• --> Login or Sign Up

Harvard Law School  The Case Studies

The Case Study Teaching Method

It is easy to get confused between the case study method and the case method , particularly as it applies to legal education. The case method in legal education was invented by Christopher Columbus Langdell, Dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895. Langdell conceived of a way to systematize and simplify legal education by focusing on previous case law that furthered principles or doctrines. To that end, Langdell wrote the first casebook, entitled A Selection of Cases on the Law of Contracts , a collection of settled cases that would illuminate the current state of contract law. Students read the cases and came prepared to analyze them during Socratic question-and-answer sessions in class.

The Harvard Business School case study approach grew out of the Langdellian method. But instead of using established case law, business professors chose real-life examples from the business world to highlight and analyze business principles. HBS-style case studies typically consist of a short narrative (less than 25 pages), told from the point of view of a manager or business leader embroiled in a dilemma. Case studies provide readers with an overview of the main issue; background on the institution, industry, and individuals involved; and the events that led to the problem or decision at hand. Cases are based on interviews or public sources; sometimes, case studies are disguised versions of actual events or composites based on the faculty authors’ experience and knowledge of the subject. Cases are used to illustrate a particular set of learning objectives; as in real life, rarely are there precise answers to the dilemma at hand.

Our suite of free materials offers a great introduction to the case study method. We also offer review copies of our products free of charge to educators and staff at degree-granting institutions.

For more information on the case study teaching method, see:

  • Martha Minow and Todd Rakoff: A Case for Another Case Method
  • HLS Case Studies Blog: Legal Education’s 9 Big Ideas
  • Teaching Units: Problem Solving , Advanced Problem Solving , Skills , Decision Making and Leadership , Professional Development for Law Firms , Professional Development for In-House Counsel
  • Educator Community: Tips for Teachers

Watch this informative video about the Problem-Solving Workshop:

<< Previous: About Harvard Law School Case Studies | Next: Downloading Case Studies >>

case study in law term

  • Discussion Forum

Why and How: Using the Case Study Method in the Law Classroom

person walking by langdell

Post by: Jackie Kim and Lisa Brem

Why should legal educators use case studies and other experiential teaching methods, such as role plays and simulations, in their classes?  Hasn’t the Langdell method served legal education well these last 140 years?  Certainly creating and using experiential materials requires a different set of skills from faculty, elicits a different response and level of engagement from students, and poses barriers to implementation. The ABA’s LEAPS Project [i] has a comprehensive list of objections to practical problem solving in the classroom: materials are time consuming and expensive to create and deploy; addition of a case study or simulation to a syllabus inherently displaces other material; and there are few incentives from law school leaders to introduce this type of teaching.

Yet, the argument promoting experiential materials and techniques is strong. The 2007 Carnegie Report [ii] recommended integrating lawyering skills practice into the curriculum alongside doctrinal courses, and the ABA added simulation courses to the list of practical experiences that can and should be offered by law schools in its 2015 Guidance Memo [iii] .

In a 2007 Vanderbilt Law Review article [iv] , HLS Dean Martha Minow and Professor Todd D. Rakoff argued that Langdell’s approach to teaching students using appellate cases does not do enough to prepare law students for real-world problems: “The fact is, Langdell’s case method is good for some things, but not good for others. We are not talking about fancy goals here; we are talking about teaching students ‘how to think like a lawyer.’”

But does the case study method result in a higher degree of student learning? While we have not yet seen a study on the efficacy of the case study method vs. the Langdell method in law schools, research [v] from political science professor Matthew Krain suggests that case studies and problem-based activities do enhance certain types of learning over other types of pedagogy.  In his investigation, Krain compared the results of pre-and post-course surveys of students who participated in active learning with those who received a traditional lecture course. The case studies and problems that Krain used in his non-traditional classes included: case studies in the form of popular press articles, formal case studies, films, or problem-based case exercises that required students to produce a work product.

Krain found that:

Student-centered reflection, in which students have the opportunity to discuss their understanding of the case, allows both students and instructors to connect active learning experiences back to a larger theoretical context. Case learning is particularly useful for dramatizing abstract theoretical concepts, making seemingly distant events or issues seem more “authentic” or “real,” demonstrating the connection between theory and practice, and building critical-thinking and problem-solving skills (Inoue & Krain, 2014; Krain, 2010; Kuzma & Haney, 2001; Lamy, 2007; Swimelar, 2013).

This study suggests that case-based approaches have great utility in the classroom, and they should be used more often in instances where students’ understanding of conceptual complexity or knowledge of case details is critical. Moreover, case-based exercises can be derived from a variety of different types of materials and still have great utility. If deployed selectively in the context of a more traditional classroom setting as ways to achieve particular educational objectives, case-based approaches can be useful tools in our pedagogical toolbox.

For those who might be ready to try a case study, role play, or simulation, there are resources that can help.  Harvard Law School produces case studies for use throughout the legal curriculum. The HLS Case Studies program publishes these teaching materials, and makes them available to educators, academic staff, students, and trainers. Outside of Harvard Law School, links to resources for educators implementing the case study method can be found on the Case Studies Program Resources page. Listed are case study affiliates at Harvard, legal teaching and learning tools, tips for case teaching, and free case materials. Examples include the Legal Education, ADR, and Practical Problem Solving (LEAPS) Project [vi] from the American Bar Association , which provides resources for various topics on legal education, and the Teaching Post , an educators’ forum offered by the Harvard Business School where professors can seek or provide advice on case study teaching.

“… [O]ur society is full of new problems demanding new solutions, and less so than in the past are lawyers inventing those solutions. We think we can, and ought to, do better.” – Dean Martha Minow & Professor Todd Rakoff. [vii]

[i] “Overcoming Barriers to Teaching ‘Practical Problem-Solving’.” Legal Education, ADR & Practical Problem-Solving (LEAPS) Project, American Bar Association, Section of Dispute Resolution. Accessed March 16, 2017, http://leaps.uoregon.edu/content/overcoming-barriers-teaching-%E2%80%9Cpractical-problem-solving%E2%80%9D. [ii] William M. Sullivan, Anne Colby, Judith Welch Wegner, Lloyd Bond, and Lee S. Shulman, “Educating Lawyers,”  The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2007). [iii] American Bar Association, “Managing Director’s Guidance Memo,”  Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar  (2015). [iv] Martha Minow and Todd D. Rakoff, “A Case for Another Case Method,” Vanderbilt Law Review 60(2) (2007): 597-607. [v] Matthew Krain, “Putting the learning in case learning? The effects of case-based approaches on student knowledge, attitudes, and engagement,” Journal on Excellence in College Teaching 27(2) (2016): 131-153. [vi] “Overcoming Barriers to Teaching ‘Practical Problem-Solving’.” [vii] Minow and Rakoff.

Share this:

' src=

About Lisa Brem

  • Search for:

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive weekly notifications of new posts by email.

Email Address

Follow HLS Case Studies

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to our RSS feed

  • Et Seq., The Harvard Law School Library Blog
  • Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program
  • HLS Berkman Center for Internet and Society
  • HLS Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation
  • HLS Program on the Legal Profession
  • Program on Negotiation

Recent Posts

  • Worker Centers & OUR Walmart: Case studies on the changing face of labor in the United States
  • Robbing the Piggy Bank? Moving from mutual to stock form at Friendly Savings Bank
  • The Argument for Active Learning
  • Spotlight on: International and Comparative Law
  • Fair Use Week: 5 Questions with Kyle Courtney

Top Posts & Pages

  • United States v. Teller - a New Plea Bargaining Role Play on Domestic Terrorism, Hate Crimes, and Managing Principal-Agent Tensions
  • Summer Reading: Legal Education’s 9 Big Ideas, Part 3
  • Multiparty Negotiation, Group Decision Making, and Teams
  • Top Challenges for Case Study Programs
  • Reforming Partner Compensation at Mattos Filho
  • Case Development Initiative Blog Posts
  • Case Study Program Blog Posts
  • Experiential Learning and the Case Study Method
  • Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program Blog Posts
  • Legal News and Debate
  • Problem Solving Workshop Blog Posts
  • Program on International Law and Armed Conflict Blog Posts
  • Uncategorized

Any opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Harvard University.

Product names, logos, brands, and other trademarks featured or referred to within this manuscript are the property of their respective trademark holders. These trademark holders are not affiliated with the author or any of the author's representatives. They do not sponsor or endorse the contents and materials discussed in this blog.

Outside images are used under a Creative Commons license, and do not suggest the licensor's endorsement or affiliation.

Comments are encouraged. Blog administrators will use their discretion to remove any inappropriate, uncivil, slanderous, or spam comments.

Email the site administrator at [email protected]

Legal Dictionary

The Law Dictionary for Everyone

The term case law refers to law that comes from decisions made by judges in previous cases. Case law, also known as “ common law ,” and “case precedent ,” provides a common contextual background for certain legal concepts, and how they are applied in certain types of case. How much sway case law holds may vary by jurisdiction , and by the exact circumstances of the current case.  To explore this concept, consider the following case law definition.

Definition of Case Law

  • The law as established in previous court rulings; like common law, which springs from judicial decisions and tradition.

1860-1865       English common law

What is Case Law

Statutory laws are those created by legislative bodies, such as Congress at both the federal and state levels. While this type of law strives to shape our society, providing rules and guidelines, it would be impossible for any legislative body to anticipate all situations and legal issues. The court system is then tasked with interpreting the law when it is unclear how it applies to any given situation, often rendering judgments based on the intent of lawmakers and the circumstances of the case at hand. Such decisions become a guide for future similar cases.

In order to preserve a uniform enforcement of the laws, the legal system adheres to the doctrine of stare decisis , which is Latin for “stand by decided matters.”  This means that a court will be bound to rule in accordance with a previously made ruling on the same type of case. Precedent, or case law, is binding on courts of the same level or lower, and applies only if there is no legislative statute created, or higher court ruling, that overrules it.

Example of Case Law Application

Stacy, a tenant in a duplex owned by Martin, filed a civil lawsuit against her landlord, claiming he had not given her enough notice before raising her rent, citing a new state law that requires a minimum of 90 days’ notice. Martin argues that the new law applies only to landlords of large multi-tenant properties. When the state court hearing the case reviews the law, he finds that, while it mentions large multi-tenant properties in some context, it is actually quite vague about whether the 90-day provision applies to all landlords. The judge , based on the specific circumstances of Stacy’s case, decides that all landlords are held to the 90-day notice requirement, and rules in Stacy’s favor.

A year later, Frank and Adel have a similar problem. When they sue their landlord, the court must use the previous court’s decision in applying the law. This example of case law refers to two cases heard in the state court, at the same level. The ruling of the first court created case law that must be followed by other courts until or unless either new law is created, or a higher court rules differently.

Case Law by Jurisdiction

Case law is specific to the jurisdiction in which it was rendered. For instance, a ruling in a California appellate court would not usually be used in deciding a case in Oklahoma. While there is no prohibition against referring to case law from a state other than the state in which the case is being heard, it holds little sway. Still, if there is no precedent in the home state, relevant case law from another state may be considered by the court.

Rulings made by federal appellate courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court, however, are binding on state courts. Such rulings become “binding precedent,” which must be adhered to by lower courts in future similar cases. Rulings by courts of “lateral jurisdiction” are not binding, but may be used as persuasive authority, which is to give substance to the party’s argument, or to guide the present court.

Case Law Search

Just a few years ago, searching for case precedent was a difficult and time consuming task, requiring people to search through print copies of case law, or to pay for access to commercial online databases. Today, the internet has opened up a host of case law search possibilities, and many sources offer free access to case law. Doing a case law search may be as easy as entering specific keywords or citation into a search engine. There are, however, certain websites that facilitate case law searches, including:

  • Google Scholar – a vast database of state and federal case law, which is searchable by keyword, phrase, or citations. Google Scholar also allows searchers to specify which level of court cases to search, from federal, to specific states.
  • Justia – a comprehensive resource for federal and state statutory laws , as well as case law at both the federal and state levels.
  • Public Library of Law – offers access to cases from the U.S. Supreme court since 1754, the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal since 1951, and from each state since 1997. In addition to allowing users to search by keyword, court, and case, the website provides tutorials on “ Finding a Case ,” and “ Searching Statutes .”

In addition, the Law Library of Congress offers a great deal of information on statutes, case law, and other legal issues. This includes a Guide to Law Online .

Dissecting Case Law Citations

Finding a relevant case law ruling, and inserting a reference to that case into a current legal pleading , is not enough to direct the court to the specific issue. In many instances, court rulings in the U.S. deal with multiple issues, and include drawn-out descriptions of how the court, especially an appellate or supreme court, came to its conclusion. Because of this, simply citing the case is more likely to annoy a judge than help the party’s case. Think of it as calling someone to tell them you’ve found their lost phone, then telling them you live in such-and-such neighborhood, without actually giving them an address. Driving around the neighborhood trying to find their phone is likely to be more frustrating than it’s worth.

For legal professionals, there are specific rules regarding case citation, which vary depending on the court and jurisdiction hearing the case. Proper case law citation in a state court may not be appropriate, or even accepted, at the U.S. Supreme Court. Generally speaking, proper case citation includes the names of the parties to the original case, the court in which the case was heard, the date it was decided, and the book in which it is recorded. Different citation requirements may include italicized or underlined text, and certain specific abbreviations.

In the United States, people are not required to hire an attorney to represent them in either civil or criminal matters. Laypeople navigating the legal system on their own can remember one rule of thumb when it comes to referring to case law or precedent in court documents: be as specific as possible, leading the court, not only to the case, but to the section and paragraph containing the pertinent information. The Cornell Law School website offers a variety of information on legal topics, including citation of case law, and even provides a video tutorial on case citation .

Case Law Example in Civil Lawsuit Against Child Services

In 1996, the Nevada Division of Child and Family Services (“DCFS”) removed a 12-year old boy from his home to protect him from the horrible physical and sexual abuse he had suffered in his home, and to prevent him from abusing other children in the home. The boy was placed in an emergency foster home, and was later shifted around within the foster care system. The DCFS social worker in charge of the boy’s case had the boy made a ward of DCFS, and in her 6-month report to the court, the worker elaborated on the boy’s sexual abuse history, and stated that she planned to move him from a facility into a “more homelike setting.” The court approved her plan.

In 1997, the boy was placed into the home of John and Jane Roe as a foster child. Although the couple had two young children of their own at home, the social worker did not tell them about the boy’s history of both being abused, and abusing other children. When she made her report to the court the following day, the worker reported the boy’s placement in the Roe’s home, but didn’t mention that the couple had young children. She did note that the boy still needed extensive therapy in order to cope with his abusive past, and “to reach the point of being safe with other children.” The boy was receiving counseling with a DCFS therapist. Again, the court approved of the actions.

The Roes accompanied the boy to his therapy sessions. When they were told of the boy’s past, they asked if their children were safe with him in their home. The therapist assured them that they had nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, that was not true. Just two months after being placed with the Roe family, the Roe’s son told his parents that the boy had molested him. The boy was arrested two days later, and admitted to having sexually molested the couple’s son several times.

On June 16, 1999, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the boy by a guardian ad litem , against DCFS, the social worker, and the therapist. A similar lawsuit was also filed on behalf of the Roe’s victimized son by a different guardian ad litem. The defendants petitioned the trial court for a dismissal based on absolute immunity , as they were all acting in their jobs with DCFS. If granted absolute immunity, the parties would not only be protected from liability in the matter, but could not be answerable in any way for their actions. When the court delayed making such a ruling, the defendants took their request to the appellate court.

