August 31, 2015

An Example of IRAC

a guide for reading and briefing law school cases |

I have a friend who just started at her law school, and she was posting on Facebook about being confused about briefs. Apparently her school didn't spend a full week drilling this into her brain. So just for clarity, here's a made up example that we went over in my property class:

Mitzul v. Mitzul

Supreme Court of the State of Denizen
Opinion delivered on February 1, 1979

This case comes to us on appeal from the Court of Appeals of the State of Denizen and concerns the following facts, as set forth in the record established in the court below.

Alyosha Mitzul and Ivan Mitzul are brothers who have lived next to each other, in adjacent single family homes located in Tooele County, Denizen, since 1950.  For most of this time, the brothers seemed to enjoy a good relationship, and much of their mutual goodwill appeared to revolve around their shared interest in gardening.

In particular, the brothers both participated in the caring for a large sycamore tree, which straddled the boundary line between their separate properties and which is now hundreds of years old.  The Mitzul brothers developed proprietary plant foods and treatments and nourished the tree into a towering example of excellent gardening.  This tree won many prizes and gained quite a reputation within the relatively small Denizen gardening community.  Indeed, many times over the years, third parties offered the Mitzul brothers large sums of money for an ownership interest in the tree, the buying and selling of interests in prize-winning plants apparently being a common occurrence in that same community.  For years, the brothers resisted these offers.  In December 1977, however, they received an offer they could not resist, and therein lies the genesis of the dispute at the heart of this case.

The offer, $100,000 for a 50% ownership interest in the tree, would have been easy to split in half, with each brother taking $50,000 and retaining a 25% interest, but Alyosha (hereinafter referred to as the defendant) was not amenable to this scenario.  After considering the offer, Alyosha carefully measured the tree and established that 60% of its circumference was on his property.  As such, he demanded a proportionate share of the proceeds of any sale.  Ivan (hereinafter referred to as the plaintiff) resisted.  Plaintiff contended that the precise measurements were irrelevant and that what mattered was the fact that the tree was, to any extent, partially on both brothers’ properties.  

Not being able to come to an agreement, plaintiff sued, requesting in the trial court a declaration that each brother owned half the tree and so was entitled to half the proceeds.  The trial court below found for defendant, ruling that Alyosha was entitled to full ownership of the Sycamore tree.  The Court of Appeals affirmed.  We now reverse.

There is no question that, under normal circumstances, and under well known property law principles, plaintiff would prevail.  Generally speaking, adjoining landowners equally own any vegetation that falls upon the adjoining land, regardless of the dimensions or measurements of such overlap.  See, e.g., Jesse Dukeminier et al., Property 190 (4th ed. 1969); Locke’s Two Treatises on Property Theory (Legal Classics Library, Division of Grypon Editions 1952).  

There is, however, an exception to the equal ownership rule, which exception is equally well established under the law.  This exception, colloquially known as the “Blond Giant” exception, holds that, if a controversy surrounding the ownership of vegetation on adjoining parcels arises, as in the instant case, any party that has blond hair and that stands over six feet tall will succeed to full ownership of such vegetation.  Seee.g.U.S. v. Peters, 5 Cranch 115, 136 (1809).  The reasoning for this rule runneth to a time where memory reacheth not and is so well-established that we need not repeat it here.  See id.

The trial court applied this exception to hold in favor of defendant because Alyosha is blond and stands in excess of six feet tall.  Normally, we would agree and affirm.  Here, however, the undisputed testimony below establishes that Alyosha is not a natural blond.  Uncontroverted evidence below shows that Alyosha has naturally brown hair but that he regularly dyes his hair.  The trial court, and the court of appeals in its affirming opinion, held that this distinction makes no difference and that defendant wins under the Blond Giant exception.  We disagree.

