How to Write a Case Brief Paper (Steps, Format, Tips& Example)

Last Updated: 01 February 2023

Are you interested in becoming a law professional? Then you need to learn all the steps involved in briefing cases.

A case brief is a summary of a case. Learning case briefing is integral to learning the law and will help you understand all the facts that trigger a specific rule.

A big part of a law professional's job is to produce documents for their cases. Each document follows a specific format and guideline to efficiently and effectively present a lawsuit in court.

So if you want to be good at your job, your case brief should be well-written and point out all the critical elements and facts of the case.

This guide will teach you all the steps to writing the perfect case brief, the IPS you should follow, and an example. Keep reading.

What is a Case Brief?

Before dividing into what a case brief is, you must first understand how law school is taught. Generally, law school is taught through the "Socratic" or case teaching method.

This is the inductive method of studying and learning the law by reviewing cases that have already applied the law.

Professors will assign several cases for law students to review for class discussion. They do not explain the law by lecturing; instead, they engage students in discussions about earlier assigned cases. The profession will ask detailed questions about these cases to instill critical reading and analysis skills. This type of learning will also aid your memory and help you remember the case you have read, thus helping you in your examinations and writing and analyzing problems.

So what exactly is a case brief? When reviewing a case in law school, you are going through an appellate opinion. That is to say, once the court has issued a judgment, one of the parties involved in the case (plaintiffs and defendants) may claim that the court was wrong and appeal the case to the court of appeals. Usually, the plaintiff is the first to file the brief, and the defendant has a specified amount of time to respond by filing a reply to the brief.

The factual case will be set; you can't call in additional witnesses or other evidence. These parties will write legal briefs, and once the appellate court has reviewed them, they will issue an opinion in writing. So in law school, a case brief is a summary of an appellate decision and contains the essential components of that decision. These documents are public records, meaning they can be accessed by anyone who wishes to view them.

Types of Case Brief

There are two types of Case briefs you should know.

Appellate Brief

Lawyers submit a written legal argument to the court of appeal for their party explaining why they should affirm or reverse the decision from the trial court based on the legal precedents to the controlling cases.

In other words, the brief provides arguments that the court should rule based on controlling the court's previous decisions. This brief is intended to convince the appellate court to reverse the trial court's decision by presenting central issues from a one-sided perspective. The brief could also include policy or social statistics when necessary.

Appellate briefs are necessary because they help assess legal issues that impact a matter. However, these briefs are rarely published, and only the supreme court has the authority to provide access in printed form.

Student Brief

Law students learn the fundamentals of guiding their practices through case briefs. These documents are student briefs and reflect the summary and analysis of a problem the professor introduced during class. This type of case brief helps law students to:

Even though the appellate and student briefs contain similar information items, they differ in how this information is presented.

Structure of a Case Brief

Even though each case is unique and includes varied versions of the outline, the brief should have only the most important points of the case. It should look like this:

There are several different ways of formatting a case brief. So you should find one that works for you and, of course, your professor. A lot of case briefs include the following information:

Items to Consider When Writing a Case Brief

There are some key issues you must consider when writing a case brief.

Steps to Write a Case Brief

Here are the steps you should follow when writing a case brief.

Select the Right Case Brief Format

As mentioned earlier, there are several types of case brief formats, but they all lead to the same thing. So you should select one that will serve you well.

Read Through the Case

Before you begin writing, read through the case to understand the story. This will also help you identify what to look for the next time. As you do this, please pay attention to all the facts listed and highlight them.

Title and Citation

Write the name of the parties involved in the case. This is simply a heading and will make it easy to identify the brief. The respondent should first follow the name of the person who instigated the legal action petitioner (loser in the case). Ensure that the heading citation is in a legal citation manual. This is usually something like Zane vs. Stevens. Zane here

The citation should have the following:

All this information can be found at the beginning of the judicial opinion.

Identify the Facts of the Case

This is one of the most critical parts of the brief. You must state the facts of that particular case in your own words. In other words, write the "who, when, what, where, and why" of the case. Briefly describe the history of the dispute and all the events that led to the suit. Also, describe the legal claims and the defenses each party used in the court. Don't just copy or repeat what the judges said. Be brief. Not everything is relevant, so identify what is. In most cases, pointing out the relevant facts is a sign that you read and understood the case.

Some cases may have extraneous facts that are unnecessary in the case brief. Some facts are more important than others, so identify them. Relevant facts show what happened before the two parties entered the judicial system. Also, check for repeated ones, which indicates they are essential. You could ask whether the court's decision would have been different had a particular fact been present.

