How to Write a “Brief”
Use the following “IRAC” (Issue Rule Application Conclusion) format:
Issue: What question must be answered in order to reach a conclusion in the case? The Issue
must be expressed in the form of a legal question which, when answered, gives the result in the
case. Make it specific (e.g. “Has there been a false imprisonment if the plaintiff was asleep at
the time of ‘confinement’?”) rather than general (e.g. Did the defendant owe a duty of care to the
plaintiff when the plaintiff was trespassing on the defendant’s property?). Some cases present
more than one issue; if there is more than one issue, it is OK to write more than one, but be
sure to list the principal one and focus on that.
Rule: The Rule is the law that applies to the principal issue. It should be stated as a general
principal, (e.g. A duty of care is owed whenever the defendant should anticipate that her
conduct could create a risk of harm to the plaintiff.) not a conclusion to the case being briefed,
(e.g. “The plaintiff was negligent.”). Typically, the Rule can be expressed in one or two
Application: The Application is a discussion of how the Rule applies to the facts of the case.
Essentially, the Application section is a description of the relevant facts, the parties’ arguments
and positions in the case, and the court’s thought process by which it answered the Issue and
established the Rule. While the Issue and Rule are normally only one or two sentences each,
the Application section of a brief should be two to four paragraphs long. It should be a written
debate, not simply a statement of the Conclusion. Whenever possible, present both sides of any
issue. Do not begin with your Conclusion. The Application section shows how you can track the
court’s reasoning on paper and is the most difficult skill you will learn. It is also permissible to
put the relevant facts of the case in a separate section of the Brief.
Conclusion: What was the result of the case? Did the appellate or supreme court affirm,
reverse or reverse and remand the lower court’s decision?
The case gives you a background of the facts along with the judge’s reasoning and
conclusion. When you brief cases, you are summarizing the judge’s opinion. Briefs should not
have to exceed more than two pages in lengt
How to Write a “Brief”