Professors Hollee S. Temple and Grace J. Wigal West Virginia University College of Law 2006 Legal Writing Institute Conference Atlanta, Georgia

2 A Tale of Two Teachers…

3 Today’s Discussion I. Goals for First-Year Students II. Types of Legal Reasoning a. Deductive (IRAC) b. Inductive (R of IRAC) c. Analogical (A of IRAC) III.Formulas to Help Students Gain Competency in Reasoning and Writing Part A: Presentation Formulas Part B: Analytical Formulas

4 Goals for First-Year Course Professional competence in legal reasoning Professional competence in legal research Professional competence in legal writing Professional persona in legal workplace

5

6 Types of Legal Reasoning Deductive Reasoning Inductive Reasoning Analogical Reasoning

7 Why Use Formulas? Our students need help entering this new “discourse community” The “Google generation” likes formulas Past teachers have stressed content over form Just like in sports, we have to get students into the right ballpark before they can be expected to develop expertise and finesse

8 Types of Formulas for Today’s Discussion Presentation Formulas Analytical Formulas

9 Presentation Formula #1: IRAC The Basics A formula for thinking about and presenting an ultimate legal conclusion Presents a form of reasoning expected by the trained legal mind This is the “big” formula

10 IRAC Embraces Deductive Reasoning Issue Rule Analysis Conclusion Question Major Premise Minor Premise Conclusion

11 Deductive Reasoning Example Question: Is Socrates mortal? Let’s reason through it. Major Premise (learned rule through observation): All men are mortal. Minor Premise (factual conclusion): Socrates is a man. Conclusion: Socrates is mortal because all men are mortal, and Socrates is a man.

12 Presentation Formula #1: IRAC IRAC Outline Big I/C: Greenbrier will succeed in her negligence action because by failing to provide adequate security, her landlord proximately caused her injury. Big R: Negligence = 1) Duty + 2) Breach + 3) Causation + 4) Injury Big A: “Nested” IRACs on each element Requires I-R-A-C analysis for each element of the Big R Big C: Greenbrier can satisfy all four elements, so she wins!

13 Presentation Formula #2: The Big A “Nested” IRACs 1) Duty I/C R A C/A C 2) Breach I/C R A C 3) Causation I/C R A C 4) Damages I/C R A C

14 Techniques to Help Students Master The Presentation Formulas Emphasize structure! 1)Use colors to differentiate I-R-A-C (Mary Beth Beazley’s brilliant idea)

15 1) Color-Code With IRAC Mrs. Greenbrier will prove that Potomac owed her a legal duty because Potomac was responsible for keeping common areas of the building safe. A landlord’s duty is to exercise “reasonable care” to protect invitees from unreasonable risks caused by dangerous conditions in common areas. Butler. Here, Mrs. Greenbrier was rightfully in the elevator, a common area of the building, at the time of the incident. Just as the landlord in Butler owed the plaintiff a legal duty to protect her from an unsecured post in the rear porch, Potomac owed Mrs. Greenbrier a duty of “reasonable care” to protect her from “unreasonable risk of harm” in the elevator. Therefore, Mrs. Greenbrier satisfies the duty element.

16 2)Sheila Simon’s IRAC Recipe IRAC is like a lasagna.

17 Diners expect (and enjoy) a particular structure.

18 Give the diners the structure they expect, and everyone is happy.

19 Don’t mess with a good structure!

20 If you change the structure, you confuse the diner.

21 Avoid the blender!

22 Techniques to Help Students Master The Presentation Formulas 3) Use peer critiques 4) Music examples When all else fails, keep showing the blender!

23 Analytical Formulas Formulas to help students reason through and write about the sub-parts of IRAC –Formulas for the R section –Formulas for the A section

24 Formulas for the R of IRAC Formula #1: Simple Rule R = Simple Rule + (maybe) Case Illustration Section (a) of the West Virginia Code provides: (a) A person is guilty of indecent exposure when such person intentionally exposes his or her sex organs … and does so under circumstances in which the person knows that the conduct is likely to cause affront or alarm. W. Va. Code. For example, in Randall, the defendant exposed his genitals several times to an eleven-year-old boy. Because “persons of reasonable intelligence” could conclude that the defendant’s conduct would cause affront or alarm, the court held that the defendant’s conduct constituted indecent exposure.

25 Formulas for the R of IRAC Formula #2: Complex Rule R = Rule Synthesis + Case Illustrations

26 Formulas for the R of IRAC Rule Synthesis/Inductive Reasoning Synthesized Rule Particular 1 Particular 2 Particular 3 Ingredients

27 Formulas for the R of IRAC Formula #3: Rule Synthesis Synthesis = 1) What is the rule? 2) What isn’t the rule (exceptions)? 3) Which factors will the Court consider?

