Tips On Outlining Essay Answers – Analysis & Conclusion
The California Desert Trial Academy focuses on providing an academic experience that emphasizes a practical approach to becoming a lawyer. We believe this is the most efficient and expedient pathway to a successful and rewarding legal career. At CDTA, we train, educate, and develop students to be exceptional attorneys and trial advocates.
It’s obvious that law students want to get the most points out of every essay question on a law exam. They also want to do it as expediently and efficiently as possible. Wasting time on a question reduces any time remaining to review, revise, and correct prior finished questions. Outlining an answer to an essay question is a good way to improve any law student’s test-taking proficiency.
Without entirely discounting the conclusion, the analysis is the most important component of a law exam answer since here is where examinees “apply the law to the facts.” An important tip for improving an IRAC-styled answer from average to excellent is to develop the analysis by presenting well-structured arguments on behalf of both sides (i.e., plaintiff-defendant, if applicable) for each issue spotted.
Ask the following questions:
- “What would the Plaintiff argue?”
- “What would the Defendant argue?”
This removes an essay answer from the IRAC format since the analysis entails more than just the law’s application to the facts. Rather, the answer is now presented as arguing and analyzing both the plaintiff’s case and the defendant’s case.
Next, make every reasonable argument possible and include any reasonable creative arguments. Then make a statement as to which side of the issue has a better argument citing specific facts from the question’s details.
Arguments may be shaped using and combining the following strategic formats.
- Argue that the facts should be interpreted one way or another
- Argue that the law should be interpreted one way or the other
- Cite policy reasons for why the case should resolve one way or another
- Argue that question should apply the traditional rule instead of the model rule (or vice versa)
- Argue that the common law rule should be applied instead of the statute (or vice versa)
- Argue that the majority rule should be applied instead of the minority rule (or vice versa)
- Argue that the holding in one case should be followed rather than the holding in a different case.
Any arguments must consider what the course’s professor emphasized in class, whether contradictory rulings in two different cases or a focus on common law vs. statutory law, majority view vs. minority view, etc.
Finally, make a statement as to which party is more likely to prevail with an explanation of the underlying reasoning. The conclusion answers the question, “Who has the better legal argument?” This conclusion is not as crucial as the analysis.
A conclusion must not be too inconclusive, i.e. “It depends on the view of the court.” After all, an inconclusive “conclusion” is not a conclusion! Just the same, a conclusion should not be too decisive (i.e. “The plaintiff will definitely prevail” or “The Defendant has no legal argument.”). It is a good strategy to avoid extremely strong words or phrases unless they are factually appropriate. Good usable keywords for a conclusion are “probably” and “most likely.”
The key to mastering law exam essay questions is practice. This will improve issue-spotting, analytical, and reasoning skills that should culminate with exceptional readiness for the bar exam.
Like traditional law schools, CDTA’s curriculum is designed to teach students the substantive law of core subject areas. Unlike traditional law schools, CDTA emphasizes training and developing students to be capable and competent advocates in any courtroom. The California Desert Trial Academy is a 21st Century law school that moves students toward a successful legal career on the first day of class. We believe that practical experience in tandem with legal knowledge is the best road to a successful, rewarding, and prosperous legal career. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.