In determining whether employees of DCFS are entitled to absolute immunity, which is generally held by certain government officials acting within the scope of their employment, the appellate court referred to case law previously rendered on similar cases. The appellate court determined that the trial court had not erred in its decision to allow more time for information to be gathered by the parties – specifically regarding the issue of absolute immunity.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Binding Precedent – A rule or principle established by a court, which other courts are obligated to follow.
  • Lateral Jurisdiction – A court at the same level.
  • Persuasive Authority – Prior court rulings that may be consulted in deciding a current case. It may be used to guide the court, but is not binding precedent.

Georgetown Law

Library electronic resources outage May 29th and 30th

Between 9:00 PM EST on Saturday, May 29th and 9:00 PM EST on Sunday, May 30th users will not be able to access resources through the Law Library’s Catalog, the Law Library’s Database List, the Law Library’s Frequently Used Databases List, or the Law Library’s Research Guides. Users can still access databases that require an individual user account (ex. Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg Law), or databases listed on the Main Library’s A-Z Database List.

  • Georgetown Law Library
  • Research Process

Case Law Research Guide


  • Print Case Reporters
  • Online Resources for Cases
  • Finding Cases: Digests, Headnotes, and Key Numbers
  • Finding Cases: Terms & Connectors Searching

Key to Icons

  • Georgetown only
  • On Bloomberg
  • More Info (hover)
  • Preeminent Treatise

Every law student and practicing attorney must be able to find, read, analyze, and interpret case law. Under the common law principles of stare decisis, a court must follow the decisions in previous cases on the same legal topic. Therefore, finding cases is essential to finding out what the law is on a particular issue.

This guide will show you how to read a case citation and will set out the sources, both print and online, for finding cases. This guide also covers how to use digests, headnotes, and key numbers to find case law, as well as how to find cases through terms and connectors searching.

To find cases using secondary sources, such as legal encyclopedias or legal treatises, see our Secondary Sources Research Guide . For additional strategies to find cases, like using statutory annotations or citators, see our  Case Law Research Tutorial . Our tutorial also covers how to update cases using citators (Lexis’ Shepard’s tool and Westlaw’s KeyCite).

Basic Case Citation

A case citation is a reference to where a case (also called a  decision  or an  opinion  ) is printed in a book. The citation can also be used to retrieve cases from  Westlaw  and  Lexis . A case citation consists of a volume number, an abbreviation of the title of the book or other item, and a page number.  

The precise format of a case citation depends on a number of factors, including the jurisdiction, court, and type of case. You should review the rest of this section on citing cases (and the relevant rules in  The Bluebook ) before trying to format a case citation for the first time. See our Bluebook Guide for more information.

The basic format of a case citation is as follows:

case study in law term

Parallel Citations

When the same case is printed in different books, citations to more than one book may be given. These additional citations are known as  parallel citations .

Example: 265 U.S. 274, 68 L. Ed. 1016, 44 S. Ct. 565.

This means that the case you would find at page 565 of volume 44 of the  Supreme Court Reporter  (published by West) will be the same case you find on page 1016 of volume 68 of  Lawyers' Edition  (published by Lexis), and both will be the same as the opinion you find in the official government version,  United States Reports . Although the text of the opinion will be identical, the added editorial material will differ with each publisher.

Williams Library Reference

Photo of Williams Law Library

Reference Desk : Atrium, 2nd (Main) Floor (202) 662-9140 Request a Research Consultation  

Case law research tutorial.

case study in law term

Update History

Revised 4/22 (CMC) Updated 10/22 (MK) Links 07/2023 (VL)

  • Next: Print Case Reporters >>
  • © Georgetown University Law Library. These guides may be used for educational purposes, as long as proper credit is given. These guides may not be sold. Any comments, suggestions, or requests to republish or adapt a guide should be submitted using the Research Guides Comments form . Proper credit includes the statement: Written by, or adapted from, Georgetown Law Library (current as of .....).
  • Last Updated: Feb 29, 2024 1:03 PM
  • URL: https://guides.ll.georgetown.edu/cases

Recently viewed courses

Recently viewed.

Find Your Dream School

This site uses various technologies, as described in our Privacy Policy, for personalization, measuring website use/performance, and targeted advertising, which may include storing and sharing information about your site visit with third parties. By continuing to use this website you consent to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use .

   COVID-19 Update: To help students through this crisis, The Princeton Review will continue our "Enroll with Confidence" refund policies. For full details, please click here.

The Law School Case Method

case method

In the majority of your law school courses, and probably in all of your first-year classes, your only texts will be casebooks—collections of written judicial decisions in actual court cases.

The case method eschews explanation and encourages exploration. In a course that relies entirely on the casebook, you will never come across a printed list of "laws."

Indeed, you will learn that in many areas of law there is no such thing as a static set of rules, but only a constantly evolving system of principles. You are expected to understand the law—in all of its ambiguity—through a critical examination of a series of cases that were decided according to such principles. You may feel lost, groping for answers to unarticulated questions. This is not merely normal, it is intended.

How the Case Method Works

In practical terms, the case method works like this: For every class meeting, you will be assigned a number of cases to read. The cases are the written judicial opinions rendered in court cases that were decided at the appellate level. (The reason for reading cases from courts of appeals or supreme courts is that such cases turn on issues of law, not of fact. If you are charged, tried, and convicted of murder and wish to appeal your case, you do not simply get a whole new trial at a higher level. You must argue that your conviction was improper, not that it was inaccurate.)

Your casebook will contain neither instructions nor explanations. Your assignments simply will be to read the cases and be in a position to answer questions based on them. There will be no written homework assignments, just cases, cases, and more cases.

You will write, for your own benefit, briefs of these cases. Briefs are your attempts to summarize the issues and laws around which a particular case revolves and to make sense of the court's findings in terms of similar cases. One way or another, your law school probably will tell you how to brief a case. If there's an optional seminar, you really ought to attend. In the event that you are left in the dark, it's utterly imperative that you find out how to brief a case. Google it. Ask a second year. Unless you are insanely brilliant, good briefing is really a key to getting good grades. Over the course of a semester, you will try to integrate the content of your case-briefs and your notes from in-class lectures, discussions, or dialogues into some kind of cohesive whole.

From Briefs to Outlines

Typically, you will take your copious briefs and class-notes and create an outline from which you will study for your final exams. Since almost all of your grade for a particular course will rest on your performance on the final, it is essential to establish a system that will allow you to recall the case appropriate for a given legal circumstance within an exam period.

This is especially true since most of your exams will be open book. Once you've see your case-books, you'll understand why having them on the day of the test will not be particularly helpful. Unless, of course, you have your outline handy. Outlines, whether you write your own, create them in a study group, or buy the commercial variety, will be an intrinsic part of this system. Don't neglect them. Your academic success rests on it.

Featured Grad Schools For You

Explore Graduate Programs for You

Explore our featured graduate schools & programs to find those that both match your interests and are looking for students like you.


Best Online JD Programs

Online JD programs offer flexibility, affordability, access to innovative technologies, students from a diversity of career backgrounds, and global opportunities.


Best Online MSL Programs

Master of Studies in Law (MSL) programs are for non-lawyers whose careers in their organizations will benefit from legal training even though they are not required to be practicing attorneys.

Featured Business Schools For You

Find MBA Programs Matched to Your Interests

Explore our featured business schools to find those that are looking for students like you.

What would you score on the MCAT today?

Thank you! Look for the MCAT Review Guide in your inbox.

I already know my score.

Enrollment Advisor

1-800-2REVIEW (800-273-8439) ext. 1


Mon-Fri 9AM-10PM ET

Sat-Sun 9AM-8PM ET

Student Support

1-800-2REVIEW (800-273-8439) ext. 2

Mon-Fri 9AM-9PM ET

Sat-Sun 8:30AM-5PM ET


  • Teach or Tutor for Us

College Readiness




  • Enrollment Terms & Conditions
  • Accessibility
  • Cigna Medical Transparency in Coverage

Register Book

Local Offices: Mon-Fri 9AM-6PM

  • SAT Subject Tests

Academic Subjects

  • Social Studies

Find the Right College

  • College Rankings
  • College Advice
  • Applying to College
  • Financial Aid

School & District Partnerships

  • Professional Development
  • Advice Articles
  • Private Tutoring
  • Mobile Apps
  • Local Offices
  • International Offices
  • Work for Us
  • Affiliate Program
  • Partner with Us
  • Advertise with Us
  • International Partnerships
  • Our Guarantees
  • Accessibility – Canada

Privacy Policy | CA Privacy Notice | Do Not Sell or Share My Personal Information | Your Opt-Out Rights | Terms of Use | Site Map

©2024 TPR Education IP Holdings, LLC. All Rights Reserved. The Princeton Review is not affiliated with Princeton University

TPR Education, LLC (doing business as “The Princeton Review”) is controlled by Primavera Holdings Limited, a firm owned by Chinese nationals with a principal place of business in Hong Kong, China.

Northern Illinois University College of Law David C. Shapiro Memorial Law Library

  • University Libraries
  • David C. Shapiro Memorial Law Library

Basic Legal Research

  • Commonly Used Legal Terminology
  • Welcome to Basic Legal Research!

Legal Dictionaries

Legal terminology: general terms, legal terminology: case law, legal terminology: codes, statutes & administrative law.

  • Court Systems & Legal Authority
  • Fact Pattern Analysis
  • Secondary Legal Sources
  • Understanding Case Citations
  • Case Law Reporters
  • Using Digests to Find Case Law
  • Statutes & Codes
  • Illinois Administrative Materials
  • Federal Administrative Materials
  • Terms and Connectors Searching
  • Creating/Determining the "Best" Online Search
  • Integrating Print & Online Resources
  • Updating Your Research Using Shepard's & KeyCite
  • Illinois Legislative History
  • Federal Legislative History
  • Appendix: Illinois Materials
  • Appendix: Sample Bluebook Citations
  • Appendix: Study Aids

Need more help? Contact us!

Swen Parson Hall

  • Law library faculty & staff directory
  • Schedule an online appointment with a Reference Librarian (Limited to College of Law students, faculty and staff)
  • Law library home page

Black's Law Dictionary

  • The Law Library has several print legal dictionaries available. One of the most frequently used is Black's Law Dictionary , 10th ed. (copies on Reserve and located elsewhere in the library)
  • The major legal databases ( Bloomberg , Lexis Advance , Westlaw ) have online legal dictionaries (login required to access)
  • Law.com has a free online legal dictionary at http://dictionary.law.com/
  • Words and Phrases is a useful source similar to a dictionary. It provides judicial definitions of legal and non-legal terms. Information is compiled from headnotes containing judicial definitions. It is useful for discovering if any court, or a specific court, has ever defined a term or phrase. The Law Library's print copy (KF 156 .W57) is no longer updated as of 2015, but an up-to-date online version is available on Westlaw .

Analogize: To take the facts, rationale or argument of a written decision and explain how the argument relates to your case/issue.

Citation: A reference to a legal precedent or authority (primary or secondary) such as a case, statute or treatise. Case citation: The alpha numeric identifier provided to enable researchers to locate written decisions. The format usually consists of a volume number, the abbreviated reporter name, and a page or paragraph number. (e.g. 268 N.E.2d 1247)

Citators: A tool used in legal research to update legal authorities by listing their subsequent history and treatment. Also provide additional research references to primary and secondary resources citing your original document.

Civil Law: The body of law imposed by the state; the law of civil or private rights; a civil law system relies on codes that provide explicit rules of a situation. A judge's decision in a civil law system does not become binding or form a precedent. Many European countries are civil law countries.

Constitution: A type of primary authority that is a set of principles that a country or state is governed by. Constitutions generally establish the branches of government, the scope of powers for each branch, and a set of guaranteed civil rights and civil liberties.

Criminal Law: The body of law defining offenses against the community at large, regulating how suspects are investigated, charged and tried, and establishing punishment for convicted offenders.

Court Rules: Rules that control the operation of the courts and the conduct of the litigants appearing before the court.

Distinguishing an Authority: Taking the facts, rationale or arguments of a written decision or other primary authority and showing the differences between that authority and your case, even if on the surface they seem similar.

Federal Jurisdiction: A federal court's power to hear matters. Under this type of jurisdiction federal courts may decide a question of civil and/or criminal federal law.

Index: An alphabetical listing of items (topics or names) available in the resource along with an indication of where each item may be found within the work. This finding tool is available in both print and electronic resources.

Hypothetical: Discussion of a legal principle based on a fictitious or assumed set of facts.

Mandatory (Binding) Authority: A primary legal authority that is binding on a court. Jurisdiction and court level determine whether a primary legal authority is mandatory or persuasive.

Moot Court: A fictitious court held, usually in law schools, to argue hypothetical cases, especially at the appellate level.

Persuasive Authority: A primary or secondary authority. The legal authority is not binding on a court, but the court may still rely on the authority when making its determination. Jurisdiction and court level determine whether a primary legal authority is persuasive or mandatory/binding. Secondary authority is always only persuasive.

Pinpoint Citation: The page on which a quotation or relevant passage appears, as opposed to

the page on which a case or article begins.

Procedural Law: Rules that describe the steps for having a right or duty judicially enforced,

as opposed to the law that defines the specific rights and duties themselves.

Primary Legal Authority: Authority that issues directly from a lawmaking body such as constitutions, legislation, regulations, and the reports of litigated cases (court opinions) among others.

Relevance: Relation or pertinence to the issue at hand.

Relief: The compensation (monetary or other- e.g., injunction) or benefit that a party asks of another party, sometimes received through settlement and other times received through the courts.

Secondary Legal Authority: Authority that explains the law but does not itself establish the law, such as a treatise, annotation, or law review article among others.

State Jurisdiction: A state court's power to hear matters. Under this type of jurisdiction state courts may decide a question of civil and/or criminal state law.

Socratic Method: A technique of law school instruction, whereby a professor questions one or more students, building on each answer with another question.

Substantive Law: The part of the law that creates, defines and regulates the rights, duties and powers of parties.

Table of Contents: Usually located at the beginning of the work, it provides a list of chapters/sections within the work, often in outline form, and the page numbers where the topics for each chapter/section begin. Some resources provide tables of contents for each chapter. Electronic resources provide them through a separate link. This finding tool is available in both print and electronic resources.

Uniform Laws: An unofficial law proposed as legislation for all the states to adopt exactly as written, the purpose being to promote greater consistency among the states.

Appeal: To seek review by a higher court. (e.g. appeal trial court decisions to the appropriate higher court; appeal appellate court decisions to the appropriate highest court.)

Appellant: One who brings the appeal of the lower court decision (the loser in the lower court).

Appellate Briefs: Written argument submitted to the appellate court in support of a position on appeal (not the same as a case brief).

Appellee: One against whom the appeal is brought and must respond to the appeal (the winner in the lower court). Also called respondent.

Case: Generally used in law to refer to the written decision of a court.

Case Law: All reported decisions within a jurisdiction. May consist of common law decisions as well as judicial decisions interpreting statutes, regulations, constitutions etc.

Case Reporters: Court opinions that are gathered together and published in chronological order. The books containing these cases are called case reporters. Even though most cases are available online, they are still organized and cited to according to the print reporter system. Cases are primary sources regardless of publication in an official or unofficial reporter, the case decision is the primary source. Case reporters can be official or unofficial.

