How to Use the ILAC Method in Problem Questions

How to Use the ILAC Method in Problem Questions

When it comes to answering legal problem questions, there is one foolproof method of answering these types of questions. It is known in many different names but in essence, it is the same principle. It is known as the ILAC method.

 As Law School Survival describes it, it is ‘…structured to communicate logical reasoning in a precise fashion.’ This means that the ILAC method is the framework that you will use to structure and answer your legal problem question on. This is the best way to answer a law problem question and most lecturers and examiners would expect you, a law student, to use this framework. 

For the purposes of this blog post, I will refer to it as the ILAC method. 

So let’s get started!

But first…

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Table of Contents:

What is the ILAC Method?

The ILAC method is the holy grail for law students.

It stands for Issue Law Application and Conclusion. 

It is sometimes referred to as FLAC (Fact, Law, Application and Conclusion) and IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion). As an Irish law student, I knew it as ILAC. However, whichever form you know it as, the same principles apply. The most important part is how to use it in a legal problem question.

I don’t necessarily see the ILAC method as a framework. I see the ILAC synonyms as headings. Underneath these headings, you will answer a problem question in terms of that heading. In this blog post, we are going to go through each of these headings to determine exactly how to use this method and throughout this blog post, you’ll find extra tips hidden along the way!

Let’s begin!! 

ISSUE:

This is the first heading in the ILAC method. 

I like to think of this as the introduction to your problem question. Under this heading, you will introduce the reader to the topic that you will be discussing. 

In my personal opinion, I think it is good practice to keep this short, sweet, simple and to the point. There are no bonus hidden marks given to students for a long and well-articulated introduction. I’m sorry to break it to you like this but it is true! You have to remember that you are offering advice in a problem question so you need to be precise and straight to the point with your answers. There is no need to re-hash the problem in short-form, it doesn’t particularly add much value to your answer.

State the issue as it is and move on to the next section. You want to show the examiner that you have identified the main issues in the scenario. For example, it could be a contractual issue, a negligence issue, an issue on hearsay or an issue in relation to robbery. Whatever it is, be clear about this in this paragraph.

This is an example from one of my previous works:

“The main evidential issues at play here in Mr. Blog’s circumstnaces relates to Testimony and burdens and standards of proof. Numerous legislative acts and various case law shall be discussed below.”

Another example that you can use is:

It appears that the principle evidential issue(s) at play in Mr. Blog’s circumstances relates to witness testimony. In particular, the evidence to be adduced by his neighbour, Ms. Blogger can be deemed competent. This evidential issue is primarily related to the Criminal Justice (Evidence) Act, 1924 which relates to competency of witnesses per section 1 of the Act. This will be further explored below.”

As you can see, these are 2x very simple introductions that I have used for my assessments and examinations. My lecturer told me that this was a very good introduction as it addresses the main issues and sets the story for what is to be discussed next!

I really believe that it is beneficial to keep your introduction/issues paragraph short. Otherwise, you will run the risk of waffling. 

TIP: Another reason to keep this paragraph short is so that you have extra words to use for the next 2 headings.

LAW:

I like to think that most law students enjoy this part. This is where you will lay down the law as it stands. When it comes to answering this section; there’s a few things to keep in mind. If you are dealing with a common law issue such as tort where it is case law heavy, be wary of how you intend to use case law. 

It is very easy to want to write absolutely everything about the case, the test, the ratio decidendi, the judge’s background, and all of the rest of it. I get it; I really do. You want to put down everything on paper and to show the examiner that you know your stuff.

And I would normally encourage you to do that because you do know your stuff. I mean, you’re not studying law for anything! 

But the saying goes: work smarter, not harder – that applies just the same to law students.

If you are referring to a leading case law, only include RELEVANT information about the case. This could include the background of the case, the judge’s name, the ratio decidendi (the reason for the judgment) and that’s as far as I would go. If you are referring to case law for illustration purposes, I would suggest only referring to the illustrative part of that case only. 

For example: if you are discussing unilateral offers in contract law, the leading case law is Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. [1893] 1 QB 256. It would make sense to refer to the background of this case, to discuss the ratio decidendi, mention the name of the judge and the principle/test established in this case (but keep the background information short – remember word count!).  

However if you were discussing offers in contract law, like an invitation to treat, to illustrate a point, then I would suggest mentioning the name of the case and one or two sentences about the illustrative aspect of that case.

