Robert Sand | Vermont Law School, Founding Director, Center for Justice Reform
November 20, 2020
Generations of law students have learned the IRAC method of legal analysis. IRAC: Issue – Rule – Apply – Conclude. IRAC provides a consistent and straightforward way to analyze legal disputes in all areas whether property, torts, contracts, criminal law, or anything else typically studied in law school. The clarity of IRAC informs legal reasoning, the practice of law, and judicial decisions. For all its straightforward simplicity, IRAC is also remarkably reductionist.
Noted Norwegian criminologist Nils Christie writes: “Training in law is training in simplification. It is a trained incapacity to look at all values in a situation, and instead to select only the legally relevant ones, that is, those defined by the high priests within the system to be the relevant ones.”
Perhaps Christie goes too far, denying the power of the law to effect change. Yet, he is correct about the reductionist nature of the law and, by extension, legal education. Human disputes, and the harm at their root, are complex, messy, emotionally laden matters. We have developed a legal system to place a framework around all that messiness and in the process have lost, perhaps, some of our humanity.
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