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JFK School of Law Resource Center Home

JFK School of Law Resource Center Home

Types of Legal Writing

Case Brief

What is case briefing and why do you need to master it?

  • The most basic purpose of a case brief is to succinctly summarize a case by distilling the facts, law, and reasoning in a useable format. In the aggregate, case briefs will make it easier for you to study for your exams at the end of the semester after you have read tons of cases. Done correctly, your outlines can also be useful later when you are studying for the bar exam. As such, do not discard your case briefs/outlines after you have completed a subject that is on the bar exam.

 

Case Name Subject of Case
Subject of Case

Helps with organizing your overall outline to make sure you are grouping cases focused on the same sub-areas of law together.

Procedural History and Case Disposition

Describe what happened leading up to the present case.

  • Who won in the trial court?
  • Who argued what?
  • Who appealed? 

Question Presented (i.e., the issue)

The issue(s) addressed by the court; usually the court will explicitly state what issue(s) it is addressing, but sometimes you might have to extrapolate what the issue was based on your reading of the case (start with the holding).

Legally Relevant Facts (Trigger)

Facts that the court bases its reasoning on – the facts that pushed the court to conclude one way or the other.

Additional Facts

(i.e., things to help you remember the case)

Facts that can help you recall a case but that are not necessarily relevant

Plaintiff’s Arguments The arguments raised by the parties; knowing these arguments can be extremely helpful when it comes to law school exams because you can analyze whether a court has addressed similar arguments before.
Defendant’s Arguments The arguments raised by the parties; knowing these arguments can be extremely helpful when it comes to law school exams, because you can analyze whether a court has addressed similar arguments before.
Rule(s)/Laws Discussed in the Case

One of the most important aspects of your case brief; you want to carefully model the language of your rule to make sure it is consistent with the rule discussed by the court.

Holding

The court’s conclusion on a case – where the court says it does or does not agree with the arguments advanced by parties.

Reasoning

Another important aspect of your brief; reasoning is why the court is holding what it did, and oftentimes contains a roadmap for how the court applies the facts of the case to the relevant law.

Main Take-Away (Optional)

Optional, but can take the form of a quick, succinct summary of the case; this could be particularly helpful when you are studying for a final exam.

Other Notes (Optional)

IRAC: Writing Effective Legal Analysis

 

What is IRAC?

 

IRAC is the structure that all lawyers write in to portray your legal arguments in a clear and concise manner.                                                                                                                                                                           

 

Why am I expected  understand the IRAC format?                                      

 

Legal professionals are expected to follow the IRAC when structuring a legal argument

 

When will I be expected  to use      IRAC?    

In legal writing, your ‘discussion’ section is usually comprised of several IRACs and sub-IRACs.

Most legal doctrines and rule statements contain necessary parts (e.g., elements, factors, etc.).

  • Each of those parts must receive their own IRAC.
    • For example, to have an enforceable contract, there generally must be an offer, acceptance of that offer, and consideration.

 

Why are there several IRAC's?

You will need an overall IRAC that analyzes whether there is a contract as well as IRACs within that IRAC.

For each of the elements of a contract,

  • the IRACs within the larger IRAC go in the larger IRAC’s ‘analysis’ portion.
  • You will need an overall IRAC that analyzes the broad legal issue: 

    • For example, there is a contract, which will be made of IRACs for each sub-issue/element.

    • For example, for a contract you would potentially have an IRAC for offer, acceptance, and consideration.

The IRAC Format

Note: The Rule Statement should be written from broad to narrow.


Objective Memo Template

The following is a general template for an objective memorandum. The specific sections within this template can potentially change based on your professor’s preferences.

 

ISSUE STATEMENT

I. Issue statement or, alternatively, question presented and brief answers.

II. There can potentially be more than one issue statement or questions presented/brief answers.

 

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Insert chronological facts.

  • Use sub-headings if needed.

 

DISCUSSION

Insert roadmap paragraph that consists of conclusions about the overall legal issue.

Include sub-issues AND a discussion of the applicable broad law.

I. Sub-heading #1 for first legal issue.

*Under sub-heading #1, include:

(1) an issue statement,

(2) the applicable broad rule,

(3) sub-rules,

(4) case illustrations (w/ topic sentences and following the holding/facts/reasoning format), 

(5) analysis (including any potential counter-arguments), and 

(6) a conclusion.

II. Sub-heading #2 for second legal issue.

Follow the same format as *Sub-heading #1.

  • Continue doing more sub-headings depending on the number of legal issues in the case.

 

CONCLUSION

Insert conclusion paragraph(s) that conclude on all of the legal issue and sub-issues discussed.

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