CIRAC? Better than IRAC, but still not perfect.

Posted: October 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Mission Critical Stuff, Most Popular Posts, Structure (Important Stuff Here) | No Comments »

After my last post complaining about IRAC, one twitter follower asked, “What about CIRAC?” It’s a good question and it is definitely heading us in the right direction.

In our world of strange acronyms, CIRAC stands for Conclusion, Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion. (IRAC stands for Issue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion.)

CIRAC is better than IRAC, but it’s still not perfect. Under CIRAC, the all-important Conclusion is presented early on, which is certainly a good thing and far better than presenting the Conclusion last, as IRAC requires. But CIRAC requires two Conclusions: an opening Conclusion and a final Conclusion. Good writers know that it is probably not wise to write the exact same paragraph twice in a paper. So, under CIRAC, when we write that second and final Conclusion, our instinct tells us to vary the language slightly. The careful reader notices the slight difference and ends up comparing the two Conclusions and asking “How does this final Conclusion differ from the first?” So the final Conclusion ends up undercutting the authority of the opening Conclusion–exactly the result we want to avoid. Except in a very long paper (say 25 pages or more), you should conclude once and once only. And that Conclusion belongs in the opening page and a half of your paper.

CIRAC also catapults the reader right into the Conclusion, without giving the reader any context first. The human mind craves stories–stories about real people and real problems. So it is far better to begin with one or two sentences of background facts that “set the stage.” Who are the parties? How did they meet? What’s the problem?

Rather than end your paper by simply rehashing the Conclusion, be action oriented. Finish by telling the reader what to do next. Tell the court to grant summary judgment for your client on Counts I and II. Tell your client to change the language in its Employees’ Handbook. Suggest that your assigning attorney (the one who told you to write that memo), depose Mr. Smith, Ms. Jones and Cousin John, but only after obtaining documents X, Y and Z.

And since we are trading strange acronyms, I’ll suggest SICAR or FICAR as the model for writing a paper:

  • Story (or Facts)
  • Issue
  • Conclusion
  • Analysis (this is where the cases go)
  • Recommendations (as in what to do next).

I’ll talk more about SICAR (or FICAR) in upcoming posts and I’ll show how to simplify SICAR (and FICAR) into a more modern format.

I hope this helps. Thanks for the question!






What do you think?