Drafting a Brief to a Court

The following documents offer some suggestions for drafting a brief to a court - broadly defined as a memorandum of law intended to persuade a court of the legal correctness of a position you have asserted on behalf of a client in a litigated case. Narratives in Law: the Statement of Facts in a Trial Brief, Use of Paragraphs and Thesis Development in Legal Argument, and Checklist for Drafting a Trial Brief exemplify the components of a conventional structure for a brief to a trial court, and a paradigm for a legal argument. Case Study: Two Versions of a Trial Brief illustrates how one writer effectively revised the first draft of a brief to maximize its persuasive potential by strategically using facts, highlighting and developing a thesis, organizing information within paragraphs, and using signposts to guide the reader.

Before submitting a brief to a court (of any level and in any jurisdiction), you should consult the rules of that court concerning format, page length, and citation. Court rules are usually published and, if the court maintains a Web site, will be available via the Internet. The rules of the court to which you submit a brief take precedence over any variations in format that appear in the examples we have provided. With that caveat, it would be permissible and often appropriate to make choices with respect to the format that we offer here - on framing the legal question presented, on characterizing and developing the theory of the case, on the level of detail to include in the Statement of Facts, on the choice and ordering of legal points in the Argument. There is no single version of a brief to a court that will serve all situations. The choices you make will be informed by the nature and level of complexity of the legal issue that you are arguing, the formality and public nature of advocacy to a court, and the needs and expectations of your audience - a jurist or panel of judges who are facing heavy court dockets and who will expect a clear and cogent presentation of your legal and factual case theories. As in the case of office memoranda, keeping the needs and expectations of your audience in mind is a key skill for drafting an effective brief to a court.