(Un)Wicked Analytical Frameworks and the Cry for Identity

Posted: 24 Aug 2019 Last revised: 10 Jul 2020

Date Written: June 10, 2019


IRAC is not the arbiter of legal analysis. In fairness, it never claimed to be. Yet despite IRAC’s confession as only a prototype of analytical structure incapable of providing creative depth—a sentiment that many within the legal academy have readily acknowledged for decades—its dominance still persists sustained by a presumption of innocence. This presumption harms novice legal writers who do not see IRAC’s shallowness, and instead blindly follow its siren of seductive simplicity as a norm for the process of legal analysis. Critiques of IRAC are not novel, but my aim is not to challenge IRAC as a structural framework, rather, I cast IRAC as an overbearing character engendering an identity crisis in legal writing and stunted professional growth and cultural awareness in law students.

Situating this discussion in Law & Literature discourse, I use the musical Wicked—the untold story of the Witches of Oz—as a contemporary framework to juxtapose identity performance with legal writing. My thesis is twofold: First, comparing IRAC to Glinda the Good Witch, I suggest that IRAC is a rigid, objective, and neutral approach to legal analysis, an approach that mimics white normativity. Thus, I question its ability to serve as an entry point for a more complex analysis or platform for Other experiences. Second, comparing Analytical Frameworks to the Wicked Witch of the West, I suggest the richness of such frameworks are truly the transformative process of legal analysis, serving not as an impediment to students’ authentic identity as lawyers, but as further development of it.

Heralded as a cultural phenomenon, Wicked transformed the way we view the Wizard of Oz. Wicked not only narrated the Wicked Witch’s identity from her perspective, it also provided a revealing reflection on the Good Witch’s identity—her privileged life and superficial rise to popularity. In contrast to the tension that exists in replicating rigid paradigms, such as IRAC, this literary approach demonstrates the richness of legal analysis to convey the human experience and make the law accessible, particularly for those who exist at the margins. In the end, the audience loved Wicked—not because it outshined the Wizard of Oz—but because Broadway finally shared with the world the identity formation of the “Wicked Witch of the West.” Her name is Elphaba, and she’s not so wicked.

Keywords: analytical framework, IRAC, legal writing, legal analysis, rhetorical profile, wizard of oz, wicked

Suggested Citation

Culver, Leslie, (Un)Wicked Analytical Frameworks and the Cry for Identity (June 10, 2019). Nevada Law Journal, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3402173
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