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When it comes to navigating the intricacies of legal studies, having a toolkit of Law Question Answering Tips is invaluable. These strategies and techniques are essential for effectively addressing both essay and problem-based questions.
Law Question Answering Tips: Over the years, law schools and law universities have evolved two methods of asking test or exam questions. They are the problem and essay questions patterns. Basically, these two ways of asking questions require a totally different ways of answering them that are different from the traditional ways of answering questions in the primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions.
One major problem that new law university intakes encounter, is the fact that many of them usually have the mindset that where they are (university) will be the same with where they are coming from (secondary school); and because of this, they tend not to ask questions about how well to answer their law questions thus going on to use the traditional or general method and ending up not getting the expected result or even failing.
In this article, I am going to be expounding on the way of tackling law essay questions for the benefit of students. However, what I will be discussing is the general rule which is subject to what your specific tutor or lecturer may require from you.
So, it is advised that in as much as you learn how to generally answer law essay questions, you should pay attention and understand your lecturers so as to give him/her what their individual preferences are, like asking you to write a concised answer or be elaborate, or add this and remove that etc.
Differences between Law problem and Essay Questions
As you may know, Law problem questions are not the same as essay questions. Problem questions are those law questions that tell live stories about the relationship between people and then require you to identify legal issues from those interactions, address the issues with relevant authorities and then to advise the parties on their different rights using the IRAC method.
It is important to note that a single problem question could have a series of different events which are based on different legal principles.
On the other hand, an essay question is a question which requires an individual to write on legal principles without using a particular format like the IRAC method.
Notminding the fact that you are not required to advise the parties or to use a particular method to answer your question, you have to have some mental steps at the back of your mind so as to make your work enticing and arranged before your tutor or Lecturer.
HOW TO ANSWER LAW PROBLEM QUESTIONS USING IRAC METHOD
Just like I explained at the beginning of this work, a problem question is a question that test candidates by giving them stories/cases to solve. Here, law students will be expected to draw out the issues of law in the story, as it relates to what they have been taught in the classroom.
Take for instance, a problem question on customary law might tell the story of a man who beats his wife because the custom provides for it. After explaining the story, students will be required to either provide the position of the law on the issues raised in the story or to advise the parties in the story.
The most acceptable way of answering law problem questions is through IRAC method. IRAC is actually the best because it makes it very easy for students to explain any legal principle with authorities in the simplest format. Below are the things you must know about IRAC method of answering law questions.
Meaning of IRAC
The word “IRAC” is an acronym which stands for:
- Issues – I
- Rule of law – R
- Application – A
- Conclusion – C
Note that if you must answer problem questions using this format, you must have this acronym at the back of your mind. If you miss any step, then you are getting the whole question wrong.
Now, to make sure that you understand the steps listed above, i will take my time to explain what you are supposed to do in every step. Remember, this is to teach you how to answer law problem question using IRAC method.
Your first concern is to determine the issue or issues implicated in the question. This
determination involves asking yourself, what is the problem sought to be addressed in the case?
Example: What is the liability of a master regarding tort committed by his servant while engaged in a conduct expressly prohibited by the master?
The importance of accurate identification of the issue(s) is that it narrows your response to the gist of the question.
Once you accomplish this goal, you will know automatically that there is no need to state, for instance, that “the tort borders on vicarious liability” or for you to describe general elements of the tort in question.
Your task is to focus only on those elements or information that substantively (not tangentially) speak to the issue(s) you have successfully identified. Relevance is the key here. Recall my admonition, “the more you write, the more you expose your ignorance.”
Note that you are not expected to call the names of parties in the story in the issues because they are issues for determination in law. You can only mention the names of parties in the story or case given to you when you reach third stage which is APPLICATION.
RULE OF LAW
The “R” or Rule (rule of law) in IRAC is also called “reasoning.” This is because the
applicable rule of law is reasoned from the facts of the case. As you think through the
problems presented, aided by the issue you have successfully identified, the rule will
emerge. What rule of law will guide the court in reaching a correct decision, assuming the same facts?
This is the question that you need to ask your self; it is also the question that you need to address. A rule of law in vicarious liability, for instance, is that “a master is liable for the acts of his servant, even when expressly prohibited, so long as the servant acted within the scope of his employment.”
Under the rule of law, students are expected to cite their authorities. Authorities here can be cases, statutes, dictum of judges, articles which are related to the issue in question. It is very important that you cite authorities because that is what will back up the rule of law and legal principles in the case.
This is where you apply the rule of law to the issue(s) you have raised. By doing this, you are applying the rule of law to the actual story in the problem question given to you. In the application, you are expected to pick those authorities and rules of law that concerns the issues raised and apply them to the matter effectively.
Always pay attention to exception(s) to the general rule, if any, and clearly outline/justify any distinctions that might be helpful to your argument. By constantly reminding yourself of the issue(s), you are bound to succeed in steering yourself away from irrelevance.
A great analysis is targeted to the issue(s) identified and is judged by the degree of focus/precision as well as the presentation (language/expressions used in articulating your argument).
Finally, the conclusion (“C”). A few sentences would suffice to wrap up your discussion. Briefly state the outcome of your analysis. Where the question requires that you advise the parties, the conclusion is the best place to do that.
Simply tell each of the parties their rights and persuade them to sue the when the need be. Here, you can also rebuke the party in default in the case and tell him why he/she is at fault.