An Associates Guide to Writing a Professional Legal Brief

6th Aug 2018

A lawyer's education never ends. Even when they're done with school, they still have to write long documents on the job.

Writing a legal brief is a process that might feel like you're writing a long book report. But it's more than that, you have to know how to do it correctly.

Read on to learn how to successfully write a legal brief.

Read and Understand the Case File

In order to write a coherent case file, you need to make sure you familiarize yourself with the entire case file. You will need all of the information in the case files to be able to draft the brief and pull of the evidence necessary.

Ensure you read and understand everything in order to reach the right conclusion.

Take a Look at the Court Records

The next step is to review all of the court filings. These filings might include the original complaint, answers, counterclaims, etc.

If the case is in the initial developing stages, there might not be an extensive court record. But you should have everything in hand so you can better understand the case before you make your argument.

Write Down All the Facts

Once you have reviewed the case file and the court filings, you're ready to make a list of facts. Try to list as many relevant facts as possible. You will need these to serve as the foundation for your case.

If it helps, you can break them down into pros and cons and note the facts that won't add value to your case.

Organize the Research Points

You should make a list of all the points you need to research. If you need more examples of similar cases or are unfamiliar with something, you should organize them and conduct the necessary research.

If you think it's relevant to the case, you should gather relevant documents from either one of the parties.

Make an Outline and Organize Your Arguments

The last thing you want is for a judge to get your brief and not understand the arguments you're trying to make.

Take the time to make sure you outline and organize your arguments to make the judge's life a lot easier. With each argument, you should be setting the judge down a straight path. Ensure you put your strongest arguments first.

Your Brief Needs a Theme

In school, you learned how to develop the theory or theme of a case. When you write a brief, you should put this concept to use.

Come up with a strong theme for your brief so anyone who looks at the question presented can understand what will be presented in said brief.

What Type of Brief are You Writing

There are generally two types of briefs you will typically file: trial briefs and appellate briefs.

You will need to draft a trial brief before or during a trial to support or in opposition of a motion that was filed with the court.

An appellate brief is a bit different. This brief is often filed to the court of appeals as support of opposition to a court's decision.

Familiarize Yourself with the Requirements

Since each court is different, you should familiarize yourself with the requirements of the particular court where you're filing.

The court's manual should have all the general information you need to know before submitting your brief such as font size, page limit, the color of cover sheets, and more.

If you don't follow the instructions, the judge might reject your brief.

Table of Contents

If the brief is really short, you might not need to add a table of contents. However, a table of contents says you gave some thought to the organization of your brief.

When you have a rather large brief in your hands, it's necessary to add a table of contents to provide some guidance.

Have a List of Authorities

Make sure you don't turn in your brief without having a Table of Authorities listing all of the legal sources used in your brief.

The table of authorities will include all of the sources you used when drafting your brief. It's one of those tedious but unnecessary tasks. There's software that can help you complete this task without a problem.

Present the Questions and Summary of Argument

When writing your brief, you should present the questions based on the legal issues at stake. These questions need to be specific and to the point.

In most cases, these questions generally begin with "whether" or "does" depending on the point you're trying to make.

Use CRAC to Analyze the Issue

Although a brief might seem like the most complicated thing in the world, if you follow the CRAC it could simplify it.

CRAC stands for conclusion, rule, application, and conclusion.

Conclusion: Have a clear conclusion you want the judge to make at the end.

Rule: Present the law that supports your conclusion.

Application: Explain how the law applies to the issues you're presenting.

Conclusion: Reinforce the conclusion once more.

Write Your Full Argument

Now you're ready to begin writing the full argument. Make sure you follow the correct brief formatting depending on the type of brief you're writing.

For the most part, each argument should be on its own section or subsection and you should begin each section with the leading argument.

Proofread and Edit

Once you've completed your brief, it's time to polish it. Make sure you proofread it in its entirely to detect inconsistent language as well as typos or punctuation mistakes.

It's recommended you pass it along to one of your peers to revise and get feedback on your work before you forward it along to your supervisor.

Ready to Write a Legal Brief

Writing a legal brief takes a lot of practice, but with these tips, you can learn how to successfully write one. Make sure you read the case file, organize your documents, and write strong arguments.

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