Contact us whenever you need it!

phone

+1 855 997 0206

Contact Hours: Sun-Sat 8am - 10pm ET

A legal brief is a legal document that is an official filing in a lawsuit that can be drafted and signed by any party to the case. The goal of the legal brief is to persuade a judge or judges that your side deserves a ruling in your favor. You can include arguments that support your party winning on both the law and the facts of the case, but a brief aims to convey why you should win.

There are several elements that are required in a legal brief. These include:

  • The facts of the case
  • The issue(s) for the court to decide
  • Request for a form of relief

What procedural request you make in your brief will be determined by which side of the case you are on and what stage of litigation your case has reached. For example, if you are being sued by a client over a contract dispute, you may file a brief in opposition to their motion for discovery.

There are two standard legal brief formats: trial and appellate. The style and contents of your legal brief will vary based on whether your case is at trial or on appeal.

Each jurisdiction and court has its own local rules. Carefully read the local rules applicable to your case to ensure you file your brief in the proper amount of time, in the correct format, and with the right clerk.

In a trial brief, you will present your party’s arguments regarding a potential ruling. Sometimes, the trial judge will specifically request briefs on a particular argument, such as whether to allow discovery. On other occasions, a motion made by the other side will compel you to respond with a brief.

At the appellate level, the legal brief definition slightly changes. Once a trial court has ruled on a case, arguments in the appellate court will be focused on a specific error or errors one side alleges that the trial judge made. Therefore, appellate legal briefs are limited to the specific issues being reviewed on appeal.

Writing a legal brief may appear to be a burdensome task, but specific tips can help streamline your process. One of the most important things is to prepare before you begin writing. List out the legal issues in the case, the ones relevant to your brief, and what research you need to accomplish. Then, remember the proper procedural and formatting requirements to make your brief a winner. Always keep in mind precisely what you are trying to convince the court to do in the legal brief.

When you are mapping out your legal brief, there are four areas that must be addressed. These are:

  • The facts of the case
  • What issues are in dispute
  • The decision you want the court to make
  • The rationale for the decision you are arguing for

Most legal briefs will include a “Statement of the Case” where you write on the facts of the case and what has occurred so far in the litigation. Then you can move on to the “Questions Presented” and “Summary of Argument” sections. Within these three sections, you will typically confer the four essential elements.

Additional Elements

Your legal brief needs to be tailored to your case and the procedural requirements of the court. Therefore, there are additional elements you may encounter based on your specific brief. However, remember that the best persuasion anticipates counterarguments and refutes them proactively.

Annotations and Highlights

You will need to cite all the authorities you rely on to make your legal arguments. A “Table of Cases” or “Table of Authorities” section will usually be included immediately after the brief’s Table of Contents. Be sure to use correct formatting when citing cases in your brief so that the court can quickly find the authority you are relying on. If the court cannot locate the law you are pointing to, they are unlikely to find your argument persuasive.

Helpful Resources: Motion - Cornell Law

Brief - Cornell Laws

Standard of Review - Cornell Law

FAQs About Legal Briefs

  • What Is the Difference Between a Brief and a Motion?

    A motion is a legal request that a court does something. For example, common motions include “for summary judgment,” “to dismiss,” or “to compel discovery.” These are all trial motions and not applicable to appellate courts. Conversely, at the trial level, a legal brief can answer certain motions or be drafted in response to a judge’s request.

    LawDistrict.com is a comprehensive site for all things legal. Our professional attorneys can assist you if you have further questions about lawsuits, procedures, or legal writing.

  • How Long Does It Take To Write a Legal Brief?

    The best answer is it depends. Each court will have its own rules on the length of any brief, and these will guide the time you spend preparing each document. While your brief needs to be thorough and authoritative, judges do not want lengthy reads about irrelevant information. Focus your time on writing clean and direct legal briefs.

  • What Are the Uses of a Legal Brief?

    A legal brief is used, typically by attorneys and lawyers, to argue on behalf of their clients. Trial briefs can be used to oppose motions filed by the other party or to persuade a court to make a ruling in your favor.

    Appellate briefs contain the basis of arguments for why the court should uphold or set aside a trial judge's ruling based on a limited error governed by a standard of review. The standard is how much deference the appellate judges grant the trial judge’s ruling, based on what issue the party is appealing.

  • Why Would a Lawyer Write a Brief?

    Having an attorney write a legal brief is the default option in most cases. Lawyers are specially trained in legal writing and research, and they understand the complex nuances of a brief. When an attorney signs on a legal brief and files it with the court, they are putting their professional licensing and reputation behind the contents.

    Legal research not only requires finding sources that support your argument but checking that those sources are still valid law. This process is referred to as Shepardizing and requires access to powerful legal databases. It is generally cost-prohibitive to Shepardize one case without paying for more robust access to these services. A lawyer or their law firm pays to make sure their legal briefs contain up-to-date citations.

