How to write a Case Brief ? A Law Student?s Guide

author By Mary Boies

You are certainly here because you need to hone your case brief writing skills, and we got you.

Case briefing is an important skill to learn. It will help you in college and later in your law career. The best thing about learning about case briefing is that it teaches you how courts apply various laws rationally and objectively. Every aspiring lawyer would like to master this to be at the top of their game when doing law exams and representing clients in the future.

how to write a legal case brief

In this post, you will learn everything important you need to know about case briefs, including a step-by-step guide on how to write them.

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If you do have the time to write an excellent case brief, read everything in this guide. It is packed with information to make any student a case brief writing expert within minutes.

What is a Case Brief?

By definition, a case brief is a summary of a court case or a legal argument. Case briefs are also known as legal briefs and case summaries.

The purpose of writing a case brief is usually for one?s own reference. However, a case brief can also be written to state a party?s position or argument in a formal and easy-to-comprehend manner.

In courts of appeal, each party files its own case brief to back each particular argument utilizing a case law precedent.

The purpose of doing this is to assist the judge with the decision-making. The tradition followed in filing case briefs is that the petitioner files their legal brief first. Once this is done, the respondent has a set period to file their own brief. This brief is known as reply brief. Both the petitioner?s brief and the reply brief are frequently easily accessible public records.

How long is a case brief?

A case brief should be brief. It should not be too long because it is a case summary. A typical case brief should not be over 825 words long excluding the dicta, dissents, and concurrences

To ensure your case brief is not too long, you should only include operative facts in it. Ignore all information about the case that is not crucial for one to follow the summary.

Important Elements of a Case Brief

The typical case brief will have six key elements/sections ? rule of law, facts, issue, holding and reasoning, concurrence, and dissent.

1. Rule of Law

The rule of law element in a case brief should state the main legal argument on which the entire case rests on.  The main legal argument or legal principle applied by the court is usually based on procedural history. Because of this, it is often not straightforward.

The correct way to capture the rule of law element in your case brief is simply to paraphrase the legal question or statement that the court made a determination on.

2. Facts

The facts element of a case brief is probably the easiest to write. This is because the facts part of a case is often written in a simple and straightforward way. While the facts are usually written in a simple way, you should avoid copying the statements word-for-word. The right way to ?copy? them is to read them and then rewrite them from memory.

Since most cases have many facts that need to be considered, you will need to summarize the facts element of your case brief. This will most likely involve you ignoring some of the more inconsequential facts in your case. However, to make the facts part of your case brief is complete, you should not forget to include the following facts:

3. Issue

The issues of a case are the important questions of law that need to be determined by the court. They are usually unique and the court often states them explicitly, particularly if they are constitutional in nature.

Decisions on issues are only made by judges and not juries. Juries only make decisions on facts; not on legal matters. This is because they rarely have legal training.

The answers to legal questions are usually ?yes? or ?no?.

4. Holding and reasoning

The holding is the determination or the ruling. What did the court decide on the issues? The answer(s) to this question should be your first statement in this section of your court brief. Put in another way, in the holding and reasoning element of your case brief, you need to write down the answers to the questions you put down in the issues element of your case brief.

The formal and correct way to write down this part of your case brief is either using the IRAC or the CREAC method. Both IRAC and CREAC are acronyms. IRAC stands for Issue-Rule-Analysis-Conclusion. This method is often preferred by business law professors. Simply follow the acronym to write down the holding according to the IRAC method. This method typically results in a shorter write-up compared to the CREAC method.

The CREAC method is similar but at the same time different from the IRAC method. CREAC stands for Conclusion-Rule-Explanation-Application-Conclusion. If you write down this part of your case brief using this method, it will be longer because this method includes the conclusion part twice. You start with a short summary of the conclusion and you end up with a longer conclusion.

In law practice, the CREAC method is more popular. This is because it reiterates the conclusion/the most important bit of the case for the decision-maker.

A proper CREAC method write-up of this section of the case brief should include the following elements:

5. Concurrence

In a case decided by a bench, the judges who are in agreement with the determination but do not agree with the reasoning of the majority can offer their own reasons for doing so. These reasons are known as concurrence. When writing a case brief for a case with a concurrence, you must include a summary of the concurrence (the main points).

6. Dissent

In a case decided by a bench, there may be judges who are not in agreement with the determination made by the majority. They usually offer their opinions or reasons why. These opinions/reasons are known as dissenting opinions or dissent. When writing a case brief for a case with a dissenting opinion, you must include a summary of the dissenting opinion (the major points).

7. Other parts of a case brief

Besides the important parts mentioned and described above, a case brief can have a reasoning section, an analysis section, and/or a policy section. A reasoning section or element should capture the reasoning or the manner in which the judges arrived at their decision. An analysis section should capture the significance of the case, how it relates to other cases, and the impact of the decision made in the case. This section of the case brief can also include your discussion of the decision.

