After more than a decade of pedagogy leading me to believe that longer is better when it comes to writing, I have been forced to grapple with a new paradigm.
I have been commanded to distill a thirty-page case report down to a two-page brief. Brevity truly is a virtue now.
Having been provided only a single example from my professor of what a case brief should look like, I felt ill-equipped to face the daunting task of writing my very first brief. Scouring the net for a better idea of how to approach this behemoth (ironic, seeing how this is supposed to be a pint-sized writing assignment), I ran across these helpful websites.
1) LawNerds.com – with a wealth of information for the law-students-to-be, the guide to reading a case report was especially indispensable
2) “Writing a Case Brief” by Criminal Justice Education – more a general guideline with some helpful references at the end
A prime example of a procrastinator, I normally do not finish my assignments two days before the due date. This case report was an exception. I needed to do well. The ability to write a good case brief will be the deal breaker, the life-or-death skill I will need to survive law school. This was no ordinary assignment. It was a chance to prove to myself that I am indeed a lawyer material.
It took over six hours for the pre-reading, first reading, second reading along with beginnings of the brief, and several more readings after another to refine the points. I thought it would never end. This was no fifth grade book report.
As I caught a glimpse of the pale blue hue of the approaching dawn beyond the blinds of my window, I had finished with a deep sense of triumph. It wasn’t all that bad… Yet I lacked the confidence and the assurance that what I have written was necessary and sufficient not only for the purpose of the assignment but for any 1L-level assignment. I knew that my instructor wouldn’t brutalize our very first attempts, seeing how there were people from all sorts of majors – civil and environmental engineering, natural resources, political science, English, and who knows what else (with me adding into the hodgepodge a metallurgical engineer)…
After much in-head debate, I decided to e-mail my draft of the brief to my instructor to get some feedback. I know what y’all are thinkin’ – a brown-noser. It is true that I have been known to adulate (now, there is a five-dollar word) back in my high school days before coming to know Christ. I have abstained from such shameful behavior since. 😉 Contrary to what you might believe, I sincerely wanted some helpful criticism, not flattery, from him.
I was wondering if you could quickly glance through my draft of the “Scenic Hudson” case brief and let me know if what I have is correct sufficient, or more importantly “plus-worthy.” [he assigns three levels of grade: zero, check, or plus]
Feel free to be critical if not cruel. It is my goal to eventually reach a level of mastery with these briefs that they would be acceptable in a law school 1L-type course.
Much thans [yes, it’s true, I forgot to spell-check before hitting that “Send” button] in advance,
So it was sent. And I went to bed. At 8:00 AM.
(To be continued…)