Legal Solutions | USA
The Nuts and Bolts – Elements of a Brief
Every standard legal brief has a few basic elements:
Using Standard Language
Although each brief should be tailored to your client’s case, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to. It's relatively common for attorneys to reuse certain phrases or terms (or even entire sections) of briefs if the legal issues are the same across cases. The danger, of course, is citing authority that used to be good law, but no longer is. Even if you’ve had success reusing a certain brief section time and time again, it's always a good idea to run your brief through West Check in Drafting Assistant before filing. This tool uses KeyCite® right within your word-processing application to help you quickly determine whether the law you’ve cited to is still good.
Proofreading and Editing
Once you’ve completed your brief, you’ll want to fully proofread and edit your document. I always found it helpful to actually print my brief out while proofreading so I didn’t fall into a lull staring at my computer screen. It can also be quite helpful to have a colleague look the document over and make suggestions. Drafting Assistant has great tools to help you proof your document, including Cite Formatting to help you check your citations for typos, and Document Formatting to help you make sure you’re complying with court guidelines on things like fonts, letter sizing, and margins.
And remember ... Thomson Reuters Westlaw™ has the world’s largest online legal brief bank for you to use as a model or a starting point, so you don’t have to fear the blank page!
Not ready to write your brief yet? Read How to Prepare to Write a Legal Brief.