Case Briefing: The Four Step Process

Step Two: Brief the Case Using This Books Case Briefing Format

    The idea of case briefing is to get the most information from the least amount of writing and explanation.  The Case Briefing Format Sheet ("CBFS") accomplishes this.  Easily, the single most important piece of information on the sheet is the holding of the case.  The holding is the rule of law, the rule of the case, also called the Black Letter Law.  Every case you brief will have a rule, or rules of law, a holding.  That rule of law is the part of the case that lives on to see another day; the part of the case that will be used and applied to other fact situations in the future.  The holding represents the cornerstone of our common law legal system.
    Rarely will the headings on the CBFS (issue, holding, etc.) be clearly marked in the case.  The issue of a case, the facts, the procedural history will all have to be ferreted out by you. 
    And one more thing before we begin, first year law students spend an inordinate amount of time fretting over why a party is listed on the left or the right side of the "v", or versus insignia, in the title of the case.  Please don't think there's some magic to it, and further, it's not important.  Using the CBFS you'll come away with everything you need.
    Area of the subject: The first thing we need to do then is write the "area of the subject" onto the CBFS.  We already decided that the Farwell case is under The Duty Requirement for Physical Injuries, Obligation to Others.  So write "Duty for Physical Injuries/Obligation to Others" as the area of the subject.  Since the casebook sectored out "Physical Injuries" we can be sure that there will be different duties owed in the context of non-physical injury situations.
    Case name, date, and page number (lines 4 and 6): Next, write the case name and date, here Farwell 1976 on the next line.  Then write the page number of your casebook where the case falls.  Since we're doing a hypothetical, you can make up a number, I used p. 241.  The reason for writing the page number is so you can quickly reference the case in the future if need be.