Category Archives: Teaching Legal Writing

Visiting Scholar at Arizona State–O’Connor

I am honored to be invited to be a Legal Communication & Rhetoric Visiting Scholar at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law—Arizona State University on November 7-8, 2013.

The visit and my two lectures while there are made possible by support from ALWD through a grant to support the Legal Communication & Rhetoric Visiting Scholars Program.

More information here.

Legal Writing at Texas–a summary

The legal-writing program at the University of Texas School of Law has been transformed in the last 20 years–mostly in the last 8. We had a student-faculty ratio of nearly 200 to 1, three pass-fail credits (later cut to two), heavy reliance on TAs for instruction, 1-year contracts, and exceptionally low salaries.

We now have a student-faculty ratio of about 50 to 1, four graded credits, instruction exclusively by full-time professional legal-writing teachers, rolling 3-year contracts, and a starting salary above the national and regional averages.

Plus, our program is now the David J. Beck Center for Legal Research, Writing, and Appellate Advocacy. Learn more about the Beck Center and the Beck Center faculty here.

Law schools teach IRAC?

I’m reading a book about legal writing that advises lawyers to avoid using the IRAC model for a legal memo:

Many law schools teach IRAC (Issue, Rule of law, Analysis, and Conclusion) as the format for memoranda. (The acronym is not only wrong, it’s also confusing because some schools teach the C in IRAC as Cases.) However, IRAC makes the reader wait until the end of the paper to learn the all-important conclusion. Avoid IRAC and put your conclusion in the opening of the paper.

The assertions here are wrong in several ways:

  • Many law schools teach IRAC as the format for memoranda.

An initial question: what does the author mean by “format”? The format of a traditional memo is usually this: Heading, Issue Statement, Short Answer, Facts, Discussion, Conclusion. How could IRAC be used for the format? The author probably means “organizational structure,” not format.

Another question: How could IRAC be the organizational structure of a memo—a whole memo? A memo has many parts, some small and formal, with little organizational structure, and others long and analytical, with lots of organizational structure. The author is not as precise as I’d like and probably means this: Many law schools teach IRAC as the organizational structure of the Discussion section of a memo.

Now to my main point. I predict it would be difficult to find even one law school teaching IRAC as the organizational structure for the Discussion section of a memo.

IRAC might be taught as the structure for an exam answer, but not for the Discussion in a memo. Modern legal-writing teachers, with few exceptions, left IRAC behind long ago. If any acronym is used in “many law schools” to teach the organizational structure of the Discussion section of a memo, it’s probably CREAC (Conclusion, Rule, Explanation, Application, Counter-analysis).

By the way, there are many variations on CREAC (like PREACC, CREXAC, SLACCs, TRuPACC, CRuPAW, and more), but they all represent the same core, structural concepts: state your conclusion first, then state and explain the controlling legal principles, then apply the principles to your problem.

In fact, if I’m going to insist on precision and accuracy, CREAC isn’t applied strictly to the Discussion, but to an analysis of a legal issue. So to make the author’s statement accurate, it would need to say this:

Many law schools teach a form of CREAC as the organizational structure for analyzing a legal issue.

Now to some other points. The author also says this:

  • Some schools teach the C in IRAC as Cases.

My opinion: Unlikely to be true. There’s a misunderstanding here somewhere, because the structure “Issue, Rule, Analysis, Cases” makes no sense.

  • Avoid IRAC and put your conclusion in the opening of the paper.

With CREAC, that is exactly what you do—put the conclusion first.

But now I must quibble: you put the conclusion at the beginning of an analytical discussion, not at the beginning of the paper. The beginning of the paper (memo?) is usually the Issue Statement. The author isn’t precise and seems to be using “memo” and “paper” interchangeably; the author also ignores the difference between a memo and the analytical discussion that is one part of a memo.

Why did I write this post?

Am I just being snotty and picky? Maybe so, but the author has hit one of my pet peeves: legal-writing experts who don’t teach first-year legal writing, but who criticize or comment ignorantly about teaching first-year legal writing.

This author now joins two other legal-writing experts I know who comment negatively about how legal writing is taught to first-year law students. Yet all three have never taught legal writing to first-year students and all three make generalizations, uninformed assertions, and incorrect statements about the subject.

Venting done.

Wayne Schiess: 20 years at UT Law

I have been teaching legal writing here at the University of Texas School of Law for 20 years, from 1992 to 2012.

To commemorate that milestone, I had a photo taken of my 7 colleagues with me. It is now framed and hangs in my office.

Back from left: Kamela, Beth, Sean, Wayne
Front from left: Stacy, Gretchen, Elana, Robin