Facts: What happened to get this case into court? You don’t need to get too detailed here – just summarize the facts that are relevant to the holding and reasoning.

Procedural History: The vast majority of cases you’ll read will be appellate decisions, so briefly list what the lower courts decided and why.

Issue(s): Sometimes cases will explicitly state “the issue is ___.” If not, ask yourself: What is the court trying to decide here? Write the issue in the form of a yes or no question, and if possible, try to write it so that it can be broadly applied. For example, avoid “did the trial court err” issue statements, as they do little for you. Instead, try something like this: Absent an agreement respecting payments, is a party obligated to make payments at reasonable times?

Holding: Here is your yes or no answer to your issue presented, along with who won the case.

Reasoning/Analysis: How and why did the appellate court reach this decision? This is the most important part of your brief so feel free to go into more detail. List the rules and exceptions, and ask yourself what the significance of the case is and how it fits into the material your course is covering.

Concurring/Dissenting Opinions: Whether or not you’ll need to include these in your brief depends on your professor. Some might frequently discuss them in class (e.g., Con Law) while others pay them little mind. Regardless, you should still be sure to read and understand the opinions.

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[Via David Mills]