In addition, check for procedurally significant facts. What this means is, set out that,

The facts of the case are usually conveniently summarized at the beginning of the judicial opinion. Sometimes, you can also find the best statements of facts in the dissenting or concurring opinion.

Substantive Issue

You must identify the issues that led to the dispute the judicial opinion addresses. For example, facts that detail two people claiming ownership of a vehicle will highlight the issue of ownership of personal property. Often, cases highlighted in the casebook summarize a much longer judicial opinion to make the issue apparent. You can identify this in the facts of the cases or where the case is in the casebook. For instance, if a particular case appears on negligence in tort law, there is a high chance that the issue will be negligence, even if the court mentioned causation and damages.

Keep in mind that a substance issue includes the following:

Rule/ Legal Principle

A court resolves cases by applying facts to a legal rule. The issue in the dispute determines the choice of the rule. In most cases, the rule of law will be obvious, but other times, some judges don't clearly state what it is, or they may talk about the different versions of the rule. In these instances, you may be forced to extract it yourself by clearly reading the document. Ask yourself this, "What does this legal principle stand for?"

If the rule is clearly stated, copying it straight into your case brief from the judicial opinion is important.

If there is more than one issue in the case, there should be a rule for each. Please note that these rules are sourced from the primary source: Federal & State Constitutions; Statutes; Regulations; Case Law.


Holding is the decision of the court. This is brought about by considering all the preexisting laws, often called the rule of the case.

If a trial court issued the judgment, the result would be that the plaintiff either proved their argument and won or failed to prove their arguments and lost. Once the case reaches the appellate court, they may uphold or overrule the judgment.

Alternatively, they may decide to remand. This means that they cannot decide on that single case and instead returns to the lower courts for them to decide on a factual matter. However, if many instances are appealed, the court can decide on some of them and remand the rest.


The judge will have to apply the facts to arrive at a holding, and this is referred to as analysis. In simpler terms, analysis is how the facts interrelate with the relevant rules of law. The court that decided on the matter will spend time explaining how it applied the law to each of the facts resulting in their decisions. So in your brief, you have to explain each of the processes on how the court applied its analysis which led to its decision. So you won't be rewriting the analysis, just outlining it.

Concurring/ Dissenting

This part of the brief is only necessary when their specific case has concurring or dissenting opinions from the judge. Typically, judges don't mutually agree about a particular matter in court; therefore, a dissenting opinion is written by a judge who didn't agree with the others about the case.

You have to pay attention to this section because:

Sometimes, the judges may agree with the case's outcome but disagree on the arguments leading to the conclusion. Other times, a judge may agree with both the reasoning and the arguments but may have something else to add. In this case, the judge will give a concurring opinion.

When writing the brief, indicate which judge wrote the concurring opinion and the reasons given.

Elements for Writing a Case Brief

You may want to consider other additional elements when writing a case brief. These include:

Personal Comments

Law professionals can include personal comments when writing a case brief. But this is if they have any comments to add, especially about a problem that doesn't fit anywhere. In essence, making personal comments enables students and law practitioners to label cases as specific kinds or note what stands out as odd in a specific case.

Procedural History

Legal professionals consider procedural history minimal and irrelevant when writing case briefs, but this isn't true. Procedure history is vital in civil cases. You have to discuss the judgment of the case and then distinguish it from the holding element. The judgment is the decision of the court based on the factual matter. You should use the following terms when writing about the judgment in your case brief: affirmed, reversed, or remanded.

Annotations or Highlights

Another element that aids in writing the perfect case brief is annotations, also known as highlights. These help law professionals recall pertinent matters and random thoughts and serve as a medium for personal comments. If you want to write your case brief a lot easier, ensure you make annotations on the first review.

Making adequate highlights will help you distinguish the most important issues you are trying to summarize. The dense material of a case is hard to recall, no matter how long you take to review it. For these reasons, annotations and highlights in the margins will help direct you to pertinent sections, and it will also help jog your memory while reading this section.

In essence, annotations and highlights will help note the significant points in a paper. These are Facts, Issues, Holding, and Analysis. One can argue that these elements act as a plot to the case and help individuals understand the dynamics of play in the dispute between the two parties. Put simply, these elements are a piece of a puzzle, and when you put these pieces together, people can get the full picture and understand the law.

Writing a Short Brief

The key feature when writing any case brief is the length. A case brief should be short to pass its message and be effective. Overly long messages will be cumbersome and make it hard for the law professional to skim through to extract the information when necessary. Despite that, a case brief that is too short won't be of much help to law professionals as it won't contain sufficient information.

Therefore, the key to writing the perfect case brief is not to be too short or long. Just limit the words to one page. Doing this will help you take note of every word, phrase, and sentence so that you write only that which matters. Limiting your case brief to only one page allows you to organize and reference only the most critical case details.