  • Official Reporter : The governmentally approved publication reproducing reported cases within a given jurisdiction. The official reporter is the reporter that should be cited when submitting documents to the court.
  • Unofficial Reporter : Reporters published by commercial publishers (West, Lexis, BNA) in either print or online formats, reproducing the reported decisions within a given jurisdiction. Commercially published reporters are considered unofficial reporters.

Citator: A tool used in legal research to update legal authorities by listing their subsequent history and treatment. With case law, legal citators indicate when a case has been cited by a later case, and what effect, if any, the later citation had on the original case.  The three main citators are Shepard's on Lexis, KeyCite on Westlaw and Bcite on Bloomberg Law.

Common Law: The body of judge-made law having no basis in statutes. NOTE: Case law that interprets a statue is NOT common law.

Common Law Tradition: The basis for the American legal system where courts create rules called common-law rules and those rules govern future cases in that particular area. For example, Tort cases are governed by common law rules.

Concurring Opinion: A separate written opinion explaining a vote cast by one or more judges in favor of the judgment reached, often on grounds different from those expressed in the opinion explaining the judgment.

Defendant: A person sued in a civil proceeding or accused in a criminal proceeding.

Dicta: A comment by a court that is unnecessary to a decision and therefore not precedential. There are several types of dicta in Black's. You do rely on judicial dictum, but dicta is actually short for obiter dictum. Judicial dictum is considered binding by courts while obiter dictum is not.

Digest: A case finding tool that organizes cases by subject. Within each subject digests provide summaries of cases that discuss the law on that subject. Digests allow you to find cases on a particular point of law in a particular jurisdiction. Online services also provide digests for particular topics.

Dissenting Opinion: An opinion by one or more judges who disagree with the decision reached by the majority.

Docket Number: Courts assign each newly filed action with a number. The number usually refrences the year the case was commenced followed by a series of numbers or letters that represent the type of action (civil, criminal, family court, etc.) or location of filing.

Federal Circuit Courts: The appellate court level in the federal court system. There are 13.

Federal District Courts: The trial court level in the federal court system. There are 94.

Headnote: A brief summary of a specific point of law decided in a case. Headnotes appear before the judicial opinion, and are generally written by a publisher's editors. Headnotes are a great research tool, but are not considered legal authority and should never be cited to.

Illinois Circuit Courts: The trial court level in the Illinois state court system. There are 24.

Illinois District Courts: The appellate court level in the Illinois state court system. There are 5.

Intermediate Appellate Courts: Appellate courts that are in the middle of the judicial hierarchy in a jurisdiction, they are above the trial court and below the highest court/court of last resort. Their opinions are binding on the courts below them (trial courts).

Judge: A public official appointed or elected to hear and decide legal matters in court.

Judiciary: The branch of government responsible for interpreting the laws and administering justice; a body of judges.

Justice: A judge, especially of an appellate court.

Litigation: The process of carrying on a lawsuit; the lawsuit itself.

Litigator: A lawyer who prepares cases for trial as by conducting discovery and pretrial motions, trying cases and handling appeals; a trial lawyer.

Litigant: A party to a lawsuit.

Majority Opinion: see Opinion.

Minority Opinion: see Opinion.

Official Reporter: see Case Reporter.

Opinion: The written decision of a court.

  • Majority Opinion: An opinion joined in by more than half of the judges considering a given case.One judge writes the opinion when a majority of judges agree with the holding.
  • Minority Opinion: An opinion by one or more judges who disagree with the decision reached by the majority - also called a dissenting opinion.
  • Concurring Opinion: A judge who voted with the majority opinion, but writes separately because her reasoning is different.
  • Dissenting Opinion: A judge who writes a separate opinion where the reasoning and the holding are different from the majority.
  • Per Curiam Opinion : Literally "By the Court."  This happens when the court issues a unanimous opinion, typically on a controversial topic, so that no single author can be identified.

Opinions, unpublished : An  opin io n  is considered  publish ed unless it is specifically designated as "unpublished."   The court typically designates an opinion as "unpublished" if it doesn't add anything new to the body of law.  Courts have different rules about whether they will accept citations to unpublished opinions.  

Parallel Citation: An additional reference to a case that has been reported in more than one reporter. Example: Morgan v. United States, 304 U.S. 1, 58 S. Ct. 773, 82 L. Ed. 1129 (1938), where 58 S. Ct. 773 and 82 L. Ed. 1129 are parallel citations to the decision cited in the official reporter at 304 U.S. 1 .

Petitioner: A party who presents a petition to a court or other official body, especially when seeking relief on appeal (where the Petitioner is the Appellant).

Plaintiff: The party who brings a civil suit in a court of law.

Precedent: A decided case that furnishes a basis for determining later cases involving similar facts or issues.

Reporter: see Case Reporters.

Respondent: The party against whom an appeal is taken (appellee); the party against whom a motion or petition is filed.

Slip Opinion : The opinion issued by the court as a stand-alone document on the day it is decided, before it has been assigned a volume and page number in the official reporter.  

Star Pagination: A device, typically one or more asterisks (*), used in in cases online to designate differences in pagination of the case as it would appear in print in different reporters. 

Stare Decisis: "To stand by things decided." An American legal system doctrine of precedent under which it is necessary for a court to follow earlier judicial decisions when the same points are again in litigation.

Supreme Court: This is the court of last resort, or the highest court in the judicial hierarchy. The opinions of a supreme court are binding on all the courts below it (Trial and Appellate). Note that some jurisdictions refer to the highest court as a Court of Appeals or Court of Last Resort, e.g., in New York State the Supreme Court is not the highest court in the state.

Syllabus/Synopsis: A summary of the case.  It will usually describe the procedural posture (how the case made it to to the court) and the holding.  It is not part of the official opinion.

Table of Authorities: The list of primary authorities (cases, statutes, regulations, or constitutions) and secondary authorities relied upon in the document you are viewing.

Topic & Key Number System : A proprietary system developed by West Publishing (now ThomsonReuters) to identify related cases on a similar issue.  Each headnote in cases published by West will be assigned a corresponding topic and key number.

Trial Courts: Trial courts are at the bottom of the judicial hierarchy in a jurisdiction. They are usually persuasive primary authority. Trial court opinions bind only the parties involved in the case, other trial courts hearing similar cases are not bound by the opinions, and the appellate courts in the jurisdiction are not bound by the trial court opinions.

Code: The subject arrangement of the laws or regulations of a jurisdiction.

  • Annotated Code: A publication of all the laws of a jurisdiction organized by subject matter which contains research references that include summaries of cases or citations to secondary sources that discuss that particular law. Annotated codes only contain select case law interpreting the statute, not every case ever citing the statute.
  • Unannotated Code: A publication of all the laws of a jurisdiction organized by subject matter. No research references are included in unannotated codes.

Legislative History: The proceedings leading up to the enactment of a statute. This includes hearings, committee reports, and floor debates among other resources. Legislative history is recorded so that it can be used to interpret the statute at a later date. Legislative history records are available for federal statutes. Many states keep records of legislative history, but the extent of the record varies from state to state. Legislative history is considered a primary authority.

Regulation: In administrative law, a primary authority that stems from the executive branch. It is a directive issued by a government agency that implements and/or carries out a governmental policy or program. The directive must be within the agency's statutory authority.

Session Laws: A body of statutes enacted by a legislature during a particular annual or biennial session; the books containing these statutes. Maintained in public act or public law format.

Statute: A law passed by a legislative body. Often also called laws and codes.

  • Federal Statute: Written laws passed by the United States Congress. Statutes are primary authority.
  • State Statute: Written laws passed by the state legislature. Statutes are primary authority.

Statutes at Large: An official compilation of the acts and resolutions that become law from each session of the United States Congress. They are printed in chronological order.

Statutory Annotations: In statutory research, the term is used to refer to brief summaries of court decisions interpreting and applying statutes as well as summaries of secondary materials referencing the statutory section. These summaries appear in annotated statutory compilations, after the text of individual statutes. They are also referred to as research references.

  • << Previous: Welcome to Basic Legal Research!
  • Next: Court Systems & Legal Authority >>
  • Last Updated: Jun 6, 2022 1:15 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.niu.edu/basic-legal-research

© 2024 Board of Trustees of Northern Illinois University. All rights reserved.

Primary tabs

Case law is law that is based on judicial decisions rather than law based on constitutions , statutes , or regulations . Case law concerns unique disputes resolved by courts using the concrete facts of a case. By contrast, statutes and regulations are written abstractly.

Case law, also used interchangeably with common law , refers to the collection of precedents and authority set by previous judicial decisions on a particular issue or topic. In that sense, case law differs from one jurisdiction to another. For example, a case in New York would not be decided using case law from California. Instead, New York courts will analyze the issue relying on binding precedent .  If no previous decisions on the issue exist, New York courts might look at precedents from a different jurisdiction, that would be persuasive authority rather than binding authority. Other factors such as how old the decision is and the closeness to the facts will affect the authority of a specific case in common law.

Federalism also plays a major role in determining the authority of case law in a particular court. Indeed, each circuit has its own set of binding case law. As a result, a judgment rendered in the Ninth Circuit will not be binding in the Second Circuit but will have persuasive authority. However, decisions rendered by the Supreme Court of the United States are binding on all federal courts, and on state courts regarding issues of the Constitution and federal law.

[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team ]

  • legal history
  • criminal procedure
  • judicial administration
  • legal practice/ethics
  • statutory interpretation
  • civil procedure
  • legal theory
  • wex definitions
  • How to Prepare for Law School
  • How to brief a case
  • E-mail This Page
  • Print This Page

How to write a case brief for law school: Excerpt reproduced from Introduction to the Study of Law: Cases and Materials ,

Third edition (lexisnexis 2009) by michael makdisi & john makdisi.


The previous section described the parts of a case in order to make it easier to read and identify the pertinent information that you will use to create your briefs. This section will describe the parts of a brief in order to give you an idea about what a brief is, what is helpful to include in a brief, and what purpose it serves. Case briefs are a necessary study aid in law school that helps to encapsulate and analyze the mountainous mass of material that law students must digest. The case brief represents a final product after reading a case, rereading it, taking it apart, and putting it back together again. In addition to its function as a tool for self-instruction and referencing, the case brief also provides a valuable “cheat sheet” for class participation.

Who will read your brief? Most professors will espouse the value of briefing but will never ask to see that you have, in fact, briefed. As a practicing lawyer, your client doesn’t care if you brief, so long as you win the case. The judges certainly don’t care if you brief, so long as you competently practice the law. You are the person that the brief will serve! Keep this in mind when deciding what elements to include as part of your brief and when deciding what information to include under those elements.

What are the elements of a brief? Different people will tell you to include different things in your brief. Most likely, upon entering law school, this will happen with one or more of your instructors. While opinions may vary, four elements that are essential to any useful brief are the following:

(a) Facts (name of the case and its parties, what happened factually and procedurally, and the judgment)

(b) Issues (what is in dispute)

(c) Holding (the applied rule of law)

(d) Rationale (reasons for the holding)

If you include nothing but these four elements, you should have everything you need in order to recall effectively the information from the case during class or several months later when studying for exams.

Because briefs are made for yourself, you may want to include other elements that expand the four elements listed above. Depending on the case, the inclusion of additional elements may be useful. For example, a case that has a long and important section expounding dicta might call for a separate section in your brief labeled: Dicta. Whatever elements you decide to include, however, remember that the brief is a tool intended for personal use. To the extent that more elements will help with organization and use of the brief, include them. On the other hand, if you find that having more elements makes your brief cumbersome and hard to use, cut back on the number of elements. At a minimum, however, make sure you include the four elements listed above.

Elements that you may want to consider including in addition to the four basic elements are:

(e) Dicta (commentary about the decision that was not the basis for the decision)

(f) Dissent (if a valuable dissenting opinion exits, the dissent’s opinion)

(g) Party’s Arguments (each party’s opposing argument concerning the ultimate issue)

(h) Comments (personal commentary)

Personal comments can be useful if you have a thought that does not fit elsewhere. In the personal experience of one of the authors, this element was used to label cases as specific kinds (e.g., as a case of vicarious liability) or make mental notes about what he found peculiar or puzzling about cases. This element allowed him to release his thoughts (without losing them) so that he could move on to other cases.

In addition to these elements, it may help you to organize your thoughts, as some people do, by dividing Facts into separate elements:

(1) Facts of the case (what actually happened, the controversy)

(2) Procedural History (what events within the court system led to the present case)

(3) Judgment (what the court actually decided)

Procedural History is usually minimal and most of the time irrelevant to the ultimate importance of a case; however, this is not always true. One subject in which Procedure History is virtually always relevant is Civil Procedure.

When describing the Judgment of the case, distinguish it from the Holding. The Judgment is the factual determination by the court, in favor of one party, such as “affirmed,” “reversed,” or “remanded.” In contrast, the Holding is the applied rule of law that serves as the basis for the ultimate judgment.

Remember that the purpose of a brief is to remind you of the important details that make the case significant in terms of the law. It will be a reference tool when you are drilled by a professor and will be a study aid when you prepare for exams. A brief is also like a puzzle piece.

The elements of the brief create the unique shape and colors of the piece, and, when combined with other pieces, the picture of the common law takes form. A well-constructed brief will save you lots of time by removing the need to return to the case to remember the important details and also by making it easier to put together the pieces of the common law puzzle.


So now that you know the basic elements of a brief, what information is important to include under each element? The simple answer is: whatever is relevant. But what parts of a case are relevant? When you read your first few cases, you may think that everything that the judge said was relevant to his ultimate conclusion. Even if this were true, what is relevant for the judge to make his decision is not always relevant for you to include in your brief. Remember, the reason to make a brief is not to persuade the world that the ultimate decision in the case is a sound one, but rather to aid in refreshing your memory concerning the most important parts of the case.

What facts are relevant to include in a brief? You should include the facts that are necessary to remind you of the story. If you forget the story, you will not remember how the law in the case was applied. You should also include the facts that are dispositive to the decision in the case. For instance, if the fact that a car is white is a determining factor in the case, the brief should note that the case involves a white car and not simply a car. To the extent that the procedural history either helps you to remember the case or plays an important role in the ultimate outcome, you should include these facts as well.

What issues and conclusions are relevant to include in a brief? There is usually one main issue on which the court rests its decision. This may seem simple, but the court may talk about multiple issues, and may discuss multiple arguments from both sides of the case. Be sure to distinguish the issues from the arguments made by the parties. The relevant issue or issues, and corresponding conclusions, are the ones for which the court made a final decision and which are binding. The court may discuss intermediate conclusions or issues, but stay focused on the main issue and conclusion which binds future courts.

What rationale is important to include in a brief? This is probably the most difficult aspect of the case to determine. Remember that everything that is discussed may have been relevant to the judge, but it is not necessarily relevant to the rationale of the decision. The goal is to remind yourself of the basic reasoning that the court used to come to its decision and the key factors that made the decision favor one side or the other.

A brief should be brief! Overly long or cumbersome briefs are not very helpful because you will not be able to skim them easily when you review your notes or when the professor drills you. On the other hand, a brief that is too short will be equally unhelpful because it lacks sufficient information to refresh your memory. Try to keep your briefs to one page in length. This will make it easy for you to organize and reference them.

Do not get discouraged. Learning to brief and figuring out exactly what to include will take time and practice. The more you brief, the easier it will become to extract the relevant information.

While a brief is an extremely helpful and important study aid, annotating and highlighting are other tools for breaking down the mass of material in your casebook. The remainder of this section will discuss these different techniques and show how they complement and enhance the briefing process.

