How To Brief A Case: Part Two

How To Brief A Case: Part Two

How To Brief A Case: Part One

The California Desert Trial Academy is a progressive law school tailored to meet the needs of anyone who is limited to seeking a legal education at their convenience rather than on a schedule. We emphasize providing an academic experience that emphasizes a practical approach to becoming a lawyer. We believe this is the most efficient and expedient pathway to a successful and rewarding legal career.

In Part Two of “How to Brief a Case,” we’ll look at the analytical part of briefing a case. A comprehensive brief includes the following:

  1. Parties
  2. Facts of the Case
  3. Issues
  4. Decisions (Holdings)
  5. Reasoning (Rationale)
  6. Separate Opinions
  7. Analysis


As noted in Part One, the first part of the brief is informational and is a telltale summary of the case listing the parties, facts, issues, and lower court rulings. Now it’s time to look at the higher court’s decision and properly summarize it.

The court’s decision, or holding, is its answer to a question presented to it by the parties or raised by the court based on its own reading of the facts. For issues that have been precisely identified, the holdings may be stated in simple “yes” or “no” answers or in short statements taken from the language used by the court. The case’s holding may be a narrow procedural holding, such as “case reversed and remanded.” It may be a broader substantive holding which interprets a statute, judicial doctrine, or even the Constitution.

The court’s reasoning, or rationale, is the chain of the legal argument that led the court to its opinion and ruling. List each point in numbered sentences or paragraphs. It’s important to analyze concurring and dissenting opinions in the same way that you analyze majority opinions. When briefing Constitutional Law cases, it’s vital to keep a book on each Justice and know his or her tendencies and political leanings.

At this point, evaluate the case’s historical significance, its relationship to other cases, and its effect on litigants, government, and society as applicable. You may want to consider the “correctness” of the decision and the underlying logic of the reasoning behind the decision.

Most law students are familiar with the “IRAC” (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) method of briefing cases. It is a shorter way to brief cases and may be helpful when time is an issue.

Facts: A brief synopsis of the facts.

Issue: Identify the issues.

Rule: Here, list the relevant rule(s) of law identified by the court.

Application: This is the most important part of the brief and will discuss the ruling of the case.

Conclusion: This is a short statement of the result of the case.

Like traditional law schools, CDTA’s curriculum is designed to teach students the substantive law of core subject areas. Unlike traditional law schools, CDTA emphasizes training and developing students to be capable and competent advocates in any courtroom. The California Desert Trial Academy (CDTA) is a 21st Century law school that moves students toward a successful legal career on the first day of class. We believe that practical experience in tandem with legal knowledge is the best road to a successful, rewarding, and prosperous legal career. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.


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