Law School Exam Drafting Theories: Which to Follow

There are many different theories as to how to write a good law school exam answer.  Different resources are going to tell you different ways to write an exam answer.  That’s not what I am going to do.  If there was one certain methodological way to write a law school exam that would make a “good law school exam answer,” we would all inevitably be able to write good law school exam answers.  If we all were able to write good law school exams, then we would all be able to do well in law school, right?  Unfortunately, there is no formula for every exam that will make your law school exam answer, a good law school exam answer. 

Know Your Professor

Whether your law school exam answer is a good law school exam answer is going to depend on what your professor thinks is a good law school exam answer.  Therefore, while I will tell you a general way to approach law school exams below, I am going to tell you that in order to find out how to write a good law school exam answer, you are going to ask your professor what he or she wants!  That’s the answer to writing a good law school exam answer.  

Ask your professor if he or she has any past exams (back exams) that allow you to see how the professor structures questions.  Then, practice, practice, practice.  Try drafting an answer to your law professor’s back exam and ask your professor if he or she is willing to give feedback.  Most law professors are more than happy to provide feedback if you take the time and effort to complete one of their previous exams. 

Now that I Have a Practice Exam in Front of Me, Where Do I Start? 

Well, inevitably, you’ve heard of IRAC.  If you haven’t, IRAC is an acronym for Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion.  This is the general format many professors look for in a good exam answer.  However, I obtained one tip from Barbri that I also found helpful, but I am going to make a tweak.  In front of the “I” add a “D” for Dispute.  Once you know what the dispute is within the fact pattern, you will be able to spot all the mini issues within the facts.  

Professors want to make sure that you are able to spot the issues within a fact pattern, know what rule(s) apply to the issue, know how to apply/analyze the rule along with the facts presented, and then be able to draw a conclusion.  Typically, the most important aspect of IRAC is the analysis, for your professors what to see that you know how to apply a rule to the facts given. 

The biggest problem I have in law school is writing too much about one issue.  Most law school exams will contain multiple issues, and it is your job to pull out all the issues in the fact pattern.  One strategy I would recommend is to read through the fact pattern and spot all the issues you see.  Then, I would split up your time to make sure you spend enough time analyzing each issue.  If your professor spent more time about one issue than another during your course, spend more time on this issue.  If you spend all your time on the first issue you spot, you are likely to lose points on your exam due to not spending enough time on the other issues.  

What is a Good Conclusion for a Good Law School Exam Answer 

Most professors will tell you that they do not care whether you side with the plaintiff or the defendant in a law school exam answer.  Often times, there is not a right or wrong conclusion because courts have  not yet decided the exact issues with the specific fact pattern presented.  Typically, you will want to write a brief conclusion, five sentences at most, laying out how you think the court would rule and why. 

Maximizing Points

In closing, I would like to leave you with one tip to maximize your points on a law school exam.  Look at what the plaintiff would argue and what the defendant would argue.  Even if it appears as though one side has a better argument than the other, write out what both sides would argue.  Professors typically like to see that you have considered both sides of the argument and are drawing a rational conclusion considering all the arguments for both sides.  After all, when you are a lawyer you are going to have to think ahead of time what the opposing party is going to argue in order to make a strong case!  

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