Annotating Cases

Many of you probably already read with a pencil or pen, but if you do not, now is the time to get in the habit. Cases are so dense and full of information that you will find yourself spending considerable amounts of time rereading cases to find what you need. An effective way to reduce this time is to annotate the margins of the casebook. Your pencil (or pen) will be one of your best friends while reading a case. It will allow you to mark off the different sections (such as facts, procedural history, or conclusions), thus allowing you to clear your mind of thoughts and providing an invaluable resource when briefing and reviewing.

You might be wondering why annotating is important if you make an adequate, well-constructed brief. By their very nature briefs cannot cover everything in a case. Even with a thorough, well-constructed brief you may want to reference the original case in order to reread dicta that might not have seemed important at the time, to review the complete procedural history or set of facts, or to scour the rationale for a better understanding of the case; annotating makes these tasks easier. Whether you return to a case after a few hours or a few months, annotations will swiftly guide you to the pertinent parts of the case by providing a roadmap of the important sections. Your textual markings and margin notes will refresh your memory and restore specific thoughts you might have had about either the case in general or an individual passage.

Annotations will also remind you of forgotten thoughts and random ideas by providing a medium for personal comments.

In addition to making it easier to review an original case, annotating cases during the first review of a case makes the briefing process easier. With adequate annotations, the important details needed for your brief will be much easier to retrieve. Without annotations, you will likely have difficulty locating the information you seek even in the short cases. It might seem strange that it would be hard to reference a short case, but even a short case will likely take you at least fifteen to twenty-five minutes to read, while longer cases may take as much as thirty minutes to an hour to complete. No matter how long it takes, the dense material of all cases makes it difficult to remember all your thoughts, and trying to locate specific sections of the analysis may feel like you are trying to locate a needle in a haystack. An annotation in the margin, however, will not only swiftly guide you to a pertinent section, but will also refresh the thoughts that you had while reading that section.

When you read a case for the first time, read for the story and for a basic understanding of the dispute, the issues, the rationale, and the decision. As you hit these elements (or what you think are these elements) make a mark in the margins. Your markings can be as simple as “facts” (with a bracket that indicates the relevant part of the paragraph). When you spot an issue, you may simply mark “issue” or instead provide a synopsis in your own words. When a case sparks an idea — write that idea in the margin as well — you never know when a seemingly irrelevant idea might turn into something more.

Finally, when you spot a particularly important part of the text, underline it (or highlight it as described below).

With a basic understanding of the case, and with annotations in the margin, the second read-through of the case should be much easier. You can direct your reading to the most important sections and will have an easier time identifying what is and is not important. Continue rereading the case until you have identified all the relevant information that you need to make your brief, including the issue(s), the facts, the holding, and the relevant parts of the analysis.

Pencil or pen — which is better to use when annotating? Our recommendation is a mechanical pencil. Mechanical pencils make finer markings than regular pencils, and also than ballpoint pens. Although you might think a pencil might smear more than a pen, with its sharp point a mechanical pencil uses very little excess lead and will not smear as much as you might imagine. A mechanical pencil will also give you the freedom to make mistakes without consequences. When you first start annotating, you may think that some passages are more important than they really are, and therefore you may resist the urge to make a mark in order to preserve your book and prevent false guideposts. With a pencil, however, the ability to erase and rewrite removes this problem.


Why highlight? Like annotating, highlighting may seem unimportant if you create thorough, well-constructed briefs, but highlighting directly helps you to brief. It makes cases, especially the more complicated ones, easy to digest, review and use to extract information.

Highlighting takes advantage of colors to provide a uniquely effective method for reviewing and referencing a case. If you prefer a visual approach to learning, you may find highlighting to be a very effective tool.

If annotating and highlighting are so effective, why brief? Because the process of summarizing a case and putting it into your own words within a brief provides an understanding of the law and of the case that you cannot gain through the process of highlighting or annotating.

The process of putting the case into your own words forces you to digest the material, while annotating and highlighting can be accomplished in a much more passive manner.

What should you highlight? Similar to annotating, the best parts of the case to highlight are those that represent the needed information for your brief such as the facts, the issue, the holding and the rationale.

Unlike annotating, highlighting provides an effective way to color code, which makes referring to the case even easier. In addition, Highlighters are particularly useful in marking off entire sections by using brackets. These brackets will allow you to color-code the case without highlighting all the text, leaving the most important phrases untouched for a more detailed highlight marking or underlining.

Highlighting is a personal tool, and therefore should be used to the extent that highlighting helps, but should be modified in a way that makes it personally time efficient and beneficial. For instance, you might combine the use of annotations in the margins with the visual benefit of highlighting the relevant text. You may prefer to underline the relevant text with a pencil, but to use a highlighter to bracket off the different sections of a case. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it works for you, regardless of what others recommend. The techniques in the remainder of this section will describe ways to make full use of your highlighters.

First, buy yourself a set of multi-colored highlighters, with at least four, or perhaps five or six different colors. Yellow, pink, and orange are usually the brightest. Depending on the brand, purple and green can be dark, but still work well. Although blue is a beautiful color, it tends to darken and hide the text.

Therefore we recommend that you save blue for the elements that you rarely highlight.

For each different section of the case, choose a color, and use that color only when highlighting the section of the case designated for that color. Consider using yellow for the text that you tend to highlight most frequently. Because yellow is the brightest, you may be inclined to use yellow for the Conclusions in order to make them stand out the most. If you do this, however, you will exhaust your other colors much faster than yellow and this will require that you purchase an entire set of new highlighters when a single color runs out because colors such as green are not sold separately. If instead you choose to use yellow on a more frequently highlighted section such as the Analysis, when it comes time to replace your yellow marker, you will need only to replace your yellow highlighter individually. In the personal experience on one of the authors, the sections of cases that seemed to demand the most highlighter attention were the

Facts and the Analysis, while the Issues and Holdings demanded the least. Other Considerations and

Procedural History required lots of highlighting in particular cases although not in every case.

Experiment if you must, but try to choose a color scheme early on in the semester and stick with it. That way, when you come back to the first cases of the semester, you will not be confused with multiple color schemes. The basic sections of a case for which you should consider giving a different color are:

• Procedural History

• Issue (and questions presented)

• Holding (and conclusions)

• Analysis (rationale)

• Other Considerations (such as dicta)

Not all of these sections demand a separate color. You may find that combining Facts and Procedural History or Issues and Holdings works best. Furthermore, as mentioned above, some sections may not warrant highlighting in every case (e.g., dicta probably do not need to be highlighted unless they are particularly important). If you decide that a single color is all that you need, then stick to one, but if you find yourself highlighting lots of text from many different sections, reconsider the use of at least a few different colors. Highlighters make text stand out, but only when used appropriately. The use of many colors enables you to highlight more text without reducing the highlighter’s effectiveness. Three to four colors provides decent color variation without the cumbersomeness of handling too many markers.

Once you are comfortable with your color scheme, determining exactly what to highlight still may be difficult. Similar to knowing what to annotate, experience will perfect your highlighting skills. Be careful not to highlight everything, thus ruining your highlighters’ effectiveness; at the same time, do not be afraid to make mistakes.

Now that we have covered the basics of reading, annotating, highlighting, and briefing a case, you are ready to start practicing. Keep the tips and techniques mentioned in this chapter in mind when you tackle the four topics in the remainder of this book. If you have difficultly, refer back to this chapter to help guide you as you master the case method of study and the art of using the common law.

Have questions about law school? Check out our Facebook page , follow us on Twitter or start networking with law students and lawyers on LexTalk .

case study in law term

More Helpful Links

  • The American Legal System
  • How to Brief a Case
  • How to Read a Casebook 101
  • Top 20 Things You Need to Know About Law School
  • Learn to Spot Issues Like a Lawyer
  • Why an Internet Search is Not Legal Research
  • Why go to Law School?
  • What’s the Most Challenging Part of Law School?
  • What advice would you give yourself about law school?

case study in law term

Get advice about law school from law students and legal professionals at the LexTalk legal community

Legal Research & Practical Guidance

Build your legal strategy and do vital work using authoritative primary law, analysis, guidance, court records and validation tools.

Search vast LexisNexis resources without selecting sources or using search commands.

Federal and state court dockets and documents for research, tracking, and profiling.

Practical Guidance

Current practical guidance from leading practitioners for managing transactional matters.

Lexis Securities Mosaic

Track and analyze SEC filings, U.S. agency information, industry news and current awareness.

News, Company Research & Media Monitoring Solutions

Quickly uncover up-to-date facts, news and insight essential to your decisions and business development.

LexisNexis Newsdesk

A fresh take on media monitoring & analysis to help you find the hidden gems that can impact your business.

Current, authoritative news, social media, company, financial and industry sources.

Media Intelligence Research & Analytics

Identify prospects and compile business profiles that help you close more deals.

Lexis Diligence

Corporate due diligence research tool.

  • Intellectual Property

Stay up to speed with trends, track your competition, promote innovation and protect your intellectual assets.

TotalPatent One

The world's largest collection of full-text and bibliographic patent databases.

Patent Advisor

Predictive and revealing analytics for more efficient patent prosecution.


Patent application drafting and analysis tools.

The CaseMap Suite of Litigation Tools

Comprised of four unique components, the CaseMap Suite can help you organize, analyze and present your entire case.

Compile relevant case facts, documents, research and issues into a centralized location for better assessment.

Manage litigation documents—share, search, review, produce, etc.—across your discovery team.

Quickly assemble your data and produce impactful timelines for pennies apiece.

See case presentations from a new angle with technology-driven Sanction software.

Practice & Legal Department Management

Address the business side of your legal activities with solutions to manage, track and analyze matters, finances, critical processes, relationships and performance.


A centralized repository for matter, e-billing and spend management.

Dashboards that display, track and manage your practice, clients and business tasks.


Organize, associate and track case contacts, documents, events, phone calls, billing, etc.


Comprehensive customer relationship management system for law firms.

Compliance & Due Diligence

Stay on top of regulatory and legislative changes, perform due diligence and manage compliance with ease, speed and confidence.

Customizable tools for tracking and reporting legislative and regulatory activity.

IntegraCheck | Integrity Due Diligence

In-depth due-diligence investigation reports.

Just for you Solutions & resources for your organization, department, role or individual work:

  • Corporate Communications
  • Information Professional
  • Marketing & Competitive Intelligence
  • Media Organizations
  • Political Organizations
  • Third-Party Due Diligence
  • Sales & Business Development Professionals
  • Strategy & Business Development Professionals
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • Professional Services
  • Technology Professionals
  • Librarians & Information Professionals
  • Paralegals & Legal Assistants
  • Marketing Directors
  • Law Department Management
  • Litigation Management
  • Tax Accounting
  • View All »
  • Faculty & Adminstration
  • Public Libraries
  • University & High School Students
  • Law School Student Publications
  • Portal Sign In

Browse by Industry

  • Financial Services
  • Health Care
  • Life Sciences
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail & Sales

Browse by Department

  • Corporate Compliance
  • Corporate Counsel
  • Procurement & Supply Chain
  • Tax & Accounting

Visit the LexisNexis Store to purchase products that will assist you in your professional success Shop by :

  • Jurisdiction
  • Practice Area
  • Banking Compliance
  • Immigration
  • Real Estate
  • Workers' Comp
  • Business Solutions
  • Partner Products
  • American Health Lawyers Association
  • NITA: National Institute for Trial Advocacy
  • The Florida Bar

Support & Training

Quick links.

  • Lexis+ Support
  • Lexis Support
  • Nexis Support
  • Practical Guidance Support
  • CourtLink Support
  • Lexis Securities Mosaic Support
  • Digital Library Support
  • LexTalk: Gain peer-to-peer, product support
  • LexisNexis University
  • Request Telephonic Training
  • Support Center Resources
  • Training on the Go

Communities & Blogs

Our Blogs and Communities feature a broad array of trending news and topics within socially interactive environments. Connect, explore and find the answers you need to further your goals.

  • Blogs & Newsletters
  • Blog Mosaic
  • Business of Law Blog
  • Corporate Law Advisory
  • Legal Content Insider
  • State Net Capitol Journal
  • News & Trending Topics
  • Legal Insights & Trends
  • Practical Guidance Journal
  • Professional Communities
  • Business Insight Solutions – Partner Portal
  • Corporate InfoPro (Corporate Information Professionals)
  • InfoPro (Legal Information Professionals)
  • LexisNexis for Developers
  • Litigators Verdict & Settlement Exchange
  • Utility Menu

University Logo

GA4 Tracking Code



Bok Center Logo

Crime, Justice, and the American Legal System: Case Study Preparation

Throughout the term students prepared three case studies in order to engage with information on the american legal system..

Up to two of the case studies could be replaced by multimedia projects.  The case studies were discussed in lectures and sections, and the multimedia projects are presented in the final lecture, allowing for students to regularly showcase their hard work. For both projects, students had to complete the course reading in order to propose a topic that engaged course scholarship and themes. 

There is a detailed handout describing how to create case studies.  In short, a case study examines a real life situation and includes three components:  (1) Part A--a detailed factual background section that raises (but does not resolve) several significant questions/dilemmas in the case; (2) Part B--a follow up factual section explaining what subsequently occurred and how the questions/dilemmas were actually addressed; and (3) Part C--a final analytical section contextualizing the case study in light of course themes and theories, while substantively engaging and citing course readings.  Multimedia projects are unstructured and open ended, but must be approved in advance by the course staff.  Examples are shown to students early in the term.

Prior to the first submission deadline, the instructor presented an earlier student case study in lecture so students understood the structure and pedagogical objectives of the case studies.  Part A was distributed to students to read in class (much as is done at the Business School, for example).  After reading Part A, students debated the dilemma presented and how they feel the protagonist should proceed.  Part B is then distributed in class and it describes what decision(s) the protagonist actually made and the ramifications of that/those decisions.  Students then discuss and debate what occurred, and how it connects to course theories and themes.  With respect to multimedia projects, many are video documentaries and are shown in class followed by a structured discussion by the course instructor.

With respect to case studies, students are given a word processing template so that all output is uniform (similar to case studies produced by the business, law and government professional schools).  Students often prepare the case studies with a combination of text, photos and graphs/charts.  Prior examples were both discussed in class and made available online for students to use as a reference.  For multimedia projects, most students created videos that incorporated person-to-person interviews with correctional officials, police officers, business owners, fellow students, community organizers, public defenders, etc--and these interviews were edited along with voice-overs and other video clips and still images to create compelling presentations.  Other students presented their multimedia presentations live, some utilizing powerpoints and even one student performing in class an anti-death penalty song (that she wrote) in the form of a traditional protest folk ballad.  Other students have created fictitious television programs and even a children's book harnessing course themes.  All multimedia projects must be accompanied by a short essay contextualizing the project, citing course scholarship and themes.

For case studies, students researched unique topics (students must write on different topics from one another), some of which are publicly known and others that are known only from the student's own personal experience.  Students must not only find compelling cases to analyze, but they must engage in the pedagogical exercise of finding a strong "dilemma" or "decision point" in the story that could be debatable in class.  This is more difficult than it appears, as the break between Part A and Part B cannot simply be a break in the action; the break must present a compelling and controversial dilemma that is likely to create an excellent and robust class discussion.  The best case studies are chosen by the instructor and then distributed in class (anonymously), and discussed--both in terms of the criminological questions raised, but also the pedagogical strength of the case study's construction.  With respect to multimedia projects, at least 5 minutes of every project is presented in class (either "live" by the student or through video), and then the instructor provides constructive feedback for the students.  In past years students have also provided constructive feedback both in class and on iSite (online).

