Part II - Achieving Your Invisibility Superpower

In the last post we identified our goal of keeping ourselves as writers in the background. This is hard for anyone, but maybe even more so for lawyers - we of no small egos - than many other writers. Here's one strategy that helps: Break things down. Sticking to, or at least aspiring to, a particular structure requires thoughtful organization, which lends itself to clear explanation.

One classic method, widely preached by Bryan Garner, is syllogism - a major premise, followed by a minor premise, then a conclusion. You've probably seen this classic example:

Major premise: All men are mortal

Minor premise: Socrates is a man

Conclusion: Socrates is mortal.

In other words, your major premise is your rule of law; your minor premise, a short description of the facts; your conclusion explains the effect of the major premise on the minor, or the overall outcome of the situation.

Even though many lawyers have already encountered another structure - the (F)IRAC method - in law school, often one wouldn't know it to read their papers, so a refresher can be helpful.

(Facts - if not established elsewhere already)

Issue - the question you're asking the court to decide

Rule - governing statute or premise

Application - how the rule applies to the facts of your case

Conclusion - how the application of the rule controls the issue

A twist on the IRAC formula is called CREAC (but don't ask how to pronounce it):

Conclusion - how the application of the rule controls the issue

Rule - governing statute or premise

Explanation - the rule's logic/rationale/intent

Application - how the rule applies to the facts of your case

Conclusion

This method works well for policy-based arguments, which rely on the reasoning (legislative intent, for example) behind a given rule, and explain how an outcome adverse to your client's interest would violate that intention. Further, there's no guarantee in any writing that the judge will make it to the end of your point section or the senior partner will reach the end of your memo, so it's generally wise to lead with your conclusion regardless of your chosen structure.

These strategies can organize any level of a written product - the brief as a whole, and each point heading, sub-point, and paragraph. Just as in most other areas of law, nothing here is subject to rote application and judgment is always required; for example, simply because the CREAC structure doesn't specifically provide for facts doesn't mean one should exclude them.

Any of these organizational structures, or a similar one, makes your logic explicit. Explaining your reasoning step by step guides your readers to the destination you want them to reach, and keeps the focus on your argument, not you.