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What Is a Case Brief: Understanding the Task

There is probably no department that is more difficult than law department. All the students there bear enormous responsibilities and learn to operate literally tones of information. Many years of studying serve the purpose of becoming competent professionals who can deal with all sorts of cases brilliantly. Clearly, qualification comes with practice, and it takes analyzing hundreds of cases before one can actually work with a real one in court. This is why all the law schools and courses include case brief writing in their studying curriculums. So what is a case brief and how to write it properly? We will try to find out in this article.

What Is a Case Brief?

Before learning to work on case briefs, it is important to understand the nature, form and purpose of this piece of writing. In general, case brief is a form of presenting a legal case in a concise manner. Basically, this type of writing can be characterized as a report on a particular case that is short but contains all the main data. These data usually include events, facts, accurate dates and numbers, and laws and regulations related to the analyzed situation. In addition, a case brief should suggest a judgment strategy that applies the mentioned laws.

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What to Start with?

Based on the given case brief definition, you should first of all define the particular legal issue within the frames of the case. You need to do this by analyzing the case’s main facts and sorting out the unimportant details. If your case is rather voluminous, read its summary first in order to have an idea about its content and specificities. While reviewing the case, make sure to highlight the key ideas and facts. Making notes also helps, but remember to put down the most significant information only.

Case Brief Structure

Case brief is an official document, which means that its structure and main sections are standard. Below are short descriptions of those sections and their proper organization.


The Parties: At first, you need to define the parties involved in the case and participating in the situation directly. Present them by providing short characteristics and basic information, such as their names, age, occupation, marital status, etc. You can refer to them by their last names throughout the case brief, or call them in accordance with their roles, for example: respondent, defendant, appellee, etc.


The Court: You should also specify the court that is responsible for dealing with the analyzed case. You should write down the full title of the court and its location.


The Citation: Since all the court cases need to be open to public access, they are printed in certain specialized editions called reporters. In your case brief, make sure to write down a citation, which is a link to the full text of the case in its initial publication. The citation should contain the title of the reporter, the volume number, and the pages that cover the case. This is similar to citing a source of literature in a research paper.


The Date: Another significant fact that needs to be present in your case brief is the date when the decision regarding the case had been made. This detail is extremely important, since the dates of different cases help to follow the chronology of events.


Procedural History: In this section, you need to tell how, when, and by whom the case was handled. You need to mention all the courts that dealt with it and the consecutive procedures and decisions related to the case. This will explain why the case has arrived to the current location and what is expected from the present hearing.


The Issues: This step requires listing the issues clearly, which mainly means highlighting the main legal questions that the case poses. Since in court the information is presented in a slightly different order, it is very useful to define the issues separately to have an understanding of what the case is about.


Facts: The facts related to the case can be divided into two categories, which is necessary and context ones. The first type of facts include all the legal information that is used by the court while addressing the issues. The second types of facts are complimentary to the necessary facts, and they mostly deal with additional details to add clarity to the process. Besides these two types of facts, the case is likely to mention a number of other facts, which are irrelevant and do not contribute to the case’s resolution. Obviously, all such information should be excluded from your case brief.


The Holding: This section of your case brief should present the resolution of the case. All the legal issues mentioned earlier had been handled by the court in a certain way, and you should discuss how exactly that was done.


The Reasoning: This part of your paper must be the most detailed one, and thus it will probably take the biggest part of writing. It should explain what the court was guided by when making its decisions regarding the case. To be more specific, this section should name the legal acts, laws and regulations that the law referred to while resolving the case. Each legal issue that the court addressed has its holding, and why one or another holding has been presented is what you should explain here. Thus, it is literally the reasoning used by the court while handling the case that you need to focus on. All the additional factors that contributed to the court’s final decision should also be mentioned in this part of your case brief.


The Judgment: Once the holding is made, a decision must be taken by the court. Describe this decision with no additional discussions: it should rather be a presentation of facts.

This is a classic structure of a case brief, and you may feel free to use it while writing. It is also a good idea to find good examples of case briefs and see how this document has to be written and formatted. Now that you have read this article, you probably are more aware of what is a case brief, and even though you still might have questions and doubts, you will tackle them in the process of writing. After all, the more practice you have, the better you will polish your skills and become a real professional in the sphere of analyzing legal cases. So go on and start gaining experience right now!

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