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What Is a Legal Brief?

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A legal brief is a document used to submit an argument to a court. Lawyers generally write legal briefs to persuade a court to rule in their client’s favor on a particular issue. The goal of these briefs is to convince a court that a certain position is correct, logical, and reasonable. To achieve this effect, a legal brief must be compelling and concise and invoke interest from those who read it. The brief must treat the court as a potential ally that can be won over by effective persuasion and imply that the court can effectively serve justice by taking the side presented in the brief. To effectively persuade the court, an attorney must never lie or distort any facts of the case, but rather present his or her client’s case in the best light possible and suggest that the requested action is both consistent with past legal precedent and with the rule of law.

Legal briefs typically follow a certain order and include specific content, described below:

Title Page

 The title page of a legal brief usually contains the following information:

  • Case number
  • Name of the appellant and respondent as stated in the case
  • Identification of the brief as taking the side of either the appellant or respondent
  • Name of the court from which the case originates
  • Request for an oral argument
  • Name and address of attorney appearing before the court

Table of Contents

The table of contents in a legal brief is often a separate, single page that lists each element presented in the brief and the page on which the element begins. Because the argument in the brief is usually the most complex and detailed, the headings and subheadings used in the argument section are listed in the table of contents in great detail.

Table of Authorities

The table of authorities lists all materials used to support the argument in the brief. It is similar to the bibliography of a term paper and includes all pages in the brief where a particular excerpt is found. The purpose of the table of authorities is not only to verify the sources the attorney uses, but also to help the court and other attorneys determine what cases, statutes, or other materials the brief cites so they can easily locate these references in the original research materials the attorney uses in preparing the case.

Statement of the Issues

This introductory statement gives a brief overview of the legal issues or points of law involved in the case. It tells the court exactly what legal issues the attorney wants the court to decide and is written in the format of “yes/no” questions.

Statement of the Facts

The statement of the facts basically retells the facts from the client’s point of view. The purpose of this section is to set the stage for the argument and present the situation at hand in a manner that helps the attorney’s client.

Argument

The argument is the most important part of the brief and is similar to a persuasive essay with many research references. If the attorney fails to present the details of his or her case in a well-written and convincing manner, he or she could immediately lose the case. In this section the attorney describes each point in detail that he or she wants the court to consider. Structurally, each part of the argument first supports the various issues of the client’s case and then opposes any anticipated rebuttals of these issues. To obtain the best possible results, the attorney must write the argument in active, positive, forceful language.

A legal brief is one of the main tools an attorney has to use against the opposing party to exonerate his or her client. As a result, presenting the most compelling points in a brief can mean the difference between winning and losing a case.

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