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A summary of the important points of a longer document. An abstract of a published judicial opinion prepared by a law student as part of an assignment in the Case Method study of law. A written document drawn up by an attorney for a party in a lawsuit or by a party himself or herself appearing pro se that concisely states the following: (1) issues of a lawsuit; (2) facts that bring the parties to court; (3) relevant laws that can affect the subject of the dispute; and (4) arguments that explain how the law applies to the particular facts so that the case will be decided in the party's favor.

A brief may also contain a synopsis of the evidence and name the witnesses to be presented during the trial. Copies of briefs must be submitted to the court where the case will be heard and to the opposing party.

An appellate brief is a writing that must be filed with an appellate court so that the court may evaluate whether the decision of the lower court should be reversed because of some error or impropriety that occurred during the trial. A statement of the issues presented for review, a summary of how pertinent laws affect the facts, and a statement of the relief being requested are essential elements of an appellate brief. The appellee's brief will argue that the lower court acted properly in its judgment and request its affirmance, while the appellant's brief will attempt to convince the court to reverse or vacate the lower court's judgment because it acted improperly.

See also the Milestones in the Law and Appendix volumes for examples.


1) n. a written legal argument, usually in a format prescribed by the courts, stating the legal reasons for the suit based on statutes, regulations, case precedents, legal texts, and reasoning applied to facts in the particular situation. A brief is submitted to lay out the argument for various petitions and motions before the court (sometimes called "points and authorities"), to counter the arguments of opposing lawyers, and to provide the judge or judges with reasons to rule in favor of the party represented by the brief writer. Occasionally on minor or follow-up legal issues, the judge will specify that a letter or memorandum brief will be sufficient. On appeals and certain other major arguments, the brief is bound with color-coded covers stipulated in state and/or federal court rules. Ironically, although the term was originally intended to mean a brief or summary argument (shorter than an oral presentation), legal briefs are quite often notoriously long. 2) v. to summarize a precedent case or lay out in writing a legal argument. Attentive law students "brief" each case in their casebooks, which means extracting the rule of law, the reasoning (rationale), the essential facts, and the outcome. 3) to give a summary of important information to another person. (See: precedent)


adjective abbreviated, abridged, aphoristic, bare, brisk, close, cometary, compact, compendious, compressed, concise, condensed, contracted, cursory, cut short, elliptical, ephemeral, epigrammatic, epitomized, exact, fading, fleeting, hasty, hurried, laconic, limited, meteoric, momentary, not protracted, passing, pithy, precise, quick, reduced, sententious, short, short-term, slight, small, sparing of words, speedy, succinct, sudden, summarized, summary, swift, temporary, to the point, transient, transitory, trenchant, unprolonged, volatile
Associated concepts: brief description, brief statement, brief summary


noun abridgment, account, argument, capsule, compendium, condensation, conspectus, depiction, digest, extract, legal abstract, legal document, legal epitome, legal memorandum, memorandum, memorandum of law, outline, outline on the law, profile, representation, sketch, statement of the case, summary, summary on the law, synopsis, thumbnail sketch, vignette
Associated concepts: amicus curiae, appellate brief, brief of evidence, points and authorities, reply brief, responsive brief
See also: abridgment, abstract, account, apprise, capsule, compact, compendium, concise, cursory, digest, direct, disabuse, dossier, edify, educate, ephemeral, impart, indicate, inform, instruct, laconic, memorandum, minimal, note, notify, outline, paraphrase, pithy, report, restatement, scenario, succinct, summary, synopsis, temporary, transient, transitory, volatile


1 in England, the papers given to a barrister to conduct a case or the act of instructing.
2 colloquially, a barrister.
3 (US) a document submitted to a court in support of a case.

It usually involves a history of the case in question and presents arguments and authority.

BRIEF, eccl. law. The name of a kind of papal rescript. Briefs are writings sealed with wax, and differ in this respect from bulls, (q. v.) which are scaled with lead. They are so called, because they usually are short compendious writings. Ayl. Parerg. 132. See Breve.

BRIEF, practice. An abridged statement of a party's case.
     2. It should contain : 1st. A statement of the names of the parties, and of their residence and occupation, the character in which they sue and are sued, and wherefore they prosecute or resist the action. 2d. An abridgment of all the pleadings. 3d. A regular, chronological, and methodical statement of the facts in plain common language. 4th. A summary of the points or questions in issue, and of the proof which is to support such issues, mentioning specially the names of the witnesses by which the facts are to be proved, or if there be written evidence, an abstract of such evidence. 5th. The personal character of the witnesses should be mentioned; whether the moral character is good or bad, whether they are naturally timid or over-zealous, whether firm or wavering. 6th. If known, the evidence of the opposite party, and such facts as are adapted to oppose, confute, or repel it. Perspicuity and conciseness are the most desirable qualities of a brief, but when the facts are material they cannot be too numerous when the argument is pertinent and weighty, it cannot be too extended.
     3. Brief is also used in the sense of breve. (q. v.)

References in classic literature ?
If I had only asked her what associations she connected with my Christian name--if I had only persuaded her to speak in the briefest and most guarded terms of her past life--the barrier between us, which the change in our names and the lapse of ten years had raised, must have been broken down; the recognition must have followed.
The remaining hymns are mostly of the briefest compass, merely hailing the god to be celebrated and mentioning his chief attributes.
I gave the briefest possible answers to his queries and observations, and fell back.
For an instant, for the briefest space of time the mind can readily conceive, there was a change in Sir John's smooth face, such as no man ever saw there.
As the Jew uttered these words, his bright dark eyes, which had been staring vacantly before him, fell on Oliver's face; the boy's eyes were fixed on his in mute curiousity; and although the recognition was only for an instant--for the briefest space of time that can possibly be conceived--it was enough to show the old man that he had been observed.
I incline to the briefest, since, if it should not be wholly true, it is at least likely to contain the least falsehood.
I have known the briefest summer flowers outlive them.
That would make the current government the country's briefest ever, bringing concerns about whether Portugal will remain committed to the fiscal discipline required of eurozone countries.
The intention had been to make the briefest of stops in Chongqing before pushing on to Nanjing in the east of the country, but that strategy has been abandoned because of weather concerns.
Mirallas grabbed the ball and took the kick after the briefest of discussions with regular taker Leighton Baines, who had scored 15 of his 16 Premier League spot-kicks.
I appreciate the Gazette report on their meetings and judgments but for obvious reasons we readers are given only the briefest of details.
But while facing the Pacific Islanders does not carry the same excitement levels of battling the all-conquering All Blacks, just as Reid did for the briefest of moments on Saturday as New Zealand claimed a 24-16 win, the Warriors forward is desperate all the same to be given his chance this weekend.