“Think Like a Lawyer” Using a Legal Reasoning Grid and Criterion-Referenced Assessment Rubric on IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion)

Kelley Burton


The Australian Learning and Teaching Council’s Bachelor of Laws Learning and Teaching Academic Standards Statement identified “thinking skills” as one of the six threshold learning outcomes for a Bachelor of Laws Program, which reinforced the significance of learning, teaching and assessing “thinking skills” in law schools (Kift, Israel & Field, 2010). The fundamental conceptions underpinning “thinking skills” in a legal education context are “legal reasoning,” “critical analysis” and “creative thinking.”  These conceptions shed light on what it means to “think like a lawyer” and help shape a professional legal identity. This paper identifies a number of acronyms used to teach traditional “legal reasoning,” drawing particular attention to IRAC, which is commonly understood within the legal academy as Issue, Rule, Application and Conclusion. An incremental development approach to learning, teaching and assessing IRAC is recommended whereby first year law students use a legal reasoning grid to a simple problem-based question before applying IRAC to a more complicated problem-based question in the form of barrister’s advice. An example of a criterion-referenced assessment rubric that breaks IRAC down into five performance standards is shared with the community of practice. 


Thinking Skills, Legal Reasoning, IRAC, Criterion-referenced Assessment, Legal Education

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5204/jld.v10i2.229
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