The Law Talking Guy

I just finished grading my exams from last semester, and I thought I’d make one fresh observation that adds to this post from a few years ago. Perhaps the most frequent mistake that I see on student exams and papers (not to mention some scholarship) is an undue focus on describing the law rather than analyzing it.

It is easy to see why this happens.  Description is safer and easier.  When you are doing analysis, you are on your own.  You might make a mistake.  The result is that on fact pattern questions I often get answers that spend 75% of their time stating what the law is and only 25% applying that law.  If anything, the ratio should be reversed (though not if the exam is asking a pure question of law).

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2 Responses

  1. Joey Fishkin says:

    I second this.

    Every review session, before every exam, I tell my students: You may think you are supposed to state the issue, state the rule, do the analysis, and then tell me a conclusion (the old IRAC, now apparently superseded by some fancier acronym).

    But actually, I tell them, almost all of your words should be spent on the analysis — applying the rule to the facts. If you do this in a clear way, you will make it obvious what the rule is that you’re applying and also what the issue was (and, for that matter, what your conclusion is) without wasting entire sentences on each of those things. On an issue-spotter question, what I generally want to see is your skill in applying the rules to the facts.

    I tell my students this, but their ability or willingness to implement it varies. I still always get a few answers that spend the majority of their time telling me what the rules are, which is no good in either an exam or a legal brief.

  2. Steve M says:

    I love Simpsons references.