brief | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee

A brief is 1) a written statement submitted in a court case that explains one side’s legal and factual arguments or 2) a summary of a court case prepared by a student in an academic setting.

When it comes to the term brief, there are actually two different meanings that are used in different contexts. We’ll define both of these meanings and provide a clearer understanding of what one is.

Definition  1: Briefs In a Court Case

In a court case, a brief is a written statement submitted in a trial or appellate proceeding that explains one side’s legal and factual arguments. Essentially, it’s a document that sets out a party’s position on a particular issue in a concise and persuasive manner.

They can take many different forms, but they typically include a statement of the facts of the case, a summary of relevant legal principles, and an argument that applies those principles to the specific facts of the case. In addition, briefs may also cite legal authority, such as cases or statutes, to support their arguments.

The purpose of a brief is to persuade the court that a party’s position is the correct one and to provide a framework for the court to make a decision. Because of this, briefs are an important part of the legal process, and they are often given significant weight by courts in their decision-making.

Definition 2: Briefs In Academic Settings

In academic settings, the term “brief” is often used to denote a summary of a court case prepared by a student as a learning aid. These are typically shorter (often a single page) than the briefs that are submitted in court cases, but they serve a similar purpose: to distill the key facts and legal principles of a case in a concise and understandable way.

Preparing a brief can be a valuable exercise for students of law, as it requires them to carefully read and analyze the details of a case and to think critically about the legal issues involved. In addition, briefs can be useful study aids, as they allow students to review the key points of a case quickly and efficiently.

When preparing a brief for an academic setting, students typically include a summary of the key facts of the case, a discussion of the legal issues involved, and an analysis of the court’s decision and its reasoning. In addition, it may also include citations to legal authorities that support the student’s analysis.


As we’ve seen, the term “brief” can have two different meanings depending on the context in which it is used. In a court case, a brief is a written statement submitted by a party that sets out their legal and factual arguments. In an academic setting, a brief is a summary of a court case prepared by a student as a learning aid.

Whether you’re preparing a brief for a court case or as part of your legal studies, the key is to be concise, persuasive, and thorough in your analysis. By carefully crafting your argument and presenting it in a clear and compelling way, you can increase your chances of success both in the courtroom and in the classroom.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 05/05/2023

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