Friday, December 15, 2006

Legal analysis: case description

If you're going to use a case--that is, if you're going to compare it to your problem or draw legal points from it--you should describe it first. Don't give only an abstract thumbnail, and don't expect the reader to digest the story of the case while simultaneously digesting how the case applies. Describe the case first.

One expert says that for any case you plan to use, give the issue, disposition, facts, and reasoning. Mary Beth Beazley, A Practical Guide to Appellate Advocacy 81-82 (2d ed., Aspen L. & Bus. 2006). Depending on how you plan to use the case, you can follow this advice and describe the case in one or two sentences or in two or three paragraphs.

I also recommend leading into the case description with a topic sentence that introduces the case, sets it up, or makes clear why it's being described. Generally avoid the easy and routine way of introducing a case: "One trick you might use is this: avoid starting any paragraph with the classic prepositional In phrase with the case citation serving as the object of the preposition." C. Edward Good, Mightier Than the Sword: Powerful Writing for the Legal Profession 181 (Word Store 1989).

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