Your case brief example and detailed writing guide for every student
Every student of law school has heard of a case brief at least once during his or her studies. And we must admit this assignment doesn’t evoke the best feelings among students and they are not too excited to write it. And there are some good reasons for that.
What is a case brief?
When we are talking about the law, the term “brief” may serve for different goals. And this article is about the case brief that is a summary of the main points of the court decision, as a rule, the decision of the appellate court. Such a paper isn’t long, as a rule.
And the briefing is aimed to understand the main principles of law and how law can be applied to a certain chain of facts. When you are preparing for your final exams, you should write a case brief, too, so that is why you need to know how to write it properly.
The structure of a standard case brief
Before you start working on your case brief, you should know what it should consist of, so here is how its structure looks like:
- The court and year when it was held;
- The position of the procedure, i.e. how the case got to the court of appeal;
- A narrative story containing facts statement;
- The issues decided on appeal;
- Arguments from both sides;
- Policy implications;
- Rule of law;
- Justification (appeals used by judges when making their decision);
- Dissenting views.
Writing a case brief brick-by-brick
The first thing you should start with and keep in your mind is to write the citation, i.e. write the names of both parties, for example, “Daniels versus Hokinson”. Also, at the very beginning, you should state the source and publisher, the court making the described decision and the date (year) of the publication of the final opinion.
Now let us see how you should write the case brief step-by-step.
You should focus on each of the facts at first. Do your research and distinguish the facts that are the most important for the decision made by the court. You should omit the facts that don’t have any relation to the made decision.
Once you read the facts dealing with the case, you can eliminate those that are not connected with the decision made by the court. The facts defined at trial are to be identified too.
The history of the procedure
In this part, you should answer the following questions:
- What was the path of the case to the court?
- What court made this decision?
You should identify from what court that case came.
The issue is a legal question and the main thing the court has to decide. It is to be identified by you and jested in a question after it. But you may not worry right now because nowadays, the courts start all cases with defining the related issue, so it is very helpful and you should not even think how to do it.
The case is, to begin with, the words “the issue we face today is…” So, the legal issue is stated by the court and you can know it well. But sometimes the trial is about a personal issue and it may be a problem for the court.
In that case, it is necessary to define who wins the case. It is a fundamental question that should be answered with one or two words.
The rule is a selection of law used by the judges for deciding a case. If the issue is complicated and involves more than one problem, there might be several rules as well. Most often, judges follow several different rules depending on the facts. They discuss them and point out all of the important aspects.
This is also called analysis and that part is to explain the choice of judges. You should not forget about the facts and relate them to the law used in the trial. The court should state what is assumed by each of the parts. When the parts are read carefully, it is easier to define the way of applying the law to the problem under discussion.
The conclusion should be short and precise. Here you should write whether the case is affirmed or reversed by the court and held for the appellant, appellee, or defendant. The conclusion will also say who wins and who loses.
Some writing tips
Sometimes, it is possible to assume that everything said by the judge is relevant to his conclusion. But don’t hurry up while not everything said by the judge (even if it was relevant to make his conclusion) is necessary to be included in the briefcase.
You should keep in mind the main purpose of writing a brief is not to convince everyone that the ultimate decision is right but to find out what were the most essential parts of the case. And here are some relevant facts you should include in your briefcase:
- The facts, necessary to remind you of the story. Just think – in case you forgot the story, how can you remember how the law in the case was applied?
- The facts that are permissive to the decision in the case. For example, if there is a particular car in the case, let’s say, a red one, then you have to note that it is a red car and not just a car. The history of the procedure is very important for the final outcome.
- Only relevant issues. It may sound very easy but it is not just because there might be multiple issues discussed in the court. You should learn how to distinguish the issues from the parties’ arguments. Relevant issues are only those that helped the court to make their final decision.
- Reasoning or rationale. Not everything discussed can be relevant to the reasoning of the decision. You should include only the main rationale used by the court to make the decision.
- Remember that a brief cannot be too long! Long briefs are not helpful at all and too difficult to review, so make sure to make your brief short enough. But it should include all the sufficient information at the same time. The best length of the briefcase would be one page.
You should not get desperate because of such an assignment; remember that writing a brief in such a subject as the law requires certain skills and lots of time and practice. You will master it step-by-step but it means that you will need to write as many briefs as possible.
A briefcase can be very helpful in your studies so you should learn how to make annotations and highlight well.
You probably already faced that technique when reading some books, especially during your studies. And if you have never read a book with a pen or pencil, you should start doing it right now. Of course, if you want to make your briefcase writing successful.
You may think it is not obligatory but you are very wrong then while cases are always full of different information and it is difficult to come across what you need in them. It means you will need to reread them many times for that purpose. Annotating will save a lion share of your time.
Annotating the margins of the casebook is very helpful. You can mark different facts, conclusions, or history of the procedure, and make your mind clear of all that information. Briefs cannot cover everything even if they are very well-constructed. And annotations make everything much easier for you.
Even if you need to return to the case in some time, you will not forget the important sections of it. It will be a sort of your roadmap. You may even forget certain thoughts but thanks to annotations, you will refresh them in your memory.
So, if you want to make all the process of briefing easier, annotations will help a lot. You may have difficulties even with a short case, while you need to spend up to fifteen minutes to read it. And annotations will not only guide you to a necessary section but will remind you about your thoughts when reading that section. And we would recommend using a mechanical pencil for annotating.
This technique may also seem not necessary to you but it is not true. Highlighting is also a sort of your roadmap, especially in complicated cases. It is much easier to review the case when you see the most important sections of it highlighted by you.
We recommend not neglecting to use that tool while it is very effective. You may think that a brief may be enough already, so why do you need highlighting something? The brief is the summary of the case that helps to understand the law, you cannot do it through annotating or highlighting.
Both annotating and highlighting may help you when writing your brief, a lot. You should highlight the best and most important parts of your case, and especially those that should be included in the brief. It will help you not to think too long what the issue or procedural history is, you may just take a look at your remarks.
Do not neglect these two tools while they will make your writing process much easier, what else a student need?
Let us try to summarize what you should do to write a briefcase successfully:
- Read the case twice;
- Make notes of the defined facts;
- Find the best format for your brief;
- Write an outline or a plan;
- Explain every part of your brief in your own words;
- Include another opinion in your casebook;
- Stick to a style format;
- Review your paper and check it for all grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes;
- Give it some time and get back to it in a couple of days and reread it;
- Define the similarity of the case and other cases;
- State whether you agree or disagree with the decision of the court and why.
A briefcase is something that will help you understand the law principles much better. The lawyers think a lot. Remember that only practice can make your skills perfect. Writing briefcases will help a lot in your future career.
We are sure that these tips and tricks will help you create an outstanding briefcase, just make sure to devote enough time to your paper. But if you are a student who always lacks time, you can always ask for the help of professional writers who will gladly do it for you!