The goal of the case studies is for students to (1) research a relevant, real life case that illustrates course themes and theories; (2) analyze a real life fact scenario not only for course themes, but also for classroom pedagogical potential in terms of the dilemma and issues presented for discussion/debate; and (3) to analyze (in Part C of the case study) the case selected by substantively engaging course scholarship, forcing students to move beyond merely descriptive assignments and to develop their own opinions and views, contextualized by course themes and readings.  For the multimedia projects, students are encouraged to explore their passions and think "outside the box" in exploring a criminological topic in a media format that speaks to them.  While most students use video format for interviewing key stakeholders, others have created songs, children's books, advocacy pieces, fictitious television episodes, fictitious magazines/tabloid front pages, and even music videos.  The over-arching goal of these projects is to illustrate how the course themes can be intensely (and engagingly) relevant to students--and our society.

More activities like this

  • Business Case Development Practice
  • Learning through Case Construction
  • Civil War Curiosity Cabinet
  • Mashed Potatoes Metaphor
  • Final Project Video Presentations

Further Filter By

Activity type.

  • Discussion (102) Apply Discussion filter
  • Research (79) Apply Research filter
  • Presentation (55) Apply Presentation filter
  • Role Play (54) Apply Role Play filter
  • Homework (44) Apply Homework filter
  • Pair and Share (42) Apply Pair and Share filter
  • Case Study (31) Apply Case Study filter
  • Do Now (31) Apply Do Now filter
  • Lab (30) Apply Lab filter
  • Game (29) Apply Game filter
  • Debate (24) Apply Debate filter
  • Peer Instruction (23) Apply Peer Instruction filter
  • Quick Write (23) Apply Quick Write filter
  • Field Trip (21) Apply Field Trip filter
  • Lecture (20) Apply Lecture filter
  • Jigsaw (18) Apply Jigsaw filter
  • Concept Map (14) Apply Concept Map filter
  • Sequence Reconstruction (8) Apply Sequence Reconstruction filter
  • Speed Dating (3) Apply Speed Dating filter
  • Statement Correction (1) Apply Statement Correction filter
  • General Education (44) Apply General Education filter
  • Government (38) Apply Government filter
  • Physics (20) Apply Physics filter
  • English (13) Apply English filter
  • Organismic and Evolutionary Biology (13) Apply Organismic and Evolutionary Biology filter
  • Sociology (12) Apply Sociology filter
  • Statistics (12) Apply Statistics filter
  • Expository Writing (10) Apply Expository Writing filter
  • Romance Languages and Literatures (10) Apply Romance Languages and Literatures filter
  • Germanic Languages and Literatures (9) Apply Germanic Languages and Literatures filter
  • History (9) Apply History filter
  • Humanities (9) Apply Humanities filter
  • Music (9) Apply Music filter
  • Mathematics (8) Apply Mathematics filter
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology (8) Apply Molecular and Cellular Biology filter
  • Economics (7) Apply Economics filter
  • Freshman Seminars (6) Apply Freshman Seminars filter
  • Social Studies (6) Apply Social Studies filter
  • Astronomy (5) Apply Astronomy filter
  • Chemistry and Chemical Biology (5) Apply Chemistry and Chemical Biology filter
  • Psychology (5) Apply Psychology filter
  • Computer Science (4) Apply Computer Science filter
  • East Asian Languages and Civilizations (4) Apply East Asian Languages and Civilizations filter
  • History of Science (4) Apply History of Science filter
  • Linguistics (4) Apply Linguistics filter
  • Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (4) Apply Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology filter
  • Comparative Literature (3) Apply Comparative Literature filter
  • History and Literature (3) Apply History and Literature filter
  • African and African American Studies (2) Apply African and African American Studies filter
  • Classics (2) Apply Classics filter
  • Earth and Planetary Science (2) Apply Earth and Planetary Science filter
  • Education (2) Apply Education filter
  • History of Art and Architecture (2) Apply History of Art and Architecture filter
  • Public Health (2) Apply Public Health filter
  • Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality (2) Apply Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality filter
  • Systems Biology (2) Apply Systems Biology filter
  • Anthropology (1) Apply Anthropology filter
  • Biomedical Engineering (1) Apply Biomedical Engineering filter
  • Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (1) Apply Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations filter
  • Psychiatry (1) Apply Psychiatry filter
  • Visual and Environmental Studies (1) Apply Visual and Environmental Studies filter

Learning Objective

  • Collaborate (107) Apply Collaborate filter
  • Develop Subject Specific Intuitions (101) Apply Develop Subject Specific Intuitions filter
  • Make Real World Connections to Course Material (101) Apply Make Real World Connections to Course Material filter
  • Interpret Primary Sources to Propose a Model or Argument (95) Apply Interpret Primary Sources to Propose a Model or Argument filter
  • Learn Foundational Knowledge (82) Apply Learn Foundational Knowledge filter
  • Develop Communication Skills (73) Apply Develop Communication Skills filter
  • Defend a Position in a Model or Argument (55) Apply Defend a Position in a Model or Argument filter
  • Evaluate and Critique a Model or Argument (45) Apply Evaluate and Critique a Model or Argument filter
  • Reflect on the Learning Process (Metacognition) (44) Apply Reflect on the Learning Process (Metacognition) filter
  • Compare the Strengths and Weaknesses of Different Methods (23) Apply Compare the Strengths and Weaknesses of Different Methods filter

Length of Activity

  • Full Class (142) Apply Full Class filter
  • 10 to 30 minutes (49) Apply 10 to 30 minutes filter
  • Multiple Classes (31) Apply Multiple Classes filter
  • up to 10 minutes (22) Apply up to 10 minutes filter
  • Full Semester (19) Apply Full Semester filter

Skip to main navigation

  • Email Updates
  • Federal Court Finder

Glossary of Legal Terms

A jury verdict that a criminal defendant is not guilty, or the finding of a judge that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction.

A judge in the full-time service of the court. Compare to senior judge.

The federal agency responsible for collecting court statistics, administering the federal courts' budget, and performing many other administrative and programmatic functions, under the direction and supervision of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

A term used to describe evidence that may be considered by a jury or judge in civil and criminal cases.

A lawsuit arising in or related to a bankruptcy case that begins by filing a complaint with the court, that is, a "trial" that takes place within the context of a bankruptcy case.

A written or printed statement made under oath.

In the practice of the court of appeals, it means that the court of appeals has concluded that the lower court decision is correct and will stand as rendered by the lower court.

A juror selected in the same manner as a regular juror who hears all the evidence but does not help decide the case unless called on to replace a regular juror.

A procedure for settling a dispute outside the courtroom. Most forms of ADR are not binding, and involve referral of the case to a neutral party such as an arbitrator or mediator.

Latin for "friend of the court." It is advice formally offered to the court in a brief filed by an entity interested in, but not a party to, the case.

The formal written statement by a defendant in a civil case that responds to a complaint, articulating the grounds for defense.

A request made after a trial by a party that has lost on one or more issues that a higher court review the decision to determine if it was correct. To make such a request is "to appeal" or "to take an appeal." One who appeals is called the "appellant;" the other party is the "appellee."

The party who appeals a district court's decision, usually seeking reversal of that decision.

About appeals; an appellate court has the power to review the judgment of a lower court (trial court) or tribunal. For example, the U.S. circuit courts of appeals review the decisions of the U.S. district courts.

The party who opposes an appellant's appeal, and who seeks to persuade the appeals court to affirm the district court's decision.

A proceeding in which a criminal defendant is brought into court, told of the charges in an indictment or information, and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.

A federal judge who is appointed for life, during "good behavior," under Article III of the Constitution. Article III judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Property of all kinds, including real and personal, tangible and intangible.

An agreement to continue performing duties under a contract or lease.

An injunction that automatically stops lawsuits, foreclosures, garnishments, and most collection activities against the debtor the moment a bankruptcy petition is filed.

The release, prior to trial, of a person accused of a crime, under specified conditions designed to assure that person's appearance in court when required. Also, can refer to the amount of bond money posted as a financial condition of pretrial release.

A legal procedure for dealing with debt problems of individuals and businesses; specifically, a case filed under one of the chapters of title 11 of the United States Code (the Bankruptcy Code).

An officer of the Judiciary serving in the judicial districts of Alabama and North Carolina who, like the United States trustee, is responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and trustees; monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring creditors' committees; monitoring fee applications; and performing other statutory duties.

The informal name for title 11 of the United States Code (11 U.S.C. §§ 101-1330), the federal bankruptcy law.

The bankruptcy judges in regular active service in each district; a unit of the district court.

All interests of the debtor in property at the time of the bankruptcy filing. The estate technically becomes the temporary legal owner of all of the debtor's property.

A judicial officer of the United States district court who is the court official with decision-making power over federal bankruptcy cases.

A formal request for the protection of the federal bankruptcy laws. (There is an official form for bankruptcy petitions.)

A private individual or corporation appointed in all Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases to represent the interests of the bankruptcy estate and the debtor's creditors.

A trial without a jury, in which the judge serves as the fact-finder.

A written statement submitted in a trial or appellate proceeding that explains one side's legal and factual arguments.

The duty to prove disputed facts. In civil cases, a plaintiff generally has the burden of proving his or her case. In criminal cases, the government has the burden of proving the defendant's guilt. (See standard of proof.)

A bankruptcy case in which the debtor is a business or an individual involved in business and the debts are for business purposes.

A crime punishable by death.

A complete collection of every document filed in court in a case.

The law as established in previous court decisions. A synonym for legal precedent. Akin to common law, which springs from tradition and judicial decisions.

The number of cases handled by a judge or a court.

A legal claim.

The offices of a judge and his or her staff.

A reorganization bankruptcy, usually involving a corporation or partnership. A Chapter 11 debtor usually proposes a plan of reorganization to keep its business alive and pay creditors over time. Individuals or people in business can also seek relief in Chapter 11.

The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for adjustment of debts of a "family farmer" or "family fisherman," as the terms are defined in the Bankruptcy Code.

The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for the adjustment of debts of an individual with regular income, often referred to as a "wage-earner" plan. Chapter 13 allows a debtor to keep property and use his or her disposable income to pay debts over time, usually three to five years.

A person appointed to administer a Chapter 13 case. A Chapter 13 trustee's responsibilities are similar to those of a Chapter 7 trustee; however, a Chapter 13 trustee has the additional responsibilities of overseeing the debtor's plan, receiving payments from debtors, and disbursing plan payments to creditors.

The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code dealing with cases of cross-border insolvency.

The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for "liquidation," that is, the sale of a debtor's nonexempt property and the distribution of the proceeds to creditors. In order to be eligible for Chapter 7, the debtor must satisfy a "means test." The court will evaluate the debtor's income and expenses to determine if the debtor may proceed under Chapter 7.

A person appointed in a Chapter 7 case to represent the interests of the bankruptcy estate and the creditors. The trustee's responsibilities include reviewing the debtor's petition and schedules, liquidating the property of the estate, and making distributions to creditors. The trustee may also bring actions against creditors or the debtor to recover property of the bankruptcy estate.

The chapter of the Bankruptcy Code providing for reorganization of municipalities (which includes cities and towns, as well as villages, counties, taxing districts, municipal utilities, and school districts).

The judge who has primary responsibility for the administration of a court; chief judges are determined by seniority

A creditor's assertion of a right to payment from a debtor or the debtor's property.

A lawsuit in which one or more members of a large group, or class, of individuals or other entities sue on behalf of the entire class. The district court must find that the claims of the class members contain questions of law or fact in common before the lawsuit can proceed as a class action.

The court officer who oversees administrative functions, especially managing the flow of cases through the court. The clerk's office is often called a court's central nervous system.

Property that is promised as security for the satisfaction of a debt.

The legal system that originated in England and is now in use in the United States, which relies on the articulation of legal principles in a historical succession of judicial decisions. Common law principles can be changed by legislation.

A special condition the court imposes that requires an individual to work – without pay – for a civic or nonprofit organization.

A written statement that begins a civil lawsuit, in which the plaintiff details the claims against the defendant.

Prison terms for two or more offenses to be served at the same time, rather than one after the other. Example: Two five-year sentences and one three-year sentence, if served concurrently, result in a maximum of five years behind bars.

Approval of a plan of reorganization by a bankruptcy judge.

Prison terms for two or more offenses to be served one after the other. Example: Two five-year sentences and one three-year sentence, if served consecutively, result in a maximum of 13 years behind bars.

A bankruptcy case filed to reduce or eliminate debts that are primarily consumer debts.

Debts incurred for personal, as opposed to business, needs.

A claim that may be owed by the debtor under certain circumstances, e.g., where the debtor is a cosigner on another person's loan and that person fails to pay.

An agreement between two or more people that creates an obligation to do or not to do a particular thing.

A judgment of guilt against a criminal defendant.

Legal advice; a term also used to refer to the lawyers in a case.

An allegation in an indictment or information, charging a defendant with a crime. An indictment or information may contain allegations that the defendant committed more than one crime. Each allegation is referred to as a count.

Government entity authorized to resolve legal disputes. Judges sometimes use "court" to refer to themselves in the third person, as in "the court has read the briefs."

A person who makes a word-for-word record of what is said in court, generally by using a stenographic machine, shorthand or audio recording, and then produces a transcript of the proceedings upon request.

Generally refers to two events in individual bankruptcy cases: (1) the "individual or group briefing" from a nonprofit budget and credit counseling agency that individual debtors must attend prior to filing under any chapter of the Bankruptcy Code; and (2) the "instructional course in personal financial management" in chapters 7 and 13 that an individual debtor must complete before a discharge is entered. There are exceptions to both requirements for certain categories of debtors, exigent circumstances, or if the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator have determined that there are insufficient approved credit counseling agencies available to provide the necessary counseling.

A person to whom or business to which the debtor owes money or that claims to be owed money by the debtor.

Money that a defendant pays a plaintiff in a civil case if the plaintiff has won. Damages may be compensatory (for loss or injury) or punitive (to punish and deter future misconduct).

Latin, meaning "in fact" or "actually." Something that exists in fact but not as a matter of law.

Latin, meaning "in law." Something that exists by operation of law.

Latin, meaning "anew." A trial de novo is a completely new trial. Appellate review de novo implies no deference to the trial judge's ruling.

A person who has filed a petition for relief under the Bankruptcy Code.

A debtor's detailed description of how the debtor proposes to pay creditors' claims over a fixed period of time.

A judge's statement about someone's rights. For example, a plaintiff may seek a declaratory judgment that a particular statute, as written, violates some constitutional right.

A judgment awarding a plaintiff the relief sought in the complaint because the defendant has failed to appear in court or otherwise respond to the complaint.

An individual (or business) against whom a lawsuit is filed.

In a civil case, the person or organization against whom the plaintiff brings suit; in a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.

An oral statement made before an officer authorized by law to administer oaths. Such statements are often taken to examine potential witnesses, to obtain discovery, or to be used later in trial. See discovery.

A release of a debtor from personal liability for certain dischargeable debts. Notable exceptions to dischargeability are taxes and student loans. A discharge releases a debtor from personal liability for certain debts known as dischargeable debts and prevents the creditors owed those debts from taking any action against the debtor or the debtor's property to collect the debts. The discharge also prohibits creditors from communicating with the debtor regarding the debt, including through telephone calls, letters, and personal contact.

A debt for which the Bankruptcy Code allows the debtor's personal liability to be eliminated.

A written document prepared by the chapter 11 debtor or other plan proponent that is designed to provide "adequate information" to creditors to enable them to evaluate the chapter 11 plan of reorganization.