A policy section of a case brief should capture reasons why the court chose stick to an old rule or decided to adopt a new rule in its conduct or deliberations.

Other parts of a typical case brief include a title at the beginning. The title must include the correct name of the case and the date the case brief is being written.

Formats for writing a Case Brief

It is important to know the common formats utilized in organizing case briefs. In the section below you will learn about two of the most popular case brief formats ? IRAC and CREAC.


IRAC is a synonym that stands for Issue, Rule, Analysis, and Conclusion. It is one of the most popular case brief formats in American law schools.


The issue or issues of a case are the legal questions the court has to determine. When you are writing the issue of a case in a case brief, you must write it as a question because it is always a question.


The rules in a case are the laws used to make a determination on the case. They can be in the form of laws, case precedence, regulations, and statutes. When you are writing the rules used in a case, simply state the rules or regulations used by the judges to make a determination in the case.


In the analysis section of your case brief, you need to apply the rules to the unique facts of the case. This section is usually regarded as the most important section in a case brief. This is because it shows your understanding of the rules and their applications.


The conclusion is the last part of a typical case brief. It simply restates the key issue and then answers them.


CRAEC is an acronym that stands for Conclusion, Rule, Explanation, Application, and Conclusion.


The CREAC format begins with a summary of the overall conclusion. In specific, this summary should capture the issue that was determined and the determination.


This part of the CREAC format brief should capture the rule applied to arrive at a conclusion.


This section of your CREAC should capture the rule?s past uses in other cases and its application to the current cases. This is where you make clear your analysis.


This is where you detail the application of the rule on the current case. In other words, it is where you prove how the conclusion you already provided at the beginning was reached.


Under this part of your brief, you should write a conclusion to the case. This conclusion should summarize the REA and should not include any new information.

Steps for Writing a Top-Grade Case Brief for A Law Class

Virtually every court case is different from the next in terms of details. Because of this case briefs cannot be the same in terms of structure. However, they can have a roughly similar structure since there are some elements that are always present in all court cases.

In this section, you will learn how to write a typical case brief with the following elements:

1. Select the most suitable case brief format

There are several formats that can be used to write a case brief. Most of them include the same elements but use different terms for the elements.

Most of the time, if you are asked to write a case brief as part of an assignment, you will be told the format to use. If this is the case, simply follow the format you were told to use.

If this is not the case, simply choose a format that will be most suitable for you.

2. Write down the title

Every case brief must begin with a complete title. Anyone who wants to read a case brief must first know it is on which particular case. This is why a complete title is important.

A complete title for a case brief is one that has the full name of the case, citation and author.

The full name of the case/title of the case, should primarily include the names of the two parties in the case ? the plaintiff/petitioner and the defendant/respondent. While the citation of the case simply provides info on how one can look up the case. The info usually includes the contact information of the case reporter.

The author of the case brief is the person writing it.

3. Write down the facts of the case

Since most cases usually have many facts, you should only write down only the most legally relevant facts of the case in your case brief. The most legally relevant facts include:

4. Declare the legal issue

The legal issue simply the legal question that the court needed to determine. It is the point of contention that needs to be decided on in a case by a judge. The identification of the legal issue should include the citation of the law or the part of the constitution the law is related to.

5. State the rule of law

Under this subtitle in your case brief, you should clearly state the law or legal principle relied upon by the court to determine the case.  You should be able to do this in just about one sentence. Sometimes courts rely on more than one legal principle to decide a case. If this is the case in the case you are summarizing, you should also summarize the extra legal principles.

6. Explain the decision (the holding)

Begin this subsection by providing the answer to the legal issue question provided by the court. Then proceed to explain the decision of the court using the CREAC method or the IRAC method. The CREAC method is usually the most preferred because it is more direct and straightforward.  

Check the section above to discover what you need to include in your brief when using either the CREAC method or the IRAC method.

7. Concurrences and dissents

Sometimes judges agree with the majority decision but not with the reasoning. When this happens, each judge typical writes a concurrence (the reason(s) why). You must include a brief summary of the concurrences if they are present in the case you are reviewing.

Sometimes judges do not agree with the majority decision. When this happens, each judge typically writes a dissent (the reason(s) why). You must include a brief summary of the dissents if they are present in the case you are reviewing.

Tips for writing a case brief

For the best results, consider these tips when writing a case brief.

Case Brief Examples

Here is a good example of a case brief that shows all the important elements that need to be included in a standard case brief. Check out the Eric J. v. Betty M. case brief that also includes all the key elements. Use either examples as inspiration to writing your own case brief. You can also check out the writing guide by LexisNexis, which provides deeper insights that can help you further hone your writing skills. Check out the book Introduction to the Study of Law: Cases and Materials by Michael Makdisi and John Makdisi for more insights as well.

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