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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.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.


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.

Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

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.)

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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I refer not only to the legendary briefness of the poet's life, his emulation of distant literary precursors, or even his remark (both admission and boast) that "I never know the day of the Month." (1) To these temporal complications one must add Keats's intense fixation on the posthumous life of writing--a condition well analyzed in Andrew Bennett's work, and more recently evoked in Stanley Plumly's experiment in biography.
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Wales leads the way with another common sense solution to those who would wave their very briefness in our faces.
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Such modifications overlap brief fluctuations and rhythms, partly due to great alterations in the environment among the seasons, and also due to the briefness of the life of the organisms (Hutchinson, 1967; Margalef, 1974).
The austere expression and briefness come out of this respect for the economy and concentration of words as urgent messengers of fundamental truths.