Legal disputes are like tornadoes with everyone talking each other in circles.
Emotions increase the volume and add aggravation, making the tornado spin faster.
One handy tool to stop the spinning and get everyone on the same page quickly is IRAC.
IRAC is a simple analysis taught in law schools and used in judges’ decision-making:
Issue: What is the issue at hand? Or, what is the question you need to answer to get clarity on your situation?
For example, “was there a breach of contract?” is too broad. “Was there a breach of contract when Party A did x and Party B did y?” is more specific and easier to answer.
What’s the Issue?
Rule: What is the rule that applies to the situation? What is the law?
In contract disputes, a quick way to find the Rule is to read the contract (and any other written correspondence between the parties). What did you agree to in writing?
Statutes, or “codes”, are the laws written by legislators. Each state has a Code, and there’s a Federal Code. Links to the Codes in each US state are below.
Case law is created when a judge gives a decision about a case, sometimes referred to as an opinion. The decision applies to the specific situation in the case and gives guidance for future cases (i.e. precedence).
Focus on the contract. Find the Rule.
Application: How does the rule apply to the facts at hand? Make a timeline and brief description of the facts in your situation. Who did what and when? What happened? Be specific.
Re-read the Rule. Objectively apply it to your set of facts.
Conclusion: Based on the Application, how would you answer the question you came up with in the Issue section?
If you are dealing with a business dispute, have both sides go through this IRAC analysis together. Be adults about it. You’ll save yourself a lot of time, cost, and headache.
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