The ancient authorities are admittedly less than clear, but, to the extent they discuss the issue, they indicate that a Blond Giant exists, if at all, at birth.  Seee.g., Sir Frederick Pollock, English Law Before the Norman Conquest, Essays I, p. 104.  Indeed, no less an authority than Barbyrac states as follows, in explicating the rule: “That whensoever a blond child is born, then shall such child have preference to shared flora when he doth grow to a great stature.”  Laurence Fontaine, L’Économie Morale: Pauvréte, Créddit et Confiance Dans L’Europe Preindustrielle (1975) (citing 3 Barbyrac on Property Naturalis, § 771.45 (1583)); see also P.R.O, C.39/24, Muschamp v. Stoakes (1598) (holding the same).  Similarly, the ancient case of Muschamp, cited immediately above, indicates that “the blond emblem of birth confers the [relevant] privilege [and so invokes the exception].”  Muschamp v. Stoakes.

These authorities cumulatively indicate, then, that any claimant to the Blond Giant exception must be blond at birth.  Here, defendant was both over six feet tall and blond at the time of trial.  He was not, however, blond at birth.  As such, he was not entitled to the benefit of the Blond Giant exception.  Accordingly, we reverse the holdings below and direct the trial court below to enter an order declaring that plaintiff and defendant equally own the Sycamore tree in question.

And here is a proper IRAC

Mitzul v. Mitzul

made up citation

Deciding Court: Supreme Court of the State of Denizen

Parties: I. Mitzul (plaintiff, appellee), A. Mitzul (defendant, appellant)

Procedural History: Plaintiff sued, requesting each brother is entitled to half of the proceeds of the tree equally. Trial and appeal courts found full ownership of the tree to defendant. Trial court applied BG rule and ruled in favor of defendant even though he dyes his hair, saying it doesn’t matter.  

Facts: Someone offered to buy a tree that sits on the property line of the plaintiff and defendant's two houses. Defendant estimates 60% of the tree is on his side and suggests splitting the proceeds proportionately. Plaintiff suggests splitting it evenly because the tree is on both sides. 

Issue:  Who owns vegetation when it straddles property line? 

Rule: Blond Giant exception. If a controversy over ownership of shared vegetation, party with blond hair and over 6’ wins ownership. 

Analysis: Because defendant dyes his hair, he is unable to win under the BG rule because it states that you must be a natural blond. Since neither brother follow under the exception, judge refers back to the original rule that if there is a dispute between shared vegetation, it is shared equally. 

Holding: Judge agrees with original rule of equal sharing and not the exception for the rule because it does not apply here. Judge reverses, declaring that the plaintiff and defendant equally own the tree. 

Related: How to find the parts of an IRAC in your casebook

August 28, 2015

First Week of Law School

One Week Down

Well my first week is over and I think I'm going to like it here. I seem to be in the minority of people who are confident in their notes, because I realize that we're still in the introduction chapters so it's not that complicated right now. Yeah there's a lot of readings and I spend a good majority of my day working on it, but if you look at successful people, they're not done with work at the end of the day as well because they're working from home in the evenings and on the weekend since it takes that little extra effort to get ahead. So far, planning out my days has really helped me stay on track with everything that I need to do. Even with my good first week, I went ahead and made myself a little countdown for when things get bad or the classes seem never ending :) 

New Places, Old Faces

On Thursday I was in the law library in between classes typing up some briefs when I heard someone say my name. I looked up and there was a girl that I had studied abroad with! We've been to Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and now law school together. I was really relieved to see a familiar face, and to also know a friendly 2L to run to with questions. There was a guy with her who was giving me some advice and offered to give me any outlines I needed, which is amazing because my friend Emily bragged that he got Dean's List his first two semesters so I really feel like this was a huge blessing. Despite this, he seemed very laid back about law school and reminded me that if you keep up with your readings, it's really not that hard. He also suggested getting into a good student organization so now I'm pretty sure that I'll join PAD and the Women in Law organizations. One thing he did bring up was this website Quimbee. They both went on and on about how helpful it is, but when I looked it up you have to pay anywhere from $15- $24 a month to use so yikes idk if I'll use this. No one tells you how damn expensive law school is!

