Law School Discussion

How to write an excellent issue statement

How to write an excellent issue statement
« on: January 11, 2010, 06:38:56 PM »
Whether you’re a 1L, 2L, or 3L, the majority of students don’t know how to write an excellent issue statement on their essay exams.  It’s critical that you learn how, because your ability to immediately demonstrate that you fully understand the issue is approximately 70% of your grade.  Remember:  your professor will only spend 3-5 minutes grading your essay answer.  It’s therefore crucial that you immediately show him or her that you’ve “got it”.

Your issue statement will be the first sentence for each issue you write about (each issue generally consists of one paragraph), and this one sentence must include three elements: Objective, Rule and Fact.

Examine this hypothetical:

An old man is walking down the sidewalk using his cane.  A young punk intentionally kicks the cane, causing the man to fall and break his nose.  Discuss.

The Objective is your purpose in analyzing the fact pattern.  In other words, what are you ultimately trying to prove?  Answer:  Whether the young punk is liable for a battery.  “Battery” is your Objective and that word must be included in your one sentence issue statement.

The Rule that you’ll use, will be one of the elements of a battery.  For purposes of this brief illustration, let’s consider a battery to have six elements.  Your ability to work through and identify the relevant element, demonstrates to your professor that you can “think in a lawyer-like manner”:

1.  Intentional.  There’s no reason to discuss this element in your issue statement, because the facts state that the punk intentionally kicked the cane.  Don’t spend time discussing “intentional” – it’s simply not in dispute.  Move on to analyze the next element.

2.  Harmful.  “Harmful” is not in contention.  The old man broke his nose.  Move on.

3.  Offensive.  Again, the old man broke his nose.  This is undisputable.  Spend no time discussing whether the act was “offensive”.

4.  Touching of Another.  Hmmm … this is interesting, because the punk kicked the man’s cane and not his person.  Put this on hold for a moment and continue working through the remaining elements.

5.  Unconsented.  There’s no fact that suggests the man consented to have his cane kicked.  Don’t waste time discussing this element.

6.  Privileged.  Again, there’s no fact that suggests the punk had a privilege (like a police officer might) to kick the cane.  Therefore, “privileged” is not an element that warrants discussion in your one sentence issue statement.

This leaves you with “Touching of Another” as the only element that leaves any room for discussion.  Touching of Another will be the Rule that you will include in your issue statement.

The Fact that is applicable is obvious:  “kicks the cane” is the one Fact that triggers the Rule (touching of another) that leads directly to the Objective (battery). 

Your one sentence issue statement then becomes:

“The issue is whether the punk is liable for battery [Objective] because he touched another [Rule] by kicking the man’s cane [Fact].“

Knowing how to properly state an issue is crucial to your essay answer grade.  Done properly, it leaps off the page and your professor instantly knows that you fully understand the problem.

If you’d like more information on this topic, then click below to watch a short video that further illustrates this methodology.


Re: How to write an excellent issue statement
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2010, 06:33:30 PM »
WOW! This is fantastic. I wish my professors had taught me this before I took my first exam. Thank you so much!

Re: How to write an excellent issue statement
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2010, 09:59:40 PM »
I struggled in my first semester essay exams because I never completely understood how to state an issue (embarrassing, I know).  Thamk you for explaining this method in plain-english. I'm going to practice this until it becomes second nature.  Why didn't my professors teach this?  Thanks so much.  P.S. your video was very helpful.

Re: How to write an excellent issue statement
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2010, 01:45:41 AM »
What a great find!  The information provided on this site is extremely valuable and insightful.  The video presentation was easy to follow and provided step by step instruction that I feel I can readily apply when writing my essay exams.  I will definately share this site with others.


Re: How to write an excellent issue statement
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2010, 01:50:47 PM »
An approach that has been successful for me is to argue the issues back and forth, like you might do in class.


Plaintiff would argue that the Texas court has jurisdiction because that he where plaintiff lives and where the child in question lives + any other relevant facts.

Defendant would argue that California should have jurisdiction because the child has not yet established the requisite residency requirement in Texas.

Plaintiff would then argue that even if the court decides that the child has not met the requirements, the parent has and thus jurisdiction is satisfied.

Defendant would argue whatever.

I like to go back and forth like that because it helps me sort out the issues and think of logical arguments for both sides.

Re: How to write an excellent issue statement
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2010, 01:24:14 AM »
This is a great guide on how to totally f-- up an answer for some classes.  First, it's rarely a good idea to completely ignore an element.  Even if the element isn't much at issue, a lot of profs, if not most (at least in my experience) are looking for some statement about each element to show a) that you know it is an element that must be established and b) that you know how to analyze it.  They're looking for sloppy thinking like the following:

"3.  Offensive.  Again, the old man broke his nose.  This is undisputable. [sic]  Spend no time discussing whether the act was “offensive”."

The result of a broken nose does not mean that the contact in itself is necessarily offensive.  Even dismissing the "harmful" element as not worthy of discussion because of the result of the chain of events put into motion by the contact is sloppy.

Re: How to write an excellent issue statement
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2010, 09:17:33 PM »
I think the point was to succinctly state the issue using just one sentance.  The statement of the entire rule (possibly including all elements) would then follow next.  Alternatively, what would be your suggested issue statement?