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How To Answer Essay Questions In Law

Law school exams are where the rubber meets the road. Your grade is based largely on what you get down on paper in those few hours, so be sure you’re ready to go!

Below, you’ll find general drafting tips for law school essay exams, advice on IRAC and IRAC-alternatives, and strategies for spending your exam-writing time wisely and turning out really great answers.

Best of luck!


General Drafting Tips for Law School Exams

IRAC and Organizational Alternatives

  • Help! My Professor Said Not To IRACIRAC is so well established, and so useful, that it comes as a shock when a professor says, “I don’t want you to IRAC the exam.” What is a student to do?
  • How to Organize Your Law School Exam AnswersAlthough it depends on the preference of the professor (which you’ll suss out by examining their sample answers and asking questions), there are some generally accepted organizational strategies that you’ll want to consider.
  • The Elusive Mini-IRAC: A Key to Law School Exam SuccessIRAC, the notorious structural underpinning of many a law school final exam is a relatively straightforward concept. But how do you handle an exam or practice essay when it isn’t that simple? The Mini-IRAC is the key.

How to Spend Your Time While Writing an Exam Answer

  • Copy and Paste: Your Worst Enemy on a Law School Exam?When Lee is grading exams, she always has her eyes out for habits law students pick up that can negatively affect their grades. One of them is using copy and paste.
  • Should You Proofread Your Law School Exams?Many law students struggle with time management during the law school exam period. One culprit of this can be spending too much time trying to make your essay perfect for the grader. News flash — under timed conditions, your professor does not expect perfection.
  • Use This To Save Time on Essay ExamsMost students think their course outline is just there to help them organize the material they learned in class. Not so. A good course outline can also help you pre-draft portions of your essay exams, which will save you time on the exam and help you produce a comprehensive, organized answer.
  • Are You Wasting Time on Your Law School Exams?Almost every student I work with feels like they are running low on time when it comes to finishing an exam. So how do you work more efficiently? Here are two suggestions that I typically give to students to help them write more efficiently on law school exams.
  • Pacing Yourself Through Finals, Part 2: Test Taking Time ManagementSo, you know your material, but do you know how to budget your time during an exam? Read here for some suggestions on how to pace yourself when you're taking your finals.

Strategies for Great Law School Exam Answers

Want some help preparing for exams? Check out our law school tutoring options, and set yourself up to do your very best!

Legal writing is bad writing because it is so badly written. Oh wait… sorry, I meant to write, “legal writing is bad” but then had to “law school” the prose to make it sound “fact based.”

Not a big deal… because how absolutely awful legal prose are. See that! The subject came last and I added an unnecessary amplifier for a misplaced adjective- Get it? ha!

One might ask,

‘Why would you jump right to a conclusion, when you know the analysis is difficult?’

One might also write, “The analysis is difficult.”

Of course… no good lawyer would write such a conclusionary (not a real word) statement which one would assume that difficult analysis lends itself to “not jumping to conclusions.”

Yes, this is the common argument made in defense of the horribleness of legal prose: legal prose is somehow different than undergraduate liberal arts arguments because the legal mind must “think differently.” This is really tough analysis so you must not start with a “conclusion.”

While that is “kind of” (but not really) true. You do have to be vague instead of argue a thesis statement- but not true at all because you start by identifying the “issues” and the “rules” that frame your double negatives “but for” the inability to make positive statements (unless asked).

See that, I am writing like a lawyer! I just made a thesis statement while pretending not to make a thesis statement and then digressed into minutia that is stated as a part of a rule.

Ahem! The issues and the rules are not really thesis statements because they are not conclusions.

Get it?

Never say, “D is liable for hitting P.”

Say, “D is subject to liability for hitting P with a hammer, because D hit P in the head with a hammer, and hitting someone in the head with a hammer is harmful or offensive contact because getting hit in the head with a hammer hurts and/or is offensive.” You say this after stating the rule of course… because god knows, if you don’t repeat parts of the rule in your analysis, then you must not understand the concept.

You must write something like, “C is subject to liability for negligence to J because had C not kicked over the trash can, J would not have fallen down. ‘But for’ the negligence of C, J would not have been hurt by the fall because falling down hurts.” Now, ramble on about actual/ legal cause and add something about proximity/ argue for intervening and lack of intervening causes, for and against proximate causation. Then make the bold conclusion that does not make a conclusion, “C may be subject to liability…”

Congratulations- B plus or better!

See… learn the rules and then write like you are a teenager on LSD explaining something to an alien and you’ll be fine…

Just kidding because I am joking and joking is a form of humor that pokes fun at something because poking fun at something can be funny!

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