Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Brief


What is the dictionary definition of Brief?

Dictionary Definition

A document used to submit a legal contention or argument to a court. A brief typically sets out the facts of the case and a party’s argument as to why she should prevail. These arguments must be supported by legal authority and precedent, such as statutes, regulations and previous court decisions. Although it is usually possible to submit a brief to a trial court (called a trial brief), briefs are most commonly used as a central part of the appeal process (an appellate brief). But don’t be fooled by the name — briefs are usually anything but brief, as pointed out by writer Franz Kafka, who defined a lawyer as “a person who writes a 10,000-word decision and calls it a brief.”

  1. n. a written legal argument, usually in a format prescribed by the courts, stating the legal reasons for the suit based on statutes, regulations, case precedents, legal texts, and reasoning applied to facts in the particular situation. A brief is submitted to lay out the argument for various petitions and motions before the court (sometimes called “points and authorities”), to counter the arguments of opposing lawyers, and to provide the judge or judges with reasons to rule in favour of the party represented by the brief writer. Occasionally on minor or follow-up legal issues, the judge will specify that a letter or memorandum brief will be sufficient. On appeals and certain other major arguments, the brief is bound with colour-coded covers stipulated in state and/or federal court rules. Ironically, although the term was originally intended to mean a brief or summary argument (shorter than an oral presentation), legal briefs are quite often notoriously long.
  2. v. to summarize a precedent case or layout in writing a legal argument. Attentive law students “brief” each case in their casebooks, which means extracting the rule of law, the reasoning (rationale), the essential facts, and the outcome.
  3. v. to give a summary of important information to another person.

Full Definition of Brief

A brief is the written legal argument which states the legal reasons and arguments for various petitions and motions before the court to counter the arguments of opposing counsel. In a personal injury claim, the legal brief outlines reasons for the judge to rule in favour of a certain party or why the judge should grant a motion. A brief that accompanies a motion may also be known as a legal memorandum or a memorandum of law.

Additionally, if the verdict is going to be appealed each party will construct a brief which is filed with the appellate court. Briefs are also filed if a case is going before the United States Supreme court. These briefs include merits briefs and amicus briefs. Merits briefs include the arguments involved in the case and explain why the court should find in favour of one party.

Within the brief, there should be a caption including the name of the court, the title of the action, the file number and names of the parties. Next, there should be a preliminary statement identifying the party submitting the brief and information informing the court why relief is requested. There should be records to support the facts of the case and the facts should not be misrepresented. Next, the strongest arguments of the case should be presented first. Next, acknowledge the counter-arguments and explain why the case is different. Finally, the brief should be concluded by telling the court what the party is requesting for relief.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Brief. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd.
February 02, 2023
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Brief. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: February 02, 2023).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Brief. Retrieved February 02, 2023
, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Brief are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 26th April, 2020 | 0 Views.