*To be read in conjunction with Ten Instructions for Briefing Cases by Paul Bateman, available at
A SHORT SUMMARY ON HOW TO BRIEF CASES*
By Professor Tara I. Walters, Professor of Legal Analysis, Writing and Skills, Southwestern Law School
If you are learning how to brief a case for the first time, remember that there are several ways to brief a
case. There is not one “right” way to do it. As you brief more and more cases throughout your first weeks in law
school, you will find a brief format that works best for you; so right now, do not worry about the “perfect” way to
set up your case brief.
When preparing your case briefs, keep in mind that briefs have several purposes. Good case briefs will
help you to better understand the case, prepare you for class discussion, and assist you when you begin making
outlines. Therefore, include information that will help you achieve these goals. The following is a typical format
for a case brief (note that the case below is fictitious):
Doe v. Doe, 123 Cal. Rptr. 2d 456 (Ct. App. 2004).
ISSUE(S): The Issue is the question that the court must answer in order to resolve the dispute between the parties.
Frame the Issue by identifying the rule of law that the court must apply and the key fact(s) that will bear on the
court’s resolution of the Issue. (For example: “Does the attorney-client privilege apply to communications between
a `jailhouse lawyer’ and his inmate--client when the client did not believe that he was speaking to a lawyer?”)
FACTS: There are two types of facts to include here: (1) Procedural history. This is the “story” of the case’s
progress in the courts, from the time the plaintiff filed its complaint in court, to the appeal to the court that made the
final decision in the case. Ask yourself at what point in the litigation did the disputed issue arise (e.g., in a pretrial
motion, a post-verdict motion, etc.)? Also identify who the plaintiff (