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Case Brief

Description of Lesson: Students are given a legal case or topic from which to search for cases and decisions. Students then prepare a written brief of that case. The student may also share that brief with the rest of the class in some way.

Appropriate Content Areas: Law. Could be modified to brief any documents fitting a specific protocol.

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Goals & Objectives:

The goal of a case brief is either to teach the process or the expand student knowledge of a given legal context.


The student should have

  • knowledge of how to access the given court documents
  • ability to read difficult legal documents

Materials and Resources:

The instructor should provide links to the required cases or documents on a given topic as well as locations where the documents can be retrieved. The instructor should also provide instructions for preparing the brief.

Student will need access to a variety of legal resources.

Guiding Questions for this Lesson:

How did the court arrive at a given decision? What are the implications of that decision? How might this decision be applied in other contexts?

Lesson Outline and Procedure:

  • Students are presented with an assignment description, usually, if case briefs will be used throughout a course, this description will become available early on in the course, possibly as part of the syllabus.
  • At specified times, students are provided topics or case listings that must be briefed.
  • Students are then required to submit these briefs at a designated time and place. Sometimes, the entire case listing may be presented at the beginning of the course. Usually, at least a week should be available between the assignment of cases or topics and the due date of the brief in part to allow for students acquisition of necessary documents via a distance.
  • The completed brief may be submitted directly to the instructor or to the entire class for peer analysis and collaboration/sharing of briefs.
  • A discussoin of the various cases should follow the briefs to allow students to learn the content of all cases, not just the ones they briefed. Students should be held responsible for discussing items present in their cases though.

Teaching Strategies:

  • Keep the case or topic list up-to-date.
  • Link the expectations of the assignment with the learning objective to be served.


What accommodations may be needed for students with disabilities or other special needs? Usually, accommodations will be limited if the resources are available online. Many legal documents are also available in braille.


The amount of time that a brief will take to create will depend in part on the level of difficulty placed upon requirements. If the entire history of a case and all related documents are to be reviewed, a 5 hour expectation may be reasonable, whereas, if the students is only briefing a single case document, an hour may be reasonable.

Ideas for Lesson Evaluation and Teacher Reflection:

How did the students like the lesson? End of semester evaluations should ask about the usefulness and learning accomplished through such activities. Also, the conversation that occurs during the activity will help guage how the students are enjoying various aspects and whether they are learning and/or participating.

How was student learning verified? The brief itself can be analyzed for criteria such as authority, citations, grammar, conciseness, timeliness, organization, required content, conceptual development, etc. depending on the objectives. Learning can also be judged by the student's ability to link earlier briefs in situations discussed later in the course. A final examination may also be used with specific reference to the case. The ability of the student to discuss the given case in course forums can also be judged.

Useful References:

  1. Glaeser, D. (n.d.). How to Read a Judicial Opinion,
  2. Randall, V. (2004). Components of a Brief,
  3. Warnken, B., & Samuels, E. (n.d.). The Need to Make Written Case Briefs,
  4., (2016). How to become a lawyer

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