“Successive narrowing” article published on the LEX Law Prep website.
1. Remember that your essay is being graded by a human being. Many people studying for the bar exam get so caught up in memorizing obscure rules and rigid outlines that they forget the basics of writing a decent essay. An essay is not an outline. It is not an unprocessed mass of all the things you know about a topic. Instead, it is a communication between you and the reader. Write like a human being who is writing to another human being!
2. Establish and maintain the correct tone. The tone used in writing an essay is different from that used in writing a performance test deliverable. In an essay, write as though you are addressing an educated person who knows little about law but who can be brought up to speed by a clear, concise explanation. Thus, you want to mention basic principles briefly without belaboring them and then move on to cover the specifics of the present stimulus.
3. IRAC works. There is a reason why the IRAC ( issue, rule, application, conclusion) structure is taught in virtually every legal writing class: it works. Some people complain that this structure is too rigid. But the fact is that you are not writing an essay to become a famous author. You are not trying to appeal to the masses. You are trying to get points and pass the bar exam. Well-written IRAC applied to each of the major issues is a good way to get that job done.
NOTE: BarRev created the ILFAC™ method, because that method scores higher and allows students to move faster. The ILFAC™ method is still the best choice, but IRAC works if done well.
4. Get some points right up front. A one-paragraph “roadmap” of the major issues and what you are going to say about them makes a good first impression on the reader. If the reader knows in advance that he or she is going to get high-quality work from you, he or she is more likely to be in a receptive frame of mind while reading the remainder of your essay. Use this psychology to your advantage.
5. Hit the right stride and stick with it. You must develop an internal gauge for the right mix of reading time, organizing time, and writing time. Don’t get yourself backed into a corner by over-analyzing, but don’t rush into writing without any sort of plan. Finding the right balance is a matter of practice, review, and more practice.
(Original publication date: Jun 6, 2010 (LEX))