Related: Using Quimbee to help understand law school subjects

Finals Time All the Time

While I was at the library, I was at a table near a study room and I watched two different sets of 1Ls get kicked out by 2Ls that had it reserved after their study group. And then they went in there and studied some more! I wasn't expecting study rooms to be reserved by the 3rd day already. Everyone acts pretty much like it's finals time when they're in law school. Not so much being stressed out, all though that is apparent, but just that everyone's plans revolve around reading, taking notes, or reviewing all the time; no one is in the library just to chat it up while pretending to work. And everyone shows up to class and takes notes like their lives depend on it. With fall TV shows coming back, I actually had to schedule in an hour on Thursdays for Scandal so I can make myself take a break. 


One thing that I've noticed in class is that everyone has told us and told us about how hard this is and how high the professor's expectations are, so a lot of people in my section freak out when something seems too easy and are trying to make this harder than it is. Keep it simple, stupid. Sometimes the rule for a case actually is simply what the case said, "The rule applied to this case..." and that's that. 

Stop overthinking it and especially stop trying to impress the professor. He's not going to be like Wow that's such a good perspective! I hadn't thought of that and that makes so much more sense than the highly educated and experienced judge thought of. For example, if you're going over a case for a breach of contract in your Contracts class, don't bother with why the plaintiff didn't sue on a tort. This is contracts class and for whatever reason the plaintiff went with a contract and so in this case we only care about the contract in question. 

Final Thoughts 

In the end, I think the best way to sum up law school so far are my snapchats of a law student. I saved these from my story because if you look closely, you'll notice that they all have one thing in common: books. Because that's all I've been doing pretty much. Which isn't as bad as it seems because that's exactly what I expected and prepared myself for. 

first week of law school impressions |

first week of law school impressions |

first week of law school impressions |

first week of law school impressions |

first week of law school impressions |

August 25, 2015

Law School Day 2

What I Wore

Technically though, I'm considering this Day 1 of my Tuesday Thursday classes. Lol just realized that the problem with having the same classes every day with the same people is that I definitely can't repeat outfits that often. Today I wore a teal maxi dress that I wore on the plane home from Vegas. 

day 2 of law school |

First Class: Civil Procedure

According to my professor, most schools make this a 6 hour course spread out over 2 semesters, but my school decided to cram it into a 4 hour course, with 2 hours a day starting bright and early at 8 am. I'm pretty sure that we're the only class offered at this time because I got ridiculously great parking and the law school was oddly quiet. I love this professor. He's very much into challenging what and how you think and is a very interesting person. He also gets bonus points for giving us a break in between the 2 hour class. Although civil procedure seems like it will be understandably boring, my professor offers good insist that's intriguing enough that I don't think I'll have a hard time staying awake. Today was a very informal day in his class, but next class we'll start having assigned seats.

Second Class: Property

Not much happened in this class because all we did was go over IRAC again. Apparently its a BFD because my professor said we're going to be spending this entire week going over the analysis part since that is what we will need to really understand to be good lawyers. This professor and my Contracts professor do this cute thing where they playfully make fun of each other in their classes so it's reassuring knowing that the faculty here have a sense of humor. 

Third Class: Legal Research and Writing

For this class, I went ahead and bought was seems like the most important book from the bookstore. I still had about $40 left in my student bookstore account, so renting a used one only cost me personally $42. I might still end up having to go back for the other books though. This professor is one of those naturally smiley people so it was a weird situation watching him beam while saying that only one of us could get an A since this class is a subgroup of Section A and we only have 14 people in it. 

Final Thoughts

Book briefing is making me read slow, but one of my tests is an open book test so now all I have to do is put tabs on my book to help me find important rules or whatever, and I don't have to waste time copying down my final outline in book. I also like that with my color coding system, when my professors ask something like what does a word mean or what was the plaintiff's argument, I can quickly look down at my book and see exactly what I need based off of it's colors. I know not everyone like color coding, but the OCD in me loves this!

Read about my first day of law school here!

August 24, 2015

My First Day of Law School

"Wish me luck, Bruiser. This is my first class as a serious law student."

Originally, I had planned to wake up at 7 and finish my briefs for Torts, but I couldn't sleep last night and ended up letting myself sleep in until 9 because my first class on Mondays and Wednesdays doesn't start until 10. I have an hour and a half lunch so I just decided to come home to eat and finish up. I know eventually I won't be coming home for my lunch break because that'll add up in gas and I can utilize that time for reading when those start piling up. And to save money on paying for a locker, I plan to just keep my day's supply of books in my car and rung out and switch what I need into my backpack since I have plenty of time between classes.