Procedures used to obtain disclosure of evidence before trial.

Court action that prevents an identical lawsuit from being filed later.

Court action that allows the later filing.

Income not reasonably necessary for the maintenance or support of the debtor or dependents. If the debtor operates a business, disposable income is defined as those amounts over and above what is necessary for the payment of ordinary operating expenses.

A log containing the complete history of each case in the form of brief chronological entries summarizing the court proceedings.

In criminal law, the constitutional guarantee that a defendant will receive a fair and impartial trial. In civil law, the legal rights of someone who confronts an adverse action threatening liberty or property.

French, meaning "on the bench." All judges of an appellate court sitting together to hear a case, as opposed to the routine disposition by panels of three judges. In the Ninth Circuit, an en banc panel consists of 11 randomly selected judges.

Pertaining to civil suits in "equity" rather than in "law." In English legal history, the courts of "law" could order the payment of damages and could afford no other remedy (see damages). A separate court of "equity" could order someone to do something or to cease to do something (e.g., injunction). In American jurisprudence, the federal courts have both legal and equitable power, but the distinction is still an important one. For example, a trial by jury is normally available in "law" cases but not in "equity" cases.

The value of a debtor's interest in property that remains after liens and other creditors' interests are considered. (Example: If a house valued at $60,000 is subject to a $30,000 mortgage, there is $30,000 of equity.)

Information presented in testimony or in documents that is used to persuade the fact finder (judge or jury) to decide the case in favor of one side or the other.

A proceeding brought before a court by one party only, without notice to or challenge by the other side.

Doctrine that says evidence obtained in violation of a criminal defendant's constitutional or statutory rights is not admissible at trial.

Evidence indicating that a defendant did not commit the crime.

Contracts or leases under which both parties to the agreement have duties remaining to be performed. If a contract or lease is executory, a debtor may assume it (keep the contract) or reject it (terminate the contract).

Property that a debtor is allowed to retain, free from the claims of creditors who do not have liens on the property.

Certain property owned by an individual debtor that the Bankruptcy Code or applicable state law permits the debtor to keep from unsecured creditors. For example, in some states the debtor may be able to exempt all or a portion of the equity in the debtor's primary residence (homestead exemption), or some or all "tools of the trade" used by the debtor to make a living (i.e., auto tools for an auto mechanic or dental tools for a dentist). The availability and amount of property the debtor may exempt depends on the state the debtor lives in.

A bankruptcy case filed either without schedules or with incomplete schedules listing few creditors and debts. (Face sheet filings are often made for the purpose of delaying an eviction or foreclosure

An individual, individual and spouse, corporation, or partnership engaged in a farming operation that meets certain debt limits and other statutory criteria for filing a petition under Chapter 12.

An attorney employed by the federal courts on a full-time basis to provide legal defense to defendants who are unable to afford counsel. The judiciary administers the federal defender program pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act.

As provided for in the Criminal Justice Act, an organization established within a federal judicial circuit to represent criminal defendants who cannot afford an adequate defense. Each organization is supervised by a federal public defender appointed by the court of appeals for the circuit.

Jurisdiction given to federal courts in cases involving the interpretation and application of the U.S. Constitution, acts of Congress, and treaties.

A serious crime, usually punishable by at least one year in prison.

To place a paper in the official custody of the clerk of court to enter into the files or records of a case.

A transfer of a debtor's property made with intent to defraud or for which the debtor receives less than the transferred property's value.

The characterization of a debtor's status after bankruptcy, i.e., free of most debts. (Giving debtors a fresh start is one purpose of the Bankruptcy Code.)

A body of 16-23 citizens who listen to evidence of criminal allegations, which is presented by the prosecutors, and determine whether there is probable cause to believe an individual committed an offense. See also indictment and U.S. attorney.

Latin, meaning "you have the body." A writ of habeas corpus generally is a judicial order forcing law enforcement authorities to produce a prisoner they are holding, and to justify the prisoner's continued confinement. Federal judges receive petitions for a writ of habeas corpus from state prison inmates who say their state prosecutions violated federally protected rights in some way.

Evidence presented by a witness who did not see or hear the incident in question but heard about it from someone else. With some exceptions, hearsay generally is not admissible as evidence at trial

A special condition the court imposes that requires an individual to remain at home except for certain approved activities such as work and medical appointments. Home confinement may include the use of electronic monitoring equipment – a transmitter attached to the wrist or the ankle – to help ensure that the person stays at home as required.

1. The process of calling a witness's testimony into doubt. For example, if the attorney can show that the witness may have fabricated portions of his testimony, the witness is said to be "impeached;" 2. The constitutional process whereby the House of Representatives may "impeach" (accuse of misconduct) high officers of the federal government, who are then tried by the Senate.

Latin, meaning in a judge's chambers. Often means outside the presence of a jury and the public. In private.

"In the manner of a pauper." Permission given by the court to a person to file a case without payment of the required court fees because the person cannot pay them.

Evidence indicating that a defendant did commit the crime.

The formal charge issued by a grand jury stating that there is enough evidence that the defendant committed the crime to justify having a trial; it is used primarily for felonies. See also information.

A formal accusation by a government attorney that the defendant committed a misdemeanor. See also indictment.

A court order preventing one or more named parties from taking some action. A preliminary injunction often is issued to allow fact-finding, so a judge can determine whether a permanent injunction is justified.

A director, officer, or person in control of the debtor; a partnership in which the debtor is a general partner; a general partner of the debtor; or a relative of a general partner, director, officer, or person in control of the debtor.

Any relative of the debtor or of a general partner of the debtor; partnership in which the debtor is a general partner; general partner of the debtor; or corporation of which the debtor is a director, officer, or person in control.

A form of discovery consisting of written questions to be answered in writing and under oath.

1. The disputed point between parties in a lawsuit; 2. To send out officially, as in a court issuing an order.

A court-approved mechanism under which two or more cases can be administered together. (Assuming no conflicts of interest, these separate businesses or individuals can pool their resources, hire the same professionals, etc.)

One bankruptcy petition filed by a husband and wife together.

An official of the Judicial branch with authority to decide lawsuits brought before courts. Used generically, the term judge may also refer to all judicial officers, including Supreme Court justices.

The position of judge. By statute, Congress authorizes the number of judgeships for each district and appellate court.

The official decision of a court finally resolving the dispute between the parties to the lawsuit.

The policy-making entity for the federal court system. A 27-judge body whose presiding officer is the Chief Justice of the United States.

The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a certain type of case. It also is used as a synonym for venue, meaning the geographic area over which the court has territorial jurisdiction to decide cases.

The study of law and the structure of the legal system

The group of persons selected to hear the evidence in a trial and render a verdict on matters of fact. See also grand jury.

A judge's directions to the jury before it begins deliberations regarding the factual questions it must answer and the legal rules that it must apply.

A legal action started by a plaintiff against a defendant based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty which resulted in harm to the plaintiff.

A charge on specific property that is designed to secure payment of a debt or performance of an obligation. A debtor may still be responsible for a lien after a discharge.

A creditor's claim for a fixed amount of money.

The sale of a debtor's property with the proceeds to be used for the benefit of creditors.

A case, controversy, or lawsuit. Participants (plaintiffs and defendants) in lawsuits are called litigants.

A judicial officer of a district court who conducts initial proceedings in criminal cases, decides criminal misdemeanor cases, conducts many pretrial civil and criminal matters on behalf of district judges, and decides civil cases with the consent of the parties.

Section 707(b)(2) of the Bankruptcy Code applies a "means test" to determine whether an individual debtor's chapter 7 filing is presumed to be an abuse of the Bankruptcy Code requiring dismissal or conversion of the case (generally to chapter 13). Abuse is presumed if the debtor's aggregate current monthly income (see definition above) over 5 years, net of certain statutorily allowed expenses is more than (i) $10,000, or (ii) 25% of the debtor's nonpriority unsecured debt, as long as that amount is at least $6,000. The debtor may rebut a presumption of abuse only by a showing of special circumstances that justify additional expenses or adjustments of current monthly income.

Special condition the court imposes to require an individual to undergo evaluation and treatment for a mental disorder. Treatment may include psychiatric, psychological, and sex offense-specific evaluations, inpatient or outpatient counseling, and medication.

An offense punishable by one year of imprisonment or less. See also felony.

An invalid trial, caused by fundamental error. When a mistrial is declared, the trial must start again with the selection of a new jury.

Not subject to a court ruling because the controversy has not actually arisen, or has ended

A request by a litigant to a judge for a decision on an issue relating to the case.

A pretrial motion requesting the court to prohibit the other side from presenting, or even referring to, evidence on matters said to be so highly prejudicial that no steps taken by the judge can prevent the jury from being unduly influenced.

A request by a creditor to allow the creditor to take action against the debtor or the debtor's property that would otherwise be prohibited by the automatic stay.

A Chapter 7 case in which there are no assets available to satisfy any portion of the creditors' unsecured claims.

No contest. A plea of nolo contendere has the same effect as a plea of guilty, as far as the criminal sentence is concerned, but may not be considered as an admission of guilt for any other purpose.

A debt that cannot be eliminated in bankruptcy. Examples include a home mortgage, debts for alimony or child support, certain taxes, debts for most government funded or guaranteed educational loans or benefit overpayments, debts arising from death or personal injury caused by driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, and debts for restitution or a criminal fine included in a sentence on the debtor's conviction of a crime. Some debts, such as debts for money or property obtained by false pretenses and debts for fraud or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity may be declared nondischargeable only if a creditor timely files and prevails in a nondischargeability action.

Property of a debtor that can be liquidated to satisfy claims of creditors.

A trustee's or creditor's objection to the debtor being released from personal liability for certain dischargeable debts. Common reasons include allegations that the debt to be discharged was incurred by false pretenses or that debt arose because of the debtor's fraud while acting as a fiduciary.

A trustee's or creditor's objection to the debtor's attempt to claim certain property as exempt from liquidation by the trustee to creditors.

A judge's written explanation of the decision of the court. Because a case may be heard by three or more judges in the court of appeals, the opinion in appellate decisions can take several forms. If all the judges completely agree on the result, one judge will write the opinion for all. If all the judges do not agree, the formal decision will be based upon the view of the majority, and one member of the majority will write the opinion. The judges who did not agree with the majority may write separately in dissenting or concurring opinions to present their views. A dissenting opinion disagrees with the majority opinion because of the reasoning and/or the principles of law the majority used to decide the case. A concurring opinion agrees with the decision of the majority opinion, but offers further comment or clarification or even an entirely different reason for reaching the same result. Only the majority opinion can serve as binding precedent in future cases. See also precedent.

An opportunity for lawyers to summarize their position before the court and also to answer the judges' questions.

1. In appellate cases, a group of judges (usually three) assigned to decide the case; 2. In the jury selection process, the group of potential jurors; 3. The list of attorneys who are both available and qualified to serve as court-appointed counsel for criminal defendants who cannot afford their own counsel.

The release of a prison inmate – granted by the U.S. Parole Commission – after the inmate has completed part of his or her sentence in a federal prison. When the parolee is released to the community, he or she is placed under the supervision of a U.S. probation officer.

The Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 abolished parole in favor of a determinate sentencing system in which the sentence is set by sentencing guidelines. Now, without the option of parole, the term of imprisonment the court imposes is the actual time the person spends in prison.

A party who has standing to be heard by the court in a matter to be decided in the bankruptcy case. The debtor, U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator, case trustee, and creditors are parties in interest for most matters.

Latin, meaning "for the court." In appellate courts, often refers to an unsigned opinion.

A district court may grant each side in a civil or criminal trial the right to exclude a certain number of prospective jurors without cause or giving a reason.

A group of citizens who hear the evidence presented by both sides at trial and determine the facts in dispute. Federal criminal juries consist of 12 persons. Federal civil juries consist of at least six persons.

The document that initiates the filing of a bankruptcy proceeding, setting forth basic information regarding the debtor, including name, address, chapter under which the case is filed, and estimated amount of assets and liabilities.

A business not authorized to practice law that prepares bankruptcy petitions.

A federal misdemeanor punishable by six months or less in prison.

A person or business that files a formal complaint with the court.

In a criminal case, the defendant's statement pleading "guilty" or "not guilty" in answer to the charges. See also nolo contendere.

Written statements filed with the court that describe a party's legal or factual assertions about the case.

A transfer of the debtor's property made after the commencement of the case.

The arrangement (or rearrangement) of a debtor's property to allow the debtor to take maximum advantage of exemptions. (Prebankruptcy planning typically includes converting nonexempt assets into exempt assets.)

A court decision in an earlier case with facts and legal issues similar to a dispute currently before a court. Judges will generally "follow precedent" - meaning that they use the principles established in earlier cases to decide new cases that have similar facts and raise similar legal issues. A judge will disregard precedent if a party can show that the earlier case was wrongly decided, or that it differed in some significant way from the current case.

A debt payment made to a creditor in the 90-day period before a debtor files bankruptcy (or within one year if the creditor was an insider) that gives the creditor more than the creditor would receive in the debtor's chapter 7 case.

A report prepared by a court's probation officer, after a person has been convicted of an offense, summarizing for the court the background information needed to determine the appropriate sentence.

A meeting of the judge and lawyers to plan the trial, to discuss which matters should be presented to the jury, to review proposed evidence and witnesses, and to set a trial schedule. Typically, the judge and the parties also discuss the possibility of settlement of the case.

A function of the federal courts that takes place at the very start of the criminal justice process – after a person has been arrested and charged with a federal crime and before he or she goes to trial. Pretrial services officers focus on investigating the backgrounds of these persons to help the court determine whether to release or detain them while they await trial. The decision is based on whether these individuals are likely to flee or pose a threat to the community. If the court orders release, a pretrial services officer supervises the person in the community until he or she returns to court.

The Bankruptcy Code's statutory ranking of unsecured claims that determines the order in which unsecured claims will be paid if there is not enough money to pay all unsecured claims in full.

An unsecured claim that is entitled to be paid ahead of other unsecured claims that are not entitled to priority status. Priority refers to the order in which these unsecured claims are to be paid.

A slang expression sometimes used to refer to a pro se litigant. It is a corruption of the Latin phrase "in propria persona."

Representing oneself. Serving as one's own lawyer.

Sentencing option in the federal courts. With probation, instead of sending an individual to prison, the court releases the person to the community and orders him or her to complete a period of supervision monitored by a U.S. probation officer and to abide by certain conditions.

Officers of the probation office of a court. Probation officer duties include conducting presentence investigations, preparing presentence reports on convicted defendants, and supervising released defendants.

The rules for conducting a lawsuit; there are rules of civil procedure, criminal procedure, evidence, bankruptcy, and appellate procedure.

A written statement describing the reason a debtor owes a creditor money, which typically sets forth the amount of money owed. (There is an official form for this purpose.)

All legal or equitable interests of the debtor in property as of the commencement of the case.

To charge someone with a crime. A prosecutor tries a criminal case on behalf of the government

An agreement by a debtor to continue paying a dischargeable debt after the bankruptcy, usually for the purpose of keeping collateral or mortgaged property that would otherwise be subject to repossession.

A written account of the proceedings in a case, including all pleadings, evidence, and exhibits submitted in the course of the case.

A procedure in a Chapter 7 case whereby a debtor removes a secured creditor's lien on collateral by paying the creditor the value of the property. The debtor may then retain the property.

The act of a court setting aside the decision of a lower court. A reversal is often accompanied by a remand to the lower court for further proceedings.

