Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of brief


  1. To write a brief concerning (a motion or question of law)


  1. A concise statement of a client's case written for the instruction of an attorney usu. by a law clerk. Also called Memorandum
  2. A formal written presentation of an argument that sets forth the main points with supporting precedents and evidence. Note : Briefs are filed either by a party or an amicus curiae with a court usually regarding a specific motion (as for summary judgment) or point of law. The form of the brief is determined by the procedural rules of that court or jurisdiction

Definition of brief


    From Latin brevis



brief (comparative more brief, superlative most brief)

  1. Of short duration or distance.
  2. Concise.

Derived terms

  • briefly

Related terms

  • brevity


brief (plural briefs)

  1. (law) An attorney's legal argument in written form for submission to a court.
  2. (informal) A short news story or report.

    We got a news brief.

Derived terms

  • briefs
  • control brief


to brief (third-person singular simple present briefs, present participle briefing, simple past and past participle briefed)

  1. (transitive) To knowledgeably summarize a recent development to some person with decision-making power.

    The U.S. president was briefed on the military coup and its implications on African stability.

  2. (transitive, law) To write a legal argument and submit it to a court.

Derived terms

  • briefing
  • brevity


  • Alphagram: befir
  • fiber
  • fibre

Further reading

A brief (Latin "brevis", short) is a written legal document used in various legal adversarial systems that is presented to a court arguing why the party to the case should prevail.

In England and Wales, the phrase refers to the papers given to a barrister when they are instructed.


Trial briefs are presented at trial to resolve a disputed point of evidence.

Legal briefs are used as part of arguing a pre-trial motion in a case or proceeding.

  • Merit briefs (or briefs on the merits) refers to briefs on the inherent rights and wrongs of a case, absent any emotional or technical biases
  • Amicus briefs refer to briefs filed by persons not directly party to the case. These are often groups that have a direct interest in the outcome.

Appellate briefs refer to briefs that occur at the appeal stage.

Memorandum of law may be another word for brief, although that term may also be used to describe an internal document in a law firm in which an attorney attempts to analyze a client's legal position without arguing for a specific interpretation of the law.

IRAC Case Briefs Are usually a one page review done by a paralegal or attorney, ultimately used by the attorney to find previously decided cases by an Appellate court, in State or Federal Jurisdiction, which show how the courts have ruled on earlier similar cases in court.


The legal brief, or memorandum, establishes the legal position of the party, explaining why the court should decide in favor of that party, or, in the case of appeal, reverse the lower court's judgment. The trial or motion brief argues that the court should alter the course of a trial by resolving and fixing disputed points (failure to adhere to such a motion being estoppel).

To achieve these ends, the brief must appeal to the accepted forces such as statutory law or precedent, but may also include policy arguments and social statistics when appropriate. For example if the law is vague or broad enough to allow the appellate judge some discretion in his decision making, an exploration of the consequences of the possible decision outside of legal formalism may provide guidance. Such arguments may also support a legal argument when the purpose of the law at issue may be clear, but the particular application of that law in service of that purpose is in dispute.


The party filing the appeal - called the petitioner or appellant, who is attempting to convince the appellate court to overturn the lower court decision - is responsible for submitting his brief first. The responding party - the respondent or appellee, who is satisfied with the lower decision - then files a reply brief within a specified time. Depending on the local rules of procedure, the court may allow or even require the parties to then file additional replies to the opposing party's briefs, multiplying the back-and-forth responses of the parties. Depending on local rules, the court may then decide the case purely based on the submitted briefs or may hear oral argument by the parties.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     quorum
2.     scienter
3.     adjudication order
4.     AORO
5.     lex patriae
6.     Miranda warning
7.     appellant
8.     lex causae
9.     stare decisis
10.     lex situs