What I Wore

For lack of a better explanation, I'd say a good outfit to wear is something that you'd wear meeting up with your friends for day drinking. Look nice, but don't worry about having to dress up too much or be formal or business-y. I think you might describe this as "snappy casual," if not a notch below that. I even noticed one girl wearing sweatpants and a messy bun, and I'm just going to assume that she's a 3L. Idk though, because according to Pinterest, most other schools take their clothes a little more seriously and business casual is the case with lots o' blazers and some pencil skirts thrown in for fun. Although, all of those posts makes me wonder if these people actually went to law school or if this is just what they assume law students dress like, and if they did go to law school then was it recently or has the typical student outfit shifted towards more casual in the past 8 years? Who knows. 

first day of law school |

First Class: Contracts

I rushed to get to class a little early just in case the whole Legally Blonde assign-yourself-a-seat thing happened; however, when I walked into my classroom, none of my section was in there and I started to panic. I walked out and checked that I had written down room 104, walked back into room 104 and like a total first year stood there awkwardly looking for anyone I knew, and then in full-freakout mode I text the one girl whose number I got during orientation. Yep, we were moved to room 106 last week. I rushed over across the hall and found a seat right beside her in the most perfect seat: right in the center of the entire classroom. Turns out I was right in my worrying and we had assigned ourselves to that seat for the rest of the semester so I'm glad I sat where I did. 

Then we went over the syllabus and dived into the readings. My professor used the socratic method, choosing a student per case to go over it with. When one student said that he wasn't sure of the rule of the case, my professor asked us what we thought it was. The next student cited some theory that was mentioned in the text before the case, but really wasn't the rule of the case. I raised my hand and stated the rule and got an "exactly" from my professor. Still so proud of myself like oh hot damn I'm 2/2 in answering questions correctly so far so I'll take it. I was also proud of myself that everything we touched over in class was already highlighted or somehow noted in my book, so at least I'm somewhat on the right track. 

Second Class: Torts

So this class didn't have assigned seating, which is kinda disappointing because again I scoped out the perfect seat and now it's not reserved for me. My Torts professor is super anti-electronics, so I spend the whole class furiously jotting down notes while my professor talked.

A poor girl that was the second student chosen to talk in my Contracts class was the first student chosen to talk about a case in this class. When we saw her stand up again we all felt bad for her, but the students closest to her whispered some encouragement. That's what I like about this school so far— it's more friendly than competitive and the professors seem pretty chill.

Luckily, I don't have any readings for my 3 classes tomorrow, so I'm enjoying a celebratory margarita and finishing The Paper Chase. Maybe it's because I'm also taking Contracts right now, but I like this movie more than Legally Blonde and How to Get Away With Murder because as a 1L I literally know nothing about the law and think it's a little unrealistic that 1L's would be helping their professors with actual criminal cases. Who knows, maybe in a few months I'll change my stance on that. And in the words of my Contracts professor, "This isn't as sexy as criminal law, but it's one of the more applicable are common areas of the law." 

Related: Perfect movies for law students and Favorite law TV shows

$More Books$

The books for my Legal Research and Writing class finally came in at the bookstore and I'll admit, I'm irritated. Why does one 2-hour class require 4 damn books?! I took a picture of the ISBN numbers to try to rush order some from Chegg since I don't have any reading in it this week, and part of me is really tempted to push how much is required. I have a citation book that a professor gave me in my freshman year, and I have yet to use it once. Do I really need a Blue Book? Like will I be expected to bring it and the three other books to class? Chegg only had the first two books, with renting the first one being almost the same price as buying a used one once you add in shipping and taxes, and the bookstore actually had a new Blue Book cheaper than a rented one off of Chegg, so I guess it'd just be easier to get them from the bookstore. FML there goes more money. 

first day of law school |

In case you're wondering, in addition to the above required books for my Legal Research and Writing class, I've also paid this much for my other books:
  • Property- $175 (used) 
  • Contracts- $191 (rented)
  • Tort- $95 (rented)
  • Civil Procedure- $240 (bundle with a required workbook)