A penalty or other type of enforcement used to bring about compliance with the law or with rules and regulations.

Lists submitted by the debtor along with the petition (or shortly thereafter) showing the debtor's assets, liabilities, and other financial information. (There are official forms a debtor must use.)

A secured creditor is an individual or business that holds a claim against the debtor that is secured by a lien on property of the estate. The property subject to the lien is the secured creditor's collateral.

Debt backed by a mortgage, pledge of collateral, or other lien; debt for which the creditor has the right to pursue specific pledged property upon default. Examples include home mortgages, auto loans and tax liens.

A federal judge who, after attaining the requisite age and length of judicial experience, takes senior status, thus creating a vacancy among a court's active judges. A senior judge retains the judicial office and may cut back his or her workload by as much as 75 percent, but many opt to keep a larger caseload.

The punishment ordered by a court for a defendant convicted of a crime.

A set of rules and principles established by the United States Sentencing Commission that trial judges use to determine the sentence for a convicted defendant.

To separate. Sometimes juries are sequestered from outside influences during their deliberations.

The delivery of writs or summonses to the appropriate party.

Parties to a lawsuit resolve their dispute without having a trial. Settlements often involve the payment of compensation by one party in at least partial satisfaction of the other party's claims, but usually do not include the admission of fault.

A special type of chapter 11 case in which there is no creditors' committee (or the creditors' committee is deemed inactive by the court) and in which the debtor is subject to more oversight by the U.S. trustee than other chapter 11 debtors. The Bankruptcy Code contains certain provisions designed to reduce the time a small business debtor is in bankruptcy.

Degree of proof required. In criminal cases, prosecutors must prove a defendant's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt." The majority of civil lawsuits require proof "by a preponderance of the evidence" (50 percent plus), but in some the standard is higher and requires "clear and convincing" proof.

A series of questions the debtor must answer in writing concerning sources of income, transfers of property, lawsuits by creditors, etc. (There is an official form a debtor must use.)

A declaration made by a chapter 7 debtor concerning plans for dealing with consumer debts that are secured by property of the estate.

A law passed by a legislature.

The time within which a lawsuit must be filed or a criminal prosecution begun. The deadline can vary, depending on the type of civil case or the crime charged.

Latin, meaning "of its own will." Often refers to a court taking an action in a case without being asked to do so by either side.

The act or process by which a person's rights or claims are ranked below those of others.

A command, issued under a court's authority, to a witness to appear and give testimony.

A command to a witness to appear and produce documents.

Akin to a preliminary injunction, it is a judge's short-term order forbidding certain actions until a full hearing can be conducted. Often referred to as a TRO.

Evidence presented orally by witnesses during trials or before grand juries.

See statute of limitations.

A civil, not criminal, wrong. A negligent or intentional injury against a person or property, with the exception of breach of contract.

A written, word-for-word record of what was said, either in a proceeding such as a trial, or during some other formal conversation, such as a hearing or oral deposition

Any mode or means by which a debtor disposes of or parts with his/her property.

The representative of the bankruptcy estate who exercises statutory powers, principally for the benefit of the unsecured creditors, under the general supervision of the court and the direct supervision of the U.S. trustee or bankruptcy administrator. The trustee is a private individual or corporation appointed in all chapter 7, chapter 12, and chapter 13 cases and some chapter 11 cases. The trustee's responsibilities include reviewing the debtor's petition and schedules and bringing actions against creditors or the debtor to recover property of the bankruptcy estate. In chapter 7, the trustee liquidates property of the estate, and makes distributions to creditors. Trustees in chapter 12 and 13 have similar duties to a chapter 7 trustee and the additional responsibilities of overseeing the debtor's plan, receiving payments from debtors, and disbursing plan payments to creditors.

A lawyer appointed by the President in each judicial district to prosecute and defend cases for the federal government. The U.S. Attorney employs a staff of Assistant U.S. Attorneys who appear as the government's attorneys in individual cases.

An officer of the U.S. Department of Justice responsible for supervising the administration of bankruptcy cases, estates, and trustees; monitoring plans and disclosure statements; monitoring creditors' committees; monitoring fee applications; and performing other statutory duties.

A debt secured by property that is worth less than the amount of the debt.

The most widely used test for evaluating undue hardship in the dischargeability of a student loan includes three conditions: (1) the debtor cannot maintain – based on current income and expenses – a minimal standard of living if forced to repay the loans; (2) there are indications that the state of affairs is likely to persist for a significant portion of the repayment period; and (3) the debtor made good faith efforts to repay the loans.

A lawsuit brought by a landlord against a tenant to evict the tenant from rental property – usually for nonpayment of rent.

A claim for which a specific value has not been determined.

A debt that should have been listed by the debtor in the schedules filed with the court but was not. (Depending on the circumstances, an unscheduled debt may or may not be discharged.)

A claim or debt for which a creditor holds no special assurance of payment, such as a mortgage or lien; a debt for which credit was extended based solely upon the creditor's assessment of the debtor's future ability to pay.

The appellate court agrees with the lower court decision and allows it to stand. See affirmed.

The geographic area in which a court has jurisdiction. A change of venue is a change or transfer of a case from one judicial district to another.

The decision of a trial jury or a judge that determines the guilt or innocence of a criminal defendant, or that determines the final outcome of a civil case.

Jury selection process of questioning prospective jurors, to ascertain their qualifications and determine any basis for challenge.

A transfer of a debtor's property with the debtor's consent.

A nonbankruptcy legal proceeding whereby a plaintiff or creditor seeks to subject to his or her claim the future wages of a debtor. In other words, the creditor seeks to have part of the debtor's future wages paid to the creditor for a debt owed to the creditor.

Court authorization, most often for law enforcement officers, to conduct a search or make an arrest.

A person called upon by either side in a lawsuit to give testimony before the court or jury.

A written court order directing a person to take, or refrain from taking, a certain act.

An order issued by the U.S. Supreme Court directing the lower court to transmit records for a case which it will hear on appeal.

Have a language expert improve your writing

Run a free plagiarism check in 10 minutes, generate accurate citations for free.

  • Knowledge Base


  • What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods

Published on May 8, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 20, 2023.

A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research.

A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods , but quantitative methods are sometimes also used. Case studies are good for describing , comparing, evaluating and understanding different aspects of a research problem .

Table of contents

When to do a case study, step 1: select a case, step 2: build a theoretical framework, step 3: collect your data, step 4: describe and analyze the case, other interesting articles.

A case study is an appropriate research design when you want to gain concrete, contextual, in-depth knowledge about a specific real-world subject. It allows you to explore the key characteristics, meanings, and implications of the case.

Case studies are often a good choice in a thesis or dissertation . They keep your project focused and manageable when you don’t have the time or resources to do large-scale research.

You might use just one complex case study where you explore a single subject in depth, or conduct multiple case studies to compare and illuminate different aspects of your research problem.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Once you have developed your problem statement and research questions , you should be ready to choose the specific case that you want to focus on. A good case study should have the potential to:

  • Provide new or unexpected insights into the subject
  • Challenge or complicate existing assumptions and theories
  • Propose practical courses of action to resolve a problem
  • Open up new directions for future research

TipIf your research is more practical in nature and aims to simultaneously investigate an issue as you solve it, consider conducting action research instead.

Unlike quantitative or experimental research , a strong case study does not require a random or representative sample. In fact, case studies often deliberately focus on unusual, neglected, or outlying cases which may shed new light on the research problem.

Example of an outlying case studyIn the 1960s the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania was discovered to have extremely low rates of heart disease compared to the US average. It became an important case study for understanding previously neglected causes of heart disease.

However, you can also choose a more common or representative case to exemplify a particular category, experience or phenomenon.

Example of a representative case studyIn the 1920s, two sociologists used Muncie, Indiana as a case study of a typical American city that supposedly exemplified the changing culture of the US at the time.

While case studies focus more on concrete details than general theories, they should usually have some connection with theory in the field. This way the case study is not just an isolated description, but is integrated into existing knowledge about the topic. It might aim to:

  • Exemplify a theory by showing how it explains the case under investigation
  • Expand on a theory by uncovering new concepts and ideas that need to be incorporated
  • Challenge a theory by exploring an outlier case that doesn’t fit with established assumptions

To ensure that your analysis of the case has a solid academic grounding, you should conduct a literature review of sources related to the topic and develop a theoretical framework . This means identifying key concepts and theories to guide your analysis and interpretation.

There are many different research methods you can use to collect data on your subject. Case studies tend to focus on qualitative data using methods such as interviews , observations , and analysis of primary and secondary sources (e.g., newspaper articles, photographs, official records). Sometimes a case study will also collect quantitative data.

Example of a mixed methods case studyFor a case study of a wind farm development in a rural area, you could collect quantitative data on employment rates and business revenue, collect qualitative data on local people’s perceptions and experiences, and analyze local and national media coverage of the development.

The aim is to gain as thorough an understanding as possible of the case and its context.

In writing up the case study, you need to bring together all the relevant aspects to give as complete a picture as possible of the subject.

How you report your findings depends on the type of research you are doing. Some case studies are structured like a standard scientific paper or thesis , with separate sections or chapters for the methods , results and discussion .

Others are written in a more narrative style, aiming to explore the case from various angles and analyze its meanings and implications (for example, by using textual analysis or discourse analysis ).

In all cases, though, make sure to give contextual details about the case, connect it back to the literature and theory, and discuss how it fits into wider patterns or debates.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Normal distribution
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Null hypothesis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Control groups
  • Mixed methods research
  • Non-probability sampling
  • Quantitative research
  • Ecological validity

Research bias

  • Rosenthal effect
  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Selection bias
  • Negativity bias
  • Status quo bias

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.

McCombes, S. (2023, November 20). What Is a Case Study? | Definition, Examples & Methods. Scribbr. Retrieved March 31, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/methodology/case-study/

Is this article helpful?

Shona McCombes

Shona McCombes

Other students also liked, primary vs. secondary sources | difference & examples, what is a theoretical framework | guide to organizing, what is action research | definition & examples, "i thought ai proofreading was useless but..".

I've been using Scribbr for years now and I know it's a service that won't disappoint. It does a good job spotting mistakes”

  • Find a Lawyer
  • Ask a Lawyer
  • Research the Law
  • Law Schools
  • Laws & Regs
  • Newsletters
  • Justia Connect
  • Pro Membership
  • Basic Membership
  • Justia Lawyer Directory
  • Platinum Placements
  • Gold Placements
  • Justia Elevate
  • Justia Amplify
  • PPC Management
  • Google Business Profile
  • Social Media
  • Justia Onward Blog

Contracts Cases Outline

Contract law concerns the creation and enforcement of binding agreements between parties. Generally, the elements of a legally enforceable contract are assent, a valid offer, acceptance, and consideration. Most contract law concepts stem from common law, but some come from other sources, such as the universally adopted Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). Below is an outline of key cases in contract law with links to the full text of virtually every case, provided free by Justia.

  • 2 Mutual Misunderstanding
  • 4 Destroying an Offer
  • 5 Option Contracts
  • 6 Acceptance
  • 7 Imperfect Acceptances
  • 8 Consideration
  • 9 Reliance and Promissory Estoppel
  • 10 Contract Terms
  • 11 Integrated Agreements
  • 12 Conditions Precedent
  • 13 Definiteness
  • 14 Unconscionability
  • 16 The Statute of Frauds
  • 17 Breach of Contract
  • 18 Anticipatory Repudiation
  • 19 Excusing Conditions
  • 20 Remedies

Assent binds parties in a contract. Assent is measured by the outward manifestations of the parties, rather than the inner, private, or secret intentions of the parties. Assent may be found when a reasonable person in the situation would have believed that there was assent, even if one party lacked subjective intent to be bound.

Lucy v. Zehmer 一 A contract is enforceable if one party reasonably believes that the other party has sufficient intent to enter into the agreement, even if the other party actually does not.

Leonard v. Pepsico, Inc. 一 Generally, an advertisement is not an offer. In evaluating whether an advertisement was an offer, a court will not consider the subjective intents or views of the parties, but what an objective, reasonable person would have understood.

Gleason v. Freeman 一 Whether a binding contract exists depends on the objective expressions of intent to be bound and the definitiveness of the terms of the agreement. When a party’s words create doubt as to their intent to be bound, a court will consider the situation and conduct of the parties under the circumstances. Continuing to negotiate an agreement’s terms may be evidence that the parties did not intend to be bound.

Mutual Misunderstanding

There is no mutual assent if the parties attach materially different meanings to their manifestations. However, the meaning attached by one party may control if that party does not know or have reason to know of a different meaning attached by the other and the other knows or has reason to know of the meaning attached by the first.

Raffles v. Wichelhaus 一 A contract is invalid if there is no meeting of the minds, as is the case when there is a mutual mistake.

An offer is a manifestation of assent by an offeror to an offeree that the offeror commits to a deal on specific terms and gives the offeree the power to assent to the terms and make a contract. If the so-called offeree knows that the so-called offeror does not intend to give the offeree the power to make a contract by simply accepting, there is no offer.

Lonergan v. Scolnick 一 An invitation for offers is not by itself an offer to form an enforceable contract.

Maryland Supreme Corp. v. Blake Co. 一 A mere price quotation and an invitation to enter into negotiations is not an offer, but whether an offer was made depends on the intention of the parties and the facts and circumstances of the case.

Sateriale v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. 一 An offer to enter into a unilateral contract may exist when an advertiser, in clear and positive terms, promises performance in exchange for something requested by the advertiser, and the recipient of the advertisement reasonably may conclude that acting in accordance with the request would form a contract. Advertisements may be offers when they invite the performance of a specific act without further communication and leave nothing for negotiation. If the offeror retains some discretion in performance, this does not preclude the existence of an offer.

Destroying an Offer

There are four general ways to destroy an offer: rejection or counteroffer, revocation, lapse, or death or incapacity. An offer may be effectively revoked if the offeree learns that the offeror no longer intends to keep the offer open, even if the offer is not expressly revoked. An offer may lapse after a reasonable period of time, depending on the circumstances surrounding the offer.

Dickinson v. Dodds 一 A promise to keep an offer open for a certain period of time is not binding without the consideration and acceptance necessary to form a binding agreement. One cannot accept an offer when they have knowledge that the offeror’s mind is no longer in agreement, even if the offeror did not expressly retract the offer.

Minnesota Linseed Oil Co. v. Collier White Lead Co. 一 An acceptance must be made within a reasonable time after an offer is received, as defined by the circumstances of the case.

Option Contracts

An option contract is a promise that the offeror’s right to revoke their offer will be limited, usually by a period of time. An offer is generally binding as an option contract if it is in writing and signed by the offeror, includes purported consideration, and proposes an exchange on fair terms within a reasonable time. (An offer may also be binding as an option contract if it is made irrevocable by statute.)

Beall v. Beall 一 An option agreement must be supported by consideration to be binding. Otherwise, it is a mere offer to sell, which may be revoked at any time before acceptance. However, an option may be binding if it is accepted within the time limit and before the offer is withdrawn.

Board of Control of Eastern Michigan University v. Burgess 一 One dollar may be valid consideration for an option to purchase land, so long as the dollar is paid or tendered. Written acknowledgment of receipt of consideration merely creates a rebuttable presumption of consideration. If an option contract fails for lack of consideration, the underlying offer will not be affected. However, the underlying offer may then be revoked at any time.

