How to Write a Case Brief for Law School

General steps and specific guidance for writing case briefs for law school
Tags: case briefs, briefs, class prep
Apr 2, 2023

Let's start at the beginning. What is a case brief?

When you study law, it's important to learn how to summarize legal cases. This is called "briefing" a case. By doing this, you can better understand how courts use legal principles to make decisions. Here are the steps to follow when briefing a case:

General steps to briefing a law school case

  1. Read the case carefully
  2. Identify the people involved
  3. Summarize the facts of the case
  4. Identify the legal issue
  5. Explain the court's decision on the legal issue
  6. Analyze the court's reasoning
  7. Summarize your findings

Typical case brief structure acronyms

There's a method called "IRAC" that some people use to structure their briefs. It stands for Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion. This can help you break down complex cases into smaller parts and better understand the law.

LSD uses a different method called "ICRA." This stands for Issue, Conclusion, Rule, and Analysis. It's a good way to prepare for assigned reading or studying for class. It helps you understand the main issues and outcomes of the case.

Now for some more detail!!

Think About How to Write a Case Brief for Law School with These Simple Steps

Mastering the art of case briefing is essential for every law student. A case brief is a concise summary of a legal case that outlines the key facts, legal issues, holding, and reasoning of the court's decision. It serves as a valuable tool to understand legal principles and how courts interpret them. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to write a case brief for law school:

Step 1: Carefully read the case

The first step in writing a case brief is to read the case carefully. Understand the context, facts, and procedural history of the case. Identify the key legal issues raised in the case.

Step 2: Identify the parties involved

In every legal case, there are parties involved, such as the plaintiff, defendant, appellant, or respondent. Identify these parties to understand the context of the legal dispute. Note their roles and positions in the case.

Step 3: Summarize the facts

After identifying the parties, summarize the relevant facts of the case. Be concise, accurate, and complete. Identify the relevant facts that influenced the court's decision. Note any important details or events relevant to the legal dispute.

Step 4: Identify the legal issue

The legal issue is the question or problem at the heart of the case. Identify the legal issue and how it relates to the facts of the case. Be specific when identifying the legal issue. Consider the arguments of both sides regarding the legal issue.

Step 5: Discuss the court's holding

The holding is the court's decision on the legal issue presented in the case. Identify the holding and explain how it relates to the legal issue. Discuss why the court ruled the way it did and how the ruling will affect future cases. Note any relevant legal precedent the court relied on when making its decision.

Step 6: Analyze the court's reasoning

The reasoning is the rationale or justification the court used to support its decision. Analyze the court's reasoning and note any legal principles or policy considerations the court considered when making its decision. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of the court's reasoning.

Step 7: Conclude your brief

In your conclusion, summarize the key points of your brief. Offer your opinion on the case and its implications. Discuss any issues you found interesting or problematic in the case. Relate the case to other cases you have studied in your class.

In conclusion, mastering the skill of case briefing is crucial for law students. It is a valuable tool for understanding legal principles and how courts interpret them. By following the steps outlined above, you can effectively brief a case and gain a deeper understanding of the legal issues presented. Remember to read the case carefully, identify the parties involved, summarize the facts, identify the legal issue, discuss the court's holding, analyze the court's reasoning, and conclude your brief. With practice, you will become proficient in briefing cases, and this skill will serve you well throughout your legal career.

More About the ICRA and IRAC Structure of a Case Brief

Case Brief IRAC

The IRAC process is a common method used in case briefs by law students and legal professionals. It stands for Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion. Here is a brief description of each component of the IRAC process:

Issue: The first step in the IRAC process is to identify the legal issue or question that the court is addressing. This can typically be found in the question presented or the holding of the case.

Rule: The next step is to identify the relevant legal rule or principle that applies to the issue. This rule could come from a statute, case law, or other legal authority.

Application: In this step, the legal rule is applied to the specific facts of the case. The key here is to explain how the rule applies to the facts and why it supports one side or the other.

Conclusion: The final step in the IRAC process is to draw a conclusion or outcome based on the application of the rule to the facts. This conclusion should be concise and clear, and should ideally answer the legal question or issue identified in step one.

The IRAC process is an effective way to organize a case brief and ensure that all relevant legal issues are addressed. It helps to break down complex legal issues into more manageable parts and provides a framework for analysis and discussion. By following this process, law students can develop their analytical skills and gain a better understanding of the law.

How does LSD structure case briefs? The ICRA+ model.

LSD uses a slightly different structure to brief cases than IRAC. Instead, we use ICRA (Issue, Conclusion, Rule, Analysis). The reason we use a different approach is because of the purpose of our briefs vs the purpose of a brief you create when doing assigned reading. IRAC is a great way to brief a case as a student. It helps structure your thoughts as you are digesting the case and builds analytical thinking skills that are key to being a lawyer. However, we think ICRA is a better way to digest a full case before doing assigned reading (or to be honest when cramming before class).

Then what is ICRA+?

Issue: State the issue(s) of the case. This makes sure you know what you are looking for when you are reading the case and gives you an initial sense of how it relates to what you have or will learn in class.

Conclusion: What was the final outcome of the case? This is the answer to the issue(s). With this you know what decision the court is driving towards as you are reading. Plus, if you just read the issue and conclusion you should be able to answer simple cold calls. You might not be ready for the tough ones, but you should be able to avoid embarrassment!

Rule: Lists the applicable rule(s) of law that the court identifies. This section gives you a sense of what rule is being applied (or deliberately not applied) in the case.

Analysis/Application: Abbreviated discussion of how the facts of the case are related to the relevant laws. In other words, summarize the court’s analysis. This is where you start to get into a little more detail about the case.

With our ICRA you should be able to make it through class. But wait, there’s more. LSD Briefs also include a tl;dr, facts, holding, and a deep dive.

Tl;dr: "Too Long Didn't Read" This is a one sentence take away at the top of all of our briefs. This is a great tool for knowing what to look for when starting your reading. AND if you cant do any reading for class you can at least shout out the tl;dr if you get cold called.

Facts: A list of relevant facts and relevant procedural history/posture.

Holding: A summary of the court’s holding in the case.

Deep dive: The LSD deep dive is a one-of-a-kind tool for law school students. The Deep Dive lets you read the case at the level you want. You can quickly find the portion of the case that is most important for your class. The deep dive lets you read a quick summary of the case and click on any text to get more detail, this continues until you get to the full case text.

Related Articles

  1. Preparing for Class
  2. Case Brief Generator
  3. Writing an Effective Case Brief for Students
Windsor MIT '22, Harvard College Advisor

I am the half of LSD that didn't take the LSAT, or go to law school (Sorry about that). But I did go to MIT business school while surrounded by law students and lawyers, so I am somewhat qualified to talk about the intricacies of law school apps and finances.

Windsor (the dog) didn't write this but he WAS a Resident Tutor and career advisor at Harvard College with me, so deserves some credit.


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