You found the best resource to learn all about what a legal brief is, who prepares it, and how long it should be. Our in-depth and original legal brief definition guide answers these and many more of your questions!

What is a Legal Brief?

A legal brief is a document written by one or more parties in a legal dispute that summarizes the facts of the case and the applicable law. Lawyers typically submit it to a court to persuade the judge(s) to reach a certain ruling or judgment in their favor, such as a decree of injunctive relief.

What is the Purpose of a Legal Brief?

The purpose of a legal brief is to present a concise and persuasive argument to a court or decision-maker in support of a party’s position in a legal dispute. It serves as a written representation of the party’s legal arguments, analysis of relevant law, and application of that law to the facts of the case.

The brief is intended to provide the court with a clear understanding of the party’s position and to convince the court that the party’s request is justified and interpretation of the law is correct.

By presenting a well-structured and well-reasoned brief, the party hopes to influence the court’s decision in its favor.

Brief legal definition meaning

How Long Should a Legal Brief Be?

The length of a legal brief depends on the complexity of the case, the length of underlying documents, the number of issues, and the court’s maximum length requirements. Often, legal briefs are only 1-2 pages in length.

Different jurisdictions limit the total number of pages or word count for the lawyers writing a brief must abide by. The page and word limits can differ for brief types and are based on several factors.

For instance, calculating the limit changes if the brief is written using a typewriter or a computer.

To be the most effective, briefs must be concise and to the point, as the court is not interested in lengthy arguments that stray from the issues.

Who Prepares Legal Briefs in a Lawsuit?

Lawyers prepare legal briefs in a lawsuit, either individually or in collaboration with a team that may include paralegals and legal assistants. These attorneys analyze the case’s facts, conduct legal research, determine a strategy, and craft persuasive arguments to support their clients’ positions.

How to Draft a Legal Brief?

Drafting a legal brief requires careful attention to detail and a structured approach. Here are some general steps attorneys follow when drafting a legal brief:

  1. Identify the relevant facts: Start your brief by summarizing the facts of the case. Include the names of the parties involved in the dispute, a brief description of their relationship, and a timeline of the events leading up to the dispute.
  2. Identify the legal issues: Next, identify the legal issues in the case. This should include a clear statement of the legal questions that the court must answer and any applicable laws or regulations.
  3. Research the law: Research the applicable laws and regulations to determine how they apply to the facts of the case. Be sure to include any relevant case law or other legal authorities.
  4. Make arguments: Using your research, make arguments explaining how the case’s facts should be interpreted in light of the applicable law. Include a conclusion that states your position on the legal issues.
  5. Cite authority: Support each argument with citations to legal authority. Make sure to include sources to any case law, statutes, regulations, or constitutional provisions that you reference in your brief.
  6. Format the brief: Follow any formatting guidelines set forth by the court where the case is being heard. This may include page limits, font size, or other formatting requirements.
  7. Submit the brief: When you are finished, submit your brief to the court. Make sure to follow any filing instructions provided by the court.

What Does a Good Legal Brief Contain?

Generally, a good legal brief should include a concise statement of the issue or issues presented, the case facts and outline, the applicable laws, prior court rulings and opinions, the arguments for each side of the suit, and a conclusion.

A good brief should follow required formatting guidelines, be organized logically, and include citations (often footnotes) to any relevant legal case precedent or authority.

It should also include any additional facts or evidence necessary to support the argument, including an explanation for how each applies.

How To Cite a Transcript in a Legal Brief?

When citing a deposition transcript in a legal brief, following the citation format required in the jurisdiction it is being filed (if there is one) is essential.

The general elements to include when citing a transcript are as follows:

  1. Identify the parties: Identify the names of the parties involved in the case. Include the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) as listed in the transcript.
  2. Specify the transcript: Clearly state that you are citing from a transcript. For example, you can use phrases like “According to the transcript” or “In the transcript dated [date].”
  3. Provide the page or line numbers: Indicate the specific page number(s) or line number(s) from the transcript that supports your argument.
  4. Pinpoint the relevant excerpt: Quote or summarize the specific portion(s) of the transcript that supports your argument. Use quotation marks for direct quotes, and provide enough context for the court official to understand their relevance.
  5. Include the date: Mention the date of the transcript to provide context and ensure accuracy. Transcripts should include the month, day, and year.

The following is an example of how to cite a transcript in a legal brief:

“According to the transcript dated [date], on page 42, the defendant stated, ‘I have never met the plaintiff in my life.’ This statement directly contradicts the plaintiff’s claim of a prior acquaintance.”

It’s important to note that citation formats can vary, and specific courts or jurisdictions may have preferred citation styles.

Therefore, it’s recommended to consult local rules, style guides, or the court’s guidelines to ensure proper citation formatting when citing a transcript in a legal brief.

How to Cite an Exhibit in a Legal Brief?

When citing an exhibit in a legal brief, following the citation format required by the jurisdiction or court where the brief will be submitted is crucial (although, typically, there are no local rules unless dealing with a summary judgment).

The following are the general guidelines for citing an exhibit:

  1. Identify the exhibit: Indicate that you are citing an exhibit. You can use phrases such as “According to Exhibit 1” or “Referring to Exhibit A.”
  2. Provide a descriptive label: Assign a descriptive title to the exhibit to help identify it. This can be a number (e.g., Exhibit 1, Exhibit 2) or a letter (e.g., Exhibit A, Exhibit B). Use the label consistently throughout the brief.
  3. Include a reference to the exhibit: Within the text, reference the exhibit by its descriptive label. For example, you can cite as “As shown in Exhibit 1” or “Referring to Exhibit A.”
  4. Describe the exhibit: Briefly describe the content or nature of the exhibit to provide context. For instance, mention if it is a document, photograph, contract, or any other type of evidence.
  5. Provide the exhibit’s source or origin: Indicate where the exhibit came from or how it was obtained. This could include information such as the document title, court case, author, date, website page, or source from which it was obtained.
  6. Pinpoint the relevant portion: Specify the section or part of the exhibit supporting your cause of action or argument. Use page numbers, paragraph numbers, or other appropriate markers to pinpoint the relevant information.

Below is an example of how to cite an exhibit in a legal brief:

“According to Exhibit A, a contract dated July 1, 2023, between the plaintiff and defendant, paragraph 3 clearly states the agreed-upon payment terms.”

Remember to refer to the local rules, style guides, or court guidelines specific to your jurisdiction for precise formatting instructions on citing exhibits in a legal brief.

What Does Passim Mean in a Legal Brief?

In a legal brief, “passim” is a Latin term meaning “scattered throughout” and refers to the several citations or references spread across a document.

Most recently, the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) made a series of rulings, including updating its authority table to no longer include passim.

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: June 13, 2023 7:32pm CDT