Things to Remember Before Writing a Case Brief

For you to write the perfect case brief, you have to remember the following things:

What is the Most Important Part of a Case Brief?

The most important part of the case brief is the holding analysis, which explains how the court arrived at its decision. To determine this, ask yourself, "how did the court arrive at the holding?"

Case Brief Formats

As a law student or a legal practitioner, it is important to note that there are different formats to structure a case brief. The two most commonly preferred formats are IRAC and CREAC. Let?s explore what each entails so that you are aware and can choose either for your case brief assignment.

The IRAC Format

IRAC is an acronym that stands for Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion. It is a popular case brief structure preferred by most law schools and a framework for organizing exam answers to business law essay questions.

The CREAC Format

The CREAC format is mostly applied in legal memos and is sometimes preferred by law professors for law class case brief assignments. It is an acronym for Conclusion, Rule, Explanation, Application, and Conclusion.

With knowledge of the two formats, you can confidently write a top-class case brief or legal memo for your business, constitutional, and criminal law classes.

The Do's of Case Briefing

Here are some of the Do's case briefing:

Follow a Road Map When Reading Your Assignments

Before reading your assigned cases in the casebook, skim through the chapter headings and the table of contents. This will give you an idea of which the assigned cases relate to and where the topic will fit in the overall course.

Keep a Law Dictionary Close

It's crucial to use legal terms when writing a case brief. Legal terms use technical language and meanings. When you encounter a word you don't understand, look it up in the dictionary. Then use that word in your case brief to recall the context and its meaning the next time you read through the text.

Go to Class Well-prepared

Professors assign case-stop students so that they can discuss it in class. If you go unprepared, you will miss a lot. So it's crucial to learn to brief cases efficiently.

Put Case Briefing in Your Study Routine

Time is important in law school, so you shouldn't waste it. If you fail to study and learn more about case briefing, you won't be ready for the final exam. Briefing cases thought-out the year will ensure you are prepared to face whatever kind of exams are presented to you in law school.

An Example of a Case Brief



Date: 2012-02-17

Report: [2012] 1 SCR 235

Court: Quebec Superior Court

Case Number: 33678


There was a mandatory introduction of the Ethics and Religious Culture (ERC) program in Quebec elementary and secondary schools in 2008, replacing existing Catholic and Protestant religion programs. It also gave students general instructions on ethics, morality, and world religious traditions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.

In the same year, two parents asked the school board to exempt their children from the program because it infringed on their and their children's right to freedom of conscience and religion. They also argued that the program exposed them to different religious ideas, which was confusing and disrupting.

Ultimately, the parents were denied this request resulting in them seeking a declaration from the Quebec Superior Court that the program infringed their freedom of conscience and religion.


Does forcing students to be exposed to religious diversity affect their freedom of conscience and religion?

Is there a sincere belief that such exposure to the program threatens the ability of the parents to pass on their faith to their children enough evidence that it does so?


The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) considered section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms on whether the program undermined their freedom of conscience and religion. This rule clarified what is necessary to undermine the freedom of conscience and religious rights. To prove that this rule was violated, the claimant should demonstrate that they cannot actually practice their religion or exercise their beliefs. The mere belief that religious practices or beliefs have been violated is insufficient to warrant an infringement.


The SCC unanimously concluded that the claimant did not manage to show ERC program had violated their own or children's right to religion or conscience.


The SCC agreed that although exposure to different religious facts can cause friction, exposing children to different religious practices does not violate the freedom of conscience and religion of other parents or children.

Concurring/ Dissenting

Two of the judges found out that Superior Court erred in failing to consider the ERC content in assessing the impact on the ability of the parents to fulfill their religious obligations.

Nevertheless, the two judges concurred with the other judges that the claimant had failed to show that their freedom of religion and conscience had been violated because the program material filed as evidence did not provide insight into how the program would be implemented or taught in school. As a result, these two SCC judges added that there was a possibility that the ECR program and the teaching methods used to implement it may infringe on individuals' freedom of conscience and religion in the future.

Final Word On Case Briefing

Case briefing is an integral part of learning studying in law schools, and it aims to help you in your exams and your professional career as a lawyer.

In law school, studying cases will help you digest the large amount of study material that you have to study. If you follow the above step-by-step guide and the tips, you will succeed in writing the perfect case brief.

We offer law essay and assignment writing services at an affordable fee. Place your order today and get instant assistance around the clock. All our papers are 100% original, non-AI generated (written by humans who are themselves trained legal practitioners), and well-cited. We can write papers in AGLC, OSCOLA, Bluebook, and any other law paper writing format of your choice. Place an order, and let us assist you.