A legal brief is a legal document that is an official filing in a lawsuit that can be drafted and signed by any party to the case. The goal of the legal brief is to persuade a judge or judges that your side deserves a ruling in your favor. You can include arguments that support your party winning on both the law and the facts of the case, but a brief aims to convey why you should win.

There are several elements that are required in a legal brief. These include:

  • The facts of the case
  • The issue(s) for the court to decide
  • Request for a form of relief

What procedural request you make in your brief will be determined by which side of the case you are on and what stage of litigation your case has reached. For example, if you are being sued by a client over a contract dispute, you may file a brief in opposition to their motion for discovery.

There are two standard legal brief formats: trial and appellate. The style and contents of your legal brief will vary based on whether your case is at trial or on appeal.

Each jurisdiction and court has its own local rules. Carefully read the local rules applicable to your case to ensure you file your brief in the proper amount of time, in the correct format, and with the right clerk.

In a trial brief, you will present your party’s arguments regarding a potential ruling. Sometimes, the trial judge will specifically request briefs on a particular argument, such as whether to allow discovery. On other occasions, a motion made by the other side will compel you to respond with a brief.

At the appellate level, the legal brief definition slightly changes. Once a trial court has ruled on a case, arguments in the appellate court will be focused on a specific error or errors one side alleges that the trial judge made. Therefore, appellate legal briefs are limited to the specific issues being reviewed on appeal.

Writing a legal brief may appear to be a burdensome task, but specific tips can help streamline your process. One of the most important things is to prepare before you begin writing. List out the legal issues in the case, the ones relevant to your brief, and what research you need to accomplish. Then, remember the proper procedural and formatting requirements to make your brief a winner. Always keep in mind precisely what you are trying to convince the court to do in the legal brief.

When you are mapping out your legal brief, there are four areas that must be addressed. These are:

  • The facts of the case
  • What issues are in dispute
  • The decision you want the court to make
  • The rationale for the decision you are arguing for

Most legal briefs will include a “Statement of the Case” where you write on the facts of the case and what has occurred so far in the litigation. Then you can move on to the “Questions Presented” and “Summary of Argument” sections. Within these three sections, you will typically confer the four essential elements.

Additional Elements

Your legal brief needs to be tailored to your case and the procedural requirements of the court. Therefore, there are additional elements you may encounter based on your specific brief. However, remember that the best persuasion anticipates counterarguments and refutes them proactively.

Annotations and Highlights

You will need to cite all the authorities you rely on to make your legal arguments. A “Table of Cases” or “Table of Authorities” section will usually be included immediately after the brief’s Table of Contents. Be sure to use correct formatting when citing cases in your brief so that the court can quickly find the authority you are relying on. If the court cannot locate the law you are pointing to, they are unlikely to find your argument persuasive.

Helpful Resources: Motion - Cornell Law

Brief - Cornell Laws

Standard of Review - Cornell Law

FAQs About Legal Briefs

  • What Is the Difference Between a Brief and a Motion?

    A motion is a legal request that a court does something. For example, common motions include “for summary judgment,” “to dismiss,” or “to compel discovery.” These are all trial motions and not applicable to appellate courts. Conversely, at the trial level, a legal brief can answer certain motions or be drafted in response to a judge’s request.

    LawDistrict.com is a comprehensive site for all things legal. Our professional attorneys can assist you if you have further questions about lawsuits, procedures, or legal writing.

  • How Long Does It Take To Write a Legal Brief?

    The best answer is it depends. Each court will have its own rules on the length of any brief, and these will guide the time you spend preparing each document. While your brief needs to be thorough and authoritative, judges do not want lengthy reads about irrelevant information. Focus your time on writing clean and direct legal briefs.

  • What Are the Uses of a Legal Brief?

    A legal brief is used, typically by attorneys and lawyers, to argue on behalf of their clients. Trial briefs can be used to oppose motions filed by the other party or to persuade a court to make a ruling in your favor.

    Appellate briefs contain the basis of arguments for why the court should uphold or set aside a trial judge's ruling based on a limited error governed by a standard of review. The standard is how much deference the appellate judges grant the trial judge’s ruling, based on what issue the party is appealing.

  • Why Would a Lawyer Write a Brief?

    Having an attorney write a legal brief is the default option in most cases. Lawyers are specially trained in legal writing and research, and they understand the complex nuances of a brief. When an attorney signs on a legal brief and files it with the court, they are putting their professional licensing and reputation behind the contents.

    Legal research not only requires finding sources that support your argument but checking that those sources are still valid law. This process is referred to as Shepardizing and requires access to powerful legal databases. It is generally cost-prohibitive to Shepardize one case without paying for more robust access to these services. A lawyer or their law firm pays to make sure their legal briefs contain up-to-date citations.