Basic Tools and Concepts
IGPAC, An Organizational Tool
A legal argument should be organized around issues and major points. Within each the discussion should move from general to specific. The audience must first understand the issue or point being discussed and its importance to the overall argument. Next the audience needs to understand the general rules that govern the point and understand how those rules are actually applied in similar situations. With that understanding, the audience will then be more likely to follow and accept your explanation of why your situation does or does not meet the test of those rules and understand how and why your reasoning leads to your conclusion on the point. Using IGPAC as your default organizational tool is a way to incorporate this movement from general to specific within your legal proofs of each key point of your legal discussion.
I = Identify
Identify for the reader the issue or specific legal point you are about to discuss. State it not as a question but in a way that lets your reader know what your conclusion on that issue/point will be. If not clear from context, explain why the point is important to resolving your overall question.
G = General Rule
Set forth and prove the general rules that apply to this issue. This general rule is usually derived from a statute and/or from case law. Prove that your general rule is accurate: sometimes this simply requires a citation; sometimes it requires a lengthy discussion
P = Precedent
Give examples of how the courts have applied the general rules to specific fact situations in the past. (Most useful are examples most similar to your case). Set forth the fact specific holdings or other relevant information (e.g. reasoning or policy) of relevant precedent that will be useful in examining and interpreting the facts of your case. (Note that sometimes there will be no relevant precedent).
A = Application
Apply the prior law (general rule + precedent) to the facts of your case. Discuss whether or not your facts fulfill the requirements of the rule. Analogies to and distinctions from the precedent should support your discussion. The precedent allows you to predict and assert the outcome when the general rule is applied to the facts of your case.
C = Conclusion
State the conclusion to which the above reasoning leads.