How To Write A Legal Brief: According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a brief is a written statement setting out the legal contentions of a party in litigation, especially on appeal; a document prepared by counsel as the basis for arguing a case, consisting of legal and factual arguments and the authorities in support of them. It is also called a brief of argument. The strength of a brief determines the outcome of the case as a case can either be won or lost.
The counsel preparing a brief owes his clients the duty of due diligence and expertise. The counsel should put in his best in drafting the brief as the fate of his client in court is largely dependent on how well his brief of argument is structured.
A brief must have certain contents. These contents go to the structure of the brief as any element missing may be fatal to the case of a client. These contents notwithstanding, there are basic tips one should follow in writing a good brief.
The elements of a brief as well as basic tips in writing a brief shall be our focus in this article.
Table of Content
How to Write a Legal Brief (Contents of a Brief)
1. Introduction: The introduction of a legal brief contains the names of the parties and a brief history of the case. It tells the court the procedural history of the case, that is, the various processes that have been adopted by the party in bringing the matter to court. The introduction to some extent highlights the party’s case theory. It enunciates a party’s claims in the case.
2. Questions or Issues for Determination: After the introduction, the next content of a brief is the question(s) raised which become(s) the issues which a party wants the court to determine. Issues are drawn from the facts of the case. A solicitor should be able to distil issues as well as raise questions which the court will adjudicate on. Where no issues are raised, the suit may likely be struck out or dismissed.
3. Facts of the Case: The next content of a brief is an outline of the facts of the case. The brief should contain a chronological and logical report of the issues that gave rise to the case in a sequential order. It sets out the cause of action from which issues are raised and are to be determined by the court.
4. Arguments: The arguments of the party is captured in this part of the brief. Here, you state your position and try as much as possible to persuade the court into seeing reasons with your client’s case. The arguments should be based on facts.
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5. Summary and Conclusion: The summary and conclusion of a brief summarizes the entire brief from the facts of the case, the arguments and application of relevant laws to the case study at hand. Here, the brief applies relevant statutory authorities and judgments in support of his client’s case and urges the court to uphold same.
6. List of Legal Authorities Relied on in the Brief: After writing your brief, one is expected to make a full list of all legal authorities he relied on or cited in the brief of argument. This should begin with the primary sources first, then to secondary sources and tertiary sources.
The primary sources of legal authorities should also be grouped into binding primary sources and persuasive (foreign) sources. For example, when making a list of cases, foreign cases should be grouped differently and they should come after the list of domestic cases.
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7. Addresses for Service: This is the last part of a brief. It is the addresses of the parties or their legal practitioners for service of the brief on them.
Our next focus now is on basic tips to follow on how to write a good brief. But before going into that, i would like to watch the YouTube video below as it explains more on the contents of good legal brief:
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Basic Tips in Writing A Good Brief
Just like every other type of writing, there are tips or basic rules which aid us in writing a good brief. These tips will be discussed ad seriatim.
1. Understand Your Client’s Case: In order to write a good legal brief, one needs to have a proper understanding of his client’s case. A good knowledge of the facts of the case will aid him in better appreciating the case. Understanding the case of the client will make him know if it is a case in tort, contract, human rights, etc. This will give him an insight into what the case is all about and will help in the formulation of issues for determination.
A solicitor must first, understand the case of his client, after which, he may start formulating issues for determination by the court.
2. Carry out extensive research on the subject: Where a solicitor has understood the case of his client and he has defined it to an area of law, he then needs to carry out an extensive research into that field of law. If it is a case of contract, he needs to make a deeper research and further reading on contract to be adequately prepared for the case. One should not just jump into writing a brief without a sound knowledge of the subject or area in which the case falls.
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3. Have a Good Command of Language: A solicitor should have a good Command of the means of communication in his country. A good command of his country’s ligua franca is key to writing a good brief. For example, solicitors in English speaking Countries should have a good command of English language.
English language is the language of the court in Nigeria and one must be able to communicate properly in it. The basic rules of English concord should be well understood so as to write a sound legal brief that will be intelligible to the Court.
4. Avoid Verbosity: A brief is basically written to prove your client’s case and not to prove how knowledgeable you are. The interest of your client should be your priority. In the light of this, simple, normal words of every day usage will go a long way to prove your point. Avoid the use of big words when there are smaller equivalent. Avoid repetition of words that have the same meaning. Also, avoid the use of foreign expressions, unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.
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5. Proofread and Scrutinize Your Work: After you are done writing a brief, the brief should be proofread by you at least two times. Also, you may give the brief to a learned colleague of yours to scrutinize it for mistakes. A third eye will be able to spot out mistakes that were not discovered during proofreading. Thus, ensure that you always proofread your brief for possible mistakes and correct them accordingly.
In conclusion, just as have been noted earlier, a case is most likely won from the strength of a brief. Judges are very busy as they have numerous briefs to go through. A poorly written brief will jeopardize your chances of winning a case, no matter how good your case might be. It is therefore, absolutely necessary, that legal practitioners pay enough attention to the writing of their briefs same way they do when making an appearance in Court.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ACMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.