How to Write a Case Brief
Upon joining law school, the terms ‘briefing a case’ become an anthem that everyone sings. It, however, goes unspoken of what a case brief is let alone how it is done. What is a case brief? In literal terms, a case brief is an entail of noted points which make up the structure of a case. In the proceedings of a case, so much is said by the people in question; the judge, defendant and the others. It is essential to filter out the important information from the uttered information in the proceedings. This filtering involves identifying and then either writing or typing only the necessary information. This may not necessarily be in a live court proceeding. Case briefs may be done from books where previous sessions were recorded too. Even so, not all the information provided in the given book may necessarily be valuable and thus filtering comes in. From the two examples given above, (book briefing and live briefing which is also known as the traditional briefing) we have two types of briefs. They include the traditional brief and the book brief.
Here are ten things of what goes into a traditional brief:
- The names of the parties
- Name of the Judge
- The procedural history
- The court the ruling or opinion came from
- The facts
- The issues brought up
- The holding
- The legal reasoning
- Reason why the case was included in your reading assignment
- Finally, the questions you might have after reading the case.
The above entails can be categorized into four parts for easier remembering. First is the facts; this includes the names and the history. Second are issues; this refers to what is in dispute in the case. The third is the holding; this relates to the applied rule of the law. And fourth is the rationale; this is in reference to the reasons for the holding. These four elements are the most critical and with them as a student one should be able to recall the case in full.
The second type of briefing is the book brief. All the above requirements of the live briefing are also needed in a book brief. They are the basis of any brief. On a book, nevertheless, it is a little bit different. Advantageously, a book brief usually has an always available reference which is the book itself. Important to remember is how to identify the critical sections that contain the main points that as a student one needs. The following two ways may be of assistance;
- Use of consistent colors to identify different requirements or notables. For example, one may use the color blue in the names of the people in the case. In this way, one can identify requirements at a glance.
- Minimal highlighting. If the highlighting is too much, Then it may as well mean that in the entire book everything is important. One should, therefore, try to the highlighting and only highlight the crucial points.
As a new law student, case briefing may not always be perfect to you at the beginning but will improve as you move forward. Case briefing is meant to help you as a student to be well prepared before a class or even a test. Both types of briefing work just as well; however, the preference of a student is what may differentiate their performance on the two categories. Later in exams, students only need the following three elements to successfully remember a case;
- Facts of the case
- Procedural history
- And the judgment of the case.
Now that you know what is needed, how do you identify the relevant information? The answer could not be any simple. Include all information just as long as it is relevant and will personally help you to recall the case. As I conclude, I would like to state that the brief title case is primarily meant to mean that the case is briefed. Therefore, a case brief should be a summary. Long case briefs do not make much sense as it will be tiring to peruse over them. Long briefs are not easy to skim through when either preparing for a class or an exam. Contrary, very short briefs may also not be very helpful as it will mean that only minimal information has been provided. On a lighter note, case briefing is like a skill which is developed. The more practice one does, the better they become at it.