A Problem Question ToolkitMost resources about good academic legal writing include advice on how to approach problem questions. There is a common pattern to most of the suggested techniques. The main differences are the number of stages that the task is divided into and the acronym that the author has chosen to make his or her tool memorable. The suggested answers to the problem questions in Land Law are based on a technique known as IRAC: the Issues, Rules, Application and Conclusion that combine to make a good answer.
IssuesStart by identifying the issues that you are being asked to address.
You will find this much easier if you have also been thinking about why the rules that you have been studying came into being. Case law arises out of specific disputes between specific people. Even statute law is usually designed to address a particular problem.
- What are you asked to do?
- What does the client want to know?
Most problem questions will contain more than one issue. Sometimes these are identified for you (for example, the question may be divided into parts). At other times you will need to identify the separate the issues and an appropriate structure for your answer.
RulesLook at each of the issues in turn.
-What legal rules are relevant here?
- What is the general area (major topic, tutorial or lecture theme)?
- What are the major cases and statutes?
- What major concepts or terms do you need to explain?
-What are the detailed legal issues?
- Each main issue is likely to be comprised of a number of sub-issues (for example, distinguishing a fixture from a chattel requires you to explain and apply both aspects of the two-stage test).
- For each sub issue, identify:
a) the relevant detailed rules; and
b) the statutes and cases in which these rules are found.
ApplicationApply the law to the facts of the problem
- What statutes are relevant to the specific facts?
b) How do they specifically apply to this case?
- What cases are relevant?
a) How do they apply to these facts?
b) How do their facts differ from those in the case?
c) How significant is this and why?
- Make sure that you consider both sides of any argument - do not limit yourself to what seems the most obvious outcome – it may not be the correct one.
ConclusionCan you draw your analysis together to answer all the issues raised in the question? Check that:
Be very careful of using phrases such as ‘obviously’ or ‘it is clearly the case that’. It may be obvious to you, but a good mark will depend upon your ability to explain your conclusion to the examiner.
- your conclusions follow logically from your analysis.
- you have dealt with all the issues that you identified (although you may not be able to give a definite answer);
- you have referred to all the facts stated in the question (if not, are you sure that that particular fact is not relevant?); and
- you have indicated what further information you need to know before you can reach a more definite conclusion.
IRAC is very useful, but it does need to be used with care.
This website includes suggested answers to the end of chapter problem questions in Land Law. These suggested answers demonstrate how the IRAC tool can be used to successfully tackle different topics and different styles of question.
- It is a tool for approaching questions, not a series of subheadings for your answer.
- The process is rarely as simple or as linear as the notes above might suggest. Quite often, there will be more than one rule that needs to be considered for each issue raised by the question. Every rule is probably comprised of a number of sub-rules (or may be made up of a number of cases). Each component of the rule needs to be considered in logical order before you can reach a conclusion and move onto the next rule.