28 Example A: Strong Rule Synthesis Landlords have a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect invitees from foreseeable risks of harm, including foreseeable criminal acts of third parties, in areas under the landlord’s control. Butler (general rule); Doe (foreseeable criminal acts). However, landlords do not have an absolute duty to protect invitees from “open and obvious dangers.” Butler. A danger is open and obvious if “an average user of ordinary intelligence could discover the danger and risk presented on casual inspection.” Id.

29 Example B: Strong Rule Synthesis Under West Virginia law, a person is guilty of indecent exposure when he or she (1) intentionally exposes his or her sex organs, (2) does so under circumstances in which he or she knows that the conduct will likely cause affront or alarm, and (3) does so without the consent of the victim. W. Va. Code § ; Randall. In analyzing the defendant’s intent, the Court will carefully consider the circumstances surrounding the exposure. Jones.

30 Formulas for the R of IRAC Formula #4 : Case Illustrations Case Illustration = 1) Key proposition + 2) Factual background + 3) Reasoning + 4) Holding

31 Example A: Case Illustration In analyzing proximate cause, the Michigan Supreme Court considers whether the landlord had prior notice of similar crimes. (KEY PROPOSITION) For example, in Doe, the plaintiff was raped on the vacant ninth floor of the defendant landlord’s office building. (FACTUAL BACKGROUND) Because there was no evidence that the landlord had no prior notice of similar crimes in the building (REASONING), the court held the landlord could not foresee the plaintiff’s specific injury, and therefore did not proximately cause the plaintiff’s injury. (HOLDING)

32 Example B: Case Illustration In analyzing the defendant’s knowledge, the court likely will consider the circumstances surrounding the defendant’s conduct objectively (KEY PROPOSITION). In Capetta, a topless dancer exposed her breasts to patrons and allowed them to touch her breasts. The patrons of the establishment were willing participants, solicited her conduct, and did not leave in shock (FACTUAL BACKGROUND). Because a reasonable person would interpret the patrons’ conduct to signal approval (REASONING), the court held that the defendant had no reason to know that her exposed breasts would cause affront or alarm (HOLDING).

33 Formulas for A of IRAC Formula #1: The A of IRAC 1)Give your best fact first, and predict! 2)Explicitly compare to the precedent 3) Connect analogy or distinction to the expected result

34 Analysis Formula #1: Example A Greenbrier can point to her assailant’s violent criminal background to establish causation. The attacker had stabbed a woman in her home several years before this incident. (BEST FACTS/PREDICT) Unlike in Doe, in which the past criminal incident was nonviolent and the court held that the landlord therefore could not have foreseen a violent crime, here the assailant had a history of the same type of violence. (EXPLICIT A OR D) Thus, because Greenbrier’s attacker had committed a stabbing before, the court is likely to rule differently here and find causation because it was foreseeable that the same violent act would recur. (EXPECTED RESULT).

35 Analysis Formula #1: Example B Here, because Ms. Boyle was asked repeatedly to cover herself, the prosecution can show that she knew her conduct was causing alarm. (BEST FACTS) Unlike in Capetta, in which the court held that a topless dancer would not know that she was affronting men who were signaling their approval by giving her money, here Ms. Boyle was notified that her conduct was offensive when both the lifeguard and another patron asked her to be more discreet while breastfeeding. (COMPARE) Thus, Ms. Boyle’s conduct likely satisfies the knowledge requirement because she was twice alerted to the offensiveness of her conduct. (CONNECT)

36 Formulas for A of IRAC Formula #2: Explicit Comparison (Analogical Reasoning) Like/unlike Case A, where the Court held X because of Y, here we have/don’t have Y. Therefore, we expect the same/different result because ______. (Consult Sarah Ricks and Julie Baker articles for additional formulas)

37 Example of Explicit Comparison Unlike in Capetta, in which the court held that a topless dancer would not know that she was affronting men who were signaling their approval by giving her money, here Ms. Boyle was notified that her conduct was offensive when both the lifeguard and another patron asked her to be more discreet while breastfeeding.

38 Bonus Formula for I/C I/C= Because X (key fact), then Y (legal conclusion). Example: Because the victims were children and therefore legally unable to consent to indecent exposure, the prosecution will prove that Ms. Boyle failed to obtain their consent.

39 Conclusions Mastering legal reasoning and writing is a huge challenge for 1Ls. While no single organizing paradigm can apply to the analysis of all legal issues, formulas can help bridge the learning gap and set students on a path toward professional competency.

40 Questions?

41 More Complex Analogy/Distinction Fact A Fact B Fact C Policy Reasoning Holding


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