Whether you are an undergraduate student studying business law, a law student, a paralegal, or a practicing attorney, case briefs are something you will have to create, read and understand. For the law student or professional, they may be done on an almost daily or weekly basis.

A case brief can be thought of as a quick summary of a case that highlights the most important details of the case you are looking at. It is generally accepted that a case brief should be 1 page at most, with a maximum of 2 pages for more lengthy or descriptive briefs. As the name implies, a case brief must be brief and not be saturated with too many unnecessary details!

The case brief should begin with a title that includes the case name, the court where it was tried, the year, and a reference of where the case is found in casebooks. The next part of the case brief is the case facts. This section should only include significant facts that are relevant to the case. When creating a case brief, your goal is to highlight the major facts of the case that play a role in the dispute or decision made by the court.

The procedural history is another section that most case briefs have, although some case brief formats skip this section. This section would include in what court the case originated and in what court the case ended. When the procedure or movement of a case through the court system is important, it may be helpful to include it in your case brief.

The following two sections of the case brief are the issues in question and the court’s holding. Issues in question describe what the plaintiff and defendant are arguing about. The holding of the court is how the court decided the issues in the case.

After you have identified the issues and ruling of the case, you need to explain why the court ruled the way it did. In a few sentences, describe the rationale or reason why the court made the decision it did. This is where you can state the legal principles the court relied upon in its decision.

The last section is the final ruling of the court in the case. Did the court rule in favor of the plaintiff or favor of the defendant? Was the case sent back to a lower court? Did the court overrule a lower court’s decision? State the final ruling of the court to make it easy to understand the final decision of the case.

Sometimes case briefs will have a few other sections. In the end, one common additional section includes dicta and dissenting opinions from judges who were not in the majority. They may be added to a case brief to present an alternative way of looking at the case. Personal opinions or questions can also be added at the end. This can help you look up similar cases and help you brainstorm potential issues or problems you identified with the case.