How to Brief a Case

Welcome all 1Ls to he1L! My first day of the new school year starts tomorrow, so I thought I would make a quick post on how I outline since everybody’s process is slightly different.

First, before you read any case, always know what you’re looking for. I know they taught you this probably in middle school, but it is more important than ever when reading cases. However, don’t spend longer than 5 minutes thinking about these questions because our goal is to narrow in on what we are looking for. This process will take you a lot of trial and error especially during 1L year. Below are good questions to think about:

  • What subject matter are we covering?
    • This is the most important thought to keep in mind because it is very easy to get lost in opinions.
  • What laws are mentioned?
    • You’ll need to make note of these for exams.
  • What steps/elements are mentioned?
    • You’ll also need to make note of these for exams.
  • What is the overall structure of the opinion?
    • This question is especially helpful because you will realize that every opinion will differ and knowing where to look will make you a more effective reader.

Don’t think about these questions too much. We’re just trying to avoid getting too lost in the content of our readings.

Below is my general setup for a case brief (It’s pretty generic, but I believe simple is best):

Facts:

  • Record important background facts.
  • Highlight the key facts.

Issue: Whether ___ if ____?

Rule:

Holding:

Reasoning:

Dissent:

I will bring my brief to class and highlight the discussed takeaway within the reasoning section. A takeaway is pretty much the most important point from the opinion. My takeaways are always about 1-2 sentences, but complicated cases may require more. Try to keep it short and sweet so that when it comes to exam season, you will not have to study so much information.

The biggest takeaway for briefing is to “brief to win”. This means to brief as if you are taking a test and only need the most important information. I had a difficult time putting this phrase into practice, but all it requires trial and error.

The best way to make sure you have the right takeaway is to look up briefs online. I usually try to Google first, then I try Quimbee. When the internet fails you, hit up some friends to discuss the cases.

I’ve included a template of the case brief form I used for class during 1L. The triangle in the top right corner is meant to be colored in because I color coded my classes.

Case Brief Template

If you have any questions or want more detail, please let me know!

Always,

Kat

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