For example:

“In Fisher v Bell [1961] 1 QB 394, a shopkeeper displayed a flick knife in his shop window, which was not deemed an offer. This was deemed to be an invitation to treat.’

As shown above – you are illustrating to the examiner why this case was worth mentioning and it only took 2 sentences!

APPLICATION:

Most law students struggle with the application heading in the ILAC method. The reason is that there is no one size fits all. Depending on the topic or the case or the test, it’ll determine how you would apply the law to the facts of the case. BUT I promise you, with practise it gets a lot easier. Or if you’re sitting there wondering ‘But Janet, I want to know how now’ – don’t worry, I’ve got you!

Now the way I see it is this; there are 2 ways of writing an application: applying a test and applying a principle.

A test is usually numbered, listed, and set in stone, by virtue of its nature.

A principle is usually a statement, you can’t dispute it essentially – ‘it is what it is’.

This is how you apply the law:

When you are writing the actual application part – state what PART of the law is relevant to your answer and keep this simple… please. Don’t try to use legalese to ‘sound like a lawyer’, there is no point in doing that because it comes across like you’re trying *too* hard. You want your application to flow nicely and smoothly. You want to show the examiner that you not only KNOW the law but also that you UNDERSTAND it too.

I like to use homicide as an example to illustrate this point.

Lets’ say the question relates to murder. You have introduced your topic in the Issue section. You’ve talked about the law on murder; so the actus reus, the mens rea etc. Now you’re about to apply that law to your scenario.

Having already told the examiner what actus reus stands for and what it is – there is NO point in restating that in the application section. You will simply state WHAT the actus reus is in the scenario and WHERE the mens rea is in the scenario. That’s it.

Let me show you what I mean. For example:

“Mr. Blog struck the deceased person with a blunt object, namely a baseball bat, 3x times across the back and this resulted in the death of the deceased person. The act of striking the deceased person with the said blunt object may amount to the actus reus.”

‘Since Mr. Blog’s wife divorced him for his neighbour, there is evidence that Mr. Blog had been watching the deceased person over a period of 2 weeks until he was alone at home. In essence, this could amount to an indication of the perpetrator’s (Mr. Blof) intention to kill per section 4(2) of the 1964 Act which is the requisite mens rea required to establish murder’.

You will notice that I didn’t repeat what the law was i.e. What is actus reus and mens rea.

And, you will notice that I kept my answers to the point, there is no waffling.

Plus – you will notice that I have applied the law directly to the scenario without repeating myself.

This is HOW to apply the law!

This is a very straightforward example. There are usually more facts to discuss however, I am trying to demonstrate to you how to apply the law to a scenario. You’re showing the lecturer that you know your way around the law, you understand how it works and you know how to apply it. You’re giving your lecturer what s/he wants. What more could they want?

Regardless of the area of law that you are discussing, picking apart the law is crucial. As I said above, keep it simple, there is no need to use legalistic language. Simplicity is the way to go for legal problem questions! If you intend to become a practicing lawyer one day – you need to learn (and thus practice) using simple terminology. This will come with practice. It can take a while to get there but you will get there!

The main takeaway here is that it is easy to forget about the actual application part!

TIP: look at every sentence in your application paragraph and ask yourself does this relate to the person that I am advising in any way or have I gone too far?

If you are confident that it does relate to the person you are advising, then you’re doing well so far!

CONCLUSION:

In conclusion, I would opt for a short summary to nicely sum up everything that you have discussed above in the law and application sections.

Remember, the conclusion is still an important heading. You might be thinking ‘I need to write the most amazing conclusion ever!’– but no. There’s no need. You’re only summing up your advice and concluding, I always say simple is the way to go.

Now it depends on whether you have multiple issues to discuss or one issue, but I would suggest going over your application section and see how can you condense those paragraphs into one paragraph. Perhaps include a sentence or two on the likely outcome for the person that you are advising (depending on the question).

And there we go – thats’ your problem question done! You have successfully used the ILAC method! I hope you found this useful. Feel free to message me on Instagram or email me if you have any further questions!

Have an essay coming up soon? I have written a blog post on the top 7 tips on essay writing – check it out here!

Until the next blog post,

Slán!

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2 Comments

  1. 02/02/2021 / 4:20 pm

    Very detailed and easy to follow. Great post!

    • Janet Yennusick
      Author
      03/02/2021 / 1:03 pm

      Thank you very much! Very glad that you enjoyed this post!