Torts Evening - Fall 2007
Professor Ralph Brill
Course Information
Course Information

 

SUGGESTIONS FOR PREPARING BRIEFS

1. Read all the cases assigned for that class first, before going back to brief the first case. The later cases often will make clearer the true significance and holding of the first case. This is because the author has put them in a certain order for a reason. As explained before, it may be to help you understand the historical development of a rule, it may be to help you understand the various elements of a doctrine, it may be to show a different rule and the reasons given by those courts which disagree, it may be to show a refinement of a rule or its application to various facts.

2. State the holding and reasoning in YOUR OWN WORDS.. Don't just copy from the book. Even try closing the book, so as not to be tempted to merely copy. You can't master an idea unless you can explain it to someone else, and you can't do that unless you translate it into language that you are more familiar or comfortable with. Courts tend to write their opinions in complex jargon or legalese. It is important that you translate the complex language into words that you are more familiar or comfortable with, so long as you make sure that you are not altering the legal meaning of the words by so doing. Sometimes, you must try to adjust to legalistic terms which are "words of art."

3. Avoid using "canned briefs." These are commercially sold briefs of the cases in your casebook. Students think that using these will save them time in briefing the cases themselves. But the only benefit from briefing cases comes from doing it yourself, for yourself. People think differently. Some may find one format useful, while others find that same format useless. Some people must write very detailed summaries of a case in order to master it; some only require a single sentence to enable them to recall all of the essential aspects of the case and its holding. Experiment as to what format is best for you.
But the "canned briefs" are someone else's format, someone else's words, and you would have to adjust to this someone else's methods rather than your own.

4. Some of your profs or others will suggest possible forms, but remember, there is no one magical method. You want to create a format that works for you. At the beginning of the semester, you probably want to make the briefs a bit longer, so as to enable you to remember the name of the case, its jurisdiction and date, the page where it is found in the book, the important facts, the issue or issues, the holding and the reasoning, plus any questions you have about the cases, or concerns about the outcome. You will be able to revise your format later as you discover how much or how little you need to accomplish the goals of reinforcing and learning, remembering, and reviewing.