A photo posted by Nikki ( on

August 23, 2015

Calming Pre-Law School Nerves

day before first day of law school. night before first day of law school. law school blog. how to prepare for law school. law student help. law student blog. law school blogger. law student blog. |

Some Perspective on Law Students

In the midst of wading through my readings and notes, I keep being in awe again and again that I'm actually starting this journey. I am actually chasing my dreams. A small anecdote... Last month I was on medication that I was told not to drink on. I thought I could drink on it 6 hours after I took the medicine. Cut to me having a few beers later, and I'm in my bathroom sicker than what I had imagined would be possible. I have hair down to my elbows and of course I got throw up in it. Too drunk to wash it, I wrapped my hair in a towel and slept like that before waking up very pissed at my drunk self and washing out my hair. This girl is going to law school.

Tomorrow I am a Law Student |

I also think about this every time I see a run-down law office around town that reminds me of Saul Goodman of Breaking Bad. It's crazy to think that even shady lawyers once spent hours and hours reading cases taking notes on what does and doesn't clarify as a tort.

Staying Disciplined

I've finished my contracts reading and am about 2/3 with my torts reading, and then I just have to work on my briefs for class. So far, the readings aren't bad. These books are meant to be read like having someone is talking to you and a majority of it isn't even that boring. It's just the fact of trying to stay focused on the same task for hours at end. I keep catching myself wanting to rearrange my desk or clean or just anything to distract me. That's probably my first advice for law school: learn how to limit your breaks. 

My problem is that honestly I'm not so hot at the self discipline. Last night I almost just ignored my reminder to do yoga because I wanted to get more reading done, but I reminded myself that a 30 minute break wasn't really that detrimental and if I skipped today then I would skip just as easily next time. Yoga ended up being a perfect study break because I didn't realize how tight my back had gotten sitting in the same position all day.

I'm hoping that through making myself stay committed in one area of my life, it will slowly improve my commitment to other areas of my life. Hopefully this will all be improved once I get my planner this week. I basically spent undergrad flying by the seat of my pants— waking up right before I had to leave for class and pulling all-nighters to finish papers last minute. I always was weary of being one of those people who plan out details of every day, but I know I have to be more structural to survive here.

My Own Briefing

As I mentioned before, I don't really know what will and what won't work for me yet. Being a perfectionist, I actually got slightly stressed trying to categorize my highlighter colors because I want to be consistent throughout my semester, but also wanted to assign the most-highlighted categories to common colors so that I don't run out, and I just didn't know what would and wouldn't be important. I found this breakdown of color-coding your book, but she had just a little too much going on for me. I used her system to come up with my tentative coding below. I left spaces to go back in and add more to my legend as I need it. I've also been using this free legal dictionary a lot while I wait for my Black's dictionary to come in from Chegg, and it's been very helpful.

Tomorrow I am a Law Student |

Final Thoughts

Also, today I took a study break and watched the first hour of The Paper Chase and it is a really good law school movie. Despite my admiration for Elle Woods, this was a realistic in terms of how law school goes down and the pressures of it. 

Related: Perfect movies for law students

I feel as though studying back then must have been somewhat easier without the temptation of a computer in front of you and a phone besides you. This was definitely my problem yesterday because my sorority at my old school had their bid day so I got sucking in scrolling through pictures upon pictures of our new girls. Also, it has the actor who plays Richard Gilmore in Gilmore Girls when he was young so that's a plus.  Side note: on a Mac, option + 6 is how you type §


I changed how I book brief just a little to make it easier as I figured out the info that I need.

  • words that are defined in the case
  • facts about the parties
  • procedural history
  • examples of other cases
  • the rule
  • important information  
  • holding
  • plaintiff's argument
  • defendant's argument
  • issue being debated
  • expounding rule
  • circle any little numbers that represent a footnote so that I can easily find what the footnotes were referring to 
I also add a mini sticky note with a definition if I come across a word that I don't know and have to look up in my Black's Law Dictionary. The worst thing is when your professor asks what constructive means and you go off in left field thinking of something being made when in the legal use it actually is referring to something that's pretend. Just a head's up.