An offeree exercises their power to create a contract by accepting an offer. An offeree usually has a reasonable period of time to accept an offer, unless the offer specifies a time limit. Conduct by both parties recognizing the existence of a contract may be sufficient to show an agreement, even if the moment when a sufficient agreement was formed cannot be determined.

La Salle National Bank v. Vega 一 There is no offer when the so-called offer is not intended to give the so-called offeree the power to make a contract. A contract may dictate certain requirements for acceptance and may specify the mode of acceptance required.

Ever-Tite Roofing Corp. v. Green 一 If the time limit to accept is not specified in the offer, it is within a reasonable period of time. What constitutes a reasonable period of time is determined by the nature of the proposed contract, usages of business, and other relevant circumstances that the offeree knows or has reason to know at the time of acceptance.

Maryland Supreme Corp. v. Blake Co. 一 Conduct by both parties recognizing the existence of a contract may be sufficient to show an agreement, even if the moment when a sufficient agreement was formed cannot be determined. In addition to any contractual language, usage of trade, course of dealing and performance, and general circumstances may be used to determine the terms of the parties’ agreement.

Hendricks v. Behee 一 A valid contract is only formed when acceptance of the offer is communicated to the offeror. Similarly, a revocation is only effective when it is communicated to the offeree before acceptance. Communication of acceptance of a contract to an agent of the offeree does not bind the offeror. However, when an agent of the offeree obtains notice that the offer was withdrawn, that notice is binding upon the offeree.

Adams v. Lindsell 一 Under the mailbox rule, an offer is accepted when the acceptance is put into the mail by the offeree.

Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. 一 An advertisement may be an express contractual promise to pay when evidence of the advertiser’s sincerity, such as a deposit of the reward in a bank, would lead a reasonable person to think that they had the power of acceptance. Acceptance of such an offer may be made by performance, and no prior notice of the acceptance is required.

Marchiondo v. Scheck 一 An offer that invites acceptance by performance, which does not also invite acceptance by promissory acceptance, may not be revoked after performance has begun. Beginning performance effectively creates an option contract conditional on completed performance in accordance with the offer’s terms.

Imperfect Acceptances

Imperfect acceptances (or implied rejections) may take the form of counteroffers, acceptances with conditions, or responses containing new terms. Under the mirror image rule, acceptance generally must be coextensive with the offer and may not include additional terms or conditions. The mirror image rule is different for transactions falling under Section 2-207 of the UCC.

Gresser v. Hotzler 一 Under the mirror image rule, acceptance must be coextensive with the offer and may not introduce additional terms or conditions. Immaterial variations included in an acceptance will not hinder contract formation. However, a material term or condition introduced in the acceptance may preclude contract formation.

Diamond Fruit Growers, Inc. v. Krack Corp. v. Metal-matic, Inc. 一 Under UCC Section 2-207, a common-law counteroffer containing different or additional terms operates as an acceptance if the responding form includes a definite and seasonable expression of acceptance. Between merchants, such terms become part of the contract unless the offer expressly limits acceptance to its terms, the terms materially alter the contract, or a party objects to the terms. If the definite and seasonable expression of acceptance is expressly conditioned on assent to the different or additional terms, a contract is not created unless the offeror assents to the new terms. If the conduct of the parties recognizes the existence of a contract, but the offeror does not assent to the new terms, only the terms on which the parties’ forms agree will remain, and any other terms may be replaced with UCC terms.

Klocek v. Gateway, Inc. 一 Additional terms included with a product do not become part of a contract if the purchaser is not a merchant, unless the purchaser expressly agrees to them.

Hancock v. American Telephone & Telegraph Co., Inc. 一 Clickwrap agreements, which require a computer user to consent to terms and conditions by clicking on a dialog box, are typically upheld when they were clearly presented to the consumer, and the consumer had an opportunity to read the agreement and unambiguously accepted the terms.


Consideration may be virtually anything for which one would bargain in exchange for a promise. Consideration may be a return promise, some kind of property, an affirmative action, or the forbearance of a legal right. Usually, consideration is a return promise. A contract will be unenforceable if it lacks consideration or an adequate substitute.

Reed v. University of North Dakota 一 Surrender of a legal right by signing a release form in exchange for participation may constitute consideration.

McCormick v. Dresdale 一 The forbearance of a legal right may qualify as valid consideration for a settlement agreement, but claims forgone that were false and made in bad faith may not constitute valid consideration.

Kirksey v. Kirkse y 一 A mere gratuitous promise without consideration is not enforceable, even if the promisee reasonably relied upon the promise and incurred a detriment.

Hamer v. Sidway 一 The forbearance of a legal right may still be valid consideration even if such forbearance benefited the promisee and did not benefit the promisor.

Schnell v. Nell 一 Consideration of one cent, which is clearly nominal, cannot support an exchange of $600. Furthermore, a moral consideration cannot support a promise, nor will a compromise of a legally groundless claim. Past services, love, and affection cannot be legal consideration for the promise to pay money to a third person.

Hooters of America, Inc. v. Phillips 一 There is no consideration if a return promise is in fact illusory. An illusory promise is one that makes performance optional and is, therefore, no promise at all. A promise to arbitrate when one party retains the right to modify or terminate the agreement, thereby creating an imbalance of obligation, is an illusory and unenforceable promise.

Alaska Packers’ Ass’n v. Domenico 一 There is no consideration when a party refuses to perform that which they are already bound to perform until the other party agrees to increased compensation for that same performance.

Angel v. Murray 一 A contract modification is generally unenforceable without additional consideration, and a promise to perform a pre-existing duty is not valid consideration. However, if the parties voluntarily and in good faith agree to a modification, it may be enforced without additional consideration if it is made to fairly and equitably address unexpected or unanticipated circumstances that arise during performance.

Reliance and Promissory Estoppel

When a promisee reasonably and foreseeably relies on a promise to their detriment, the promise is enforced to avoid injustice. Similarly, when an offeror should reasonably expect to and does in fact induce the offeree’s substantial action or forbearance before acceptance, a binding option contract may be enforced to the extent necessary to avoid injustice.

Ricketts v. Scothorn 一 When a promisee alters their position for the worse in reliance on a promisor’s promise, and the promisor should have expected that alteration as a reasonable and probable consequence of their promise, the promise may be enforced under the doctrine of equitable estoppel.

Dixon v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. 一 It is not necessary that there be an intent to mislead or deceive for an otherwise unenforceable contract to be enforced under the doctrine of promissory estoppel. Instead, under the circumstances, it must be unjust to allow one party to walk away from the natural or reasonably anticipated detrimental consequences of their representations or conduct when they take advantage of or string along another party. In such cases, pre-contractual liability should be limited to reliance expenditures.

Salsbury v. Northwestern Bell Telephone Co. 一 For reasons of public policy, charitable subscriptions should be binding even if there is no consideration or detrimental reliance.

Contract Terms

Contracts may contain both express and implied terms. If a dispute arises because contract language is ambiguous, a court may consider evidence other than the language contained therein, such as the circumstances surrounding the contract. Courts sometimes infer contract terms by examining circumstances such as course of performance, course of dealing, and usage of trade.

Threadgill v. Peabody Coal Co. 一 A party may be bound by trade usage if they had actual knowledge of the trade usage, or if the trade usage was so well established as to suggest constructive knowledge. When a party has not expressly agreed to be bound by trade usage, it may only be binding if it is reasonable, generally meaning that the usage must not be illegal or violative of public policy.

Wood v. Lucy, Lady of Duff-Gordon 一 An implied promise may exist when a contract’s express terms lack mutuality of obligation.

Billman v. Hensel 一 Financing clauses impose an implied obligation to make a reasonable and good-faith effort to satisfy the condition. A promisor cannot be excused from performance because of a condition precedent when they prevented the performance of the condition themselves.

Locke v. Warner Bros., Inc. 一 A contract that gives one party discretion affecting the rights of the other party imposes a duty to exercise that discretion in good faith and in accordance with fair dealing. In cases of subjective satisfaction, so long as dissatisfaction is asserted in good faith, it does not matter whether such dissatisfaction is reasonable.

Traders Bank v. Dils 一 Generally, there is no fraud when a promise is not performed, but an exception exists when the device used to accomplish the fraud is the promise itself. Fraudulent inducement is based on a party’s fraudulent representation of their intention to perform, rather than a breach of the agreement to perform.

Frigaliment Importing Co. v. B.N.S. Int’l Sales Corp. 一 When a contract term is in dispute, a court will consider the language of the contract; definitions of the term from other sources, such as dictionaries and regulations; the circumstances surrounding the agreement, including preliminary negotiations; trade usage; and course of performance. A court will also consider whether one party knew or should have known how the other party interpreted the contract.

Random House, Inc. v. Rosetta Books LLC 一 Contract language is ambiguous if a reasonably intelligent person who has considered the context of the agreement and applicable customs, practices, usages, and terminology could objectively interpret the language in more than one way. If contract language is ambiguous, a court will consider extrinsic evidence to interpret it. If contract language can most reasonably be read to convey one certain meaning, the party wishing to deviate from that interpretation bears the burden of negotiating for language expressing that deviation.

Integrated Agreements

Only a binding, completely integrated agreement discharges prior agreements to the extent that they are within its scope. An agreement is not completely integrated if it omits a consistent, additional agreed term either agreed to for separate consideration or naturally omitted under the circumstances.

Trident Center v. Connecticut General Life Ins. Co. 一 There is no prohibition against the use of parol evidence in interpreting contracts under California state law, no matter how thoroughly they appear to be integrated.

Mitchill v. Lath 一 An oral agreement may alter a written contract if it is a collateral agreement, it does not contradict express or implied provisions of the written contract, and it is one that parties would not ordinarily include in the written contract. An oral agreement may not alter a written contract if it is closely related to the subject of the written agreement.

Masterson v. Sine 一 Parol evidence may not be used to add to or alter the terms of an integrated agreement. To determine whether a written contract was an integration, meaning a complete and final embodiment of the terms, a court will consider whether the parties intended their writing to serve as the exclusive embodiment of the agreement. If an agreement is only partially integrated, parol evidence can be used to prove elements of the agreement that are not reduced to writing.

Luther Williams, Jr., Inc. v. Johnson 一 The parol evidence rule does not prevent a court from admitting testimony concerning an oral condition precedent. Parol testimony concerning an oral condition precedent is admissible when the contract is silent on the matter, the testimony does not contradict the writing, and it may be inferred under the circumstances that the parties did not intend the writing to encompass their entire agreement.

In re Soper’s Estate 一 When contract language is ambiguous not on its face, but when practically applied, parol evidence is admissible to determine the parties’ intent.

Conditions Precedent

If parties include a condition precedent in their agreement, the performance obligations to which the condition precedent applies will not become due until the condition precedent is satisfied.

Luttinger v. Rosen 一 A contract is not binding if a condition precedent, meaning a fact or event that the parties intend must exist or take place before performance, is not met.

Dove v. Rose Acre Farms, Inc. 一 An employer may not be obligated to perform under a bonus contract until the employee has satisfied all required conditions, even if those conditions seem especially strict.

Evans, Mechwart, Hambleton & Tilton, Inc. v. Triad Architects, Ltd. 一 A pay-when-paid provision operates only as a timing mechanism, while a pay-if-paid provision operates as a condition precedent that may discharge the duty to pay if the parties clearly intended to create such a condition precedent.


A contract may be unenforceable if a material term of the agreement is too indefinite. A contract will not fail for indefiniteness if the parties intended to make a contract, and there is a reasonably certain basis for giving an appropriate remedy.

Varney v. Ditmars 一 The words “fair” and “reasonable” may be definite enough to be enforceable, depending on the circumstances of the case, especially when they are used synonymously with “market value.” However, such words may be too indefinite to be enforceable when their meaning cannot be determined with a reasonable degree of certainty under the circumstances.

Community Design Corp. v. Antonell 一 An uncertain contract may nevertheless be enforceable when one party benefits from another party’s performance. A jury may properly determine the exact terms of such a contract.

Walker v. Keith 一 An agreement to agree, even in a renewal option, is not enforceable. Only option contracts that specify all the material terms with substantial certainty and leave nothing to be agreed upon in the future are enforceable.

Moonlenaar v. Co-Build Companies, Inc. 一 If a renewal clause leaves rent to be determined by a subsequent agreement, it is implied that the new rent will be “reasonable” or the “fair market” value, and is thus specific enough to be enforceable. Parol evidence may be used to explain the implicit term and show what the parties intended. There may be additional reason to enforce a renewal option when a party has already paid valuable consideration, such as higher rent.


A contract may be unenforceable for unconscionability in certain circumstances. A court may consider such factors as the relevant bargaining power between the parties, their relationship, the ability of the accepting party to review and understand the contract before signing, and whether the terms unreasonably favored one party.

Williams v. Walker-Thomas Furniture Co. 一 Unconscionability, including an absence of meaningful choice on the part of one of the parties together with contract terms unreasonably favorable to the other party, may be a valid defense to the enforcement of a contract.

Vernon v. Qwest Communications Int’l, Inc. 一 In Colorado, a contract is unconscionable if it is both substantively and procedurally unconscionable. Relevant factors include unequal bargaining power, lack of opportunity to read the document before signing it, use of fine print, an absence of evidence that the provision was commercially reasonable, the terms of the contract, the relationship of the parties, and the circumstances surrounding the formation of the contract.

A contract may be rescinded when a mistaken belief related to a basic assumption of both parties materially affects the agreed performance. However, rescission may not be appropriate when the party challenging the contract has assumed the risk of loss related to a mistake.

Estate of Nelson v. Rice 一 A party bears the risk of mistake when they are aware at the time of contracting that they have only limited knowledge of the facts to which the mistake relates but treat such knowledge as sufficient. One who is consciously ignorant may be said to have assumed the risks associated with that ignorance.

Grenall v. United of Omaha Life Ins. Co. 一 A decedent’s unilateral mistaken belief that they were in good health when purchasing an annuity is not a valid basis to rescind the contract. The burden of such a risk is reasonable because it is an inherent part of a life annuity contract.

The Statute of Frauds

The statute of frauds provides that certain agreements are not enforceable without a written document signed by the party against whom enforcement is sought. Agreements that fall under the statute of frauds include contracts not performed within one year of the making of the contract, contracts for the sale of goods worth $500 or more, and contracts involving an interest in land.

Radke v. Brenon 一 A letter written to offer land for sale is sufficient to satisfy the Minnesota statute of frauds. Under the statute, a note or memorandum may be sufficient evidence to enforce an oral contract so long as the writing expresses consideration, is signed by the selling party or their lawful agent authorized in writing, and states expressly or by necessary implication the parties to the contract, the land involved, and the general terms and conditions of the sale. When all the evidence clearly indicates that an oral contract was made, a court may overlook technical requirements that would otherwise lead to an outcome contrary to the statute's purpose.

DF Activities Corp. v. Brown 一 There is an exception to the UCC's statute of frauds when the party against whom enforcement is sought admits in court that an oral contract for sale was made. However, once one party has submitted a sworn statement denying the existence of a contract, the other party cannot continue a lawsuit under the exception, hoping that the first party will perjure themselves.

McIntosh v. Murphy 一 A court has discretion to ignore the statute of frauds to avoid injustice, especially considering the doctrines of part performance and equitable estoppel.

Breach of Contract

Once a party breaches a contract, the other party has the right to sue for damages. If the breach is material, the party may have the right to suspend their own performance while pursuing damages. A breach is not material if there was substantial performance of the contract.

Kingston v. Preston 一 If a condition precedent is not met by one party, the other has no duty to perform, since their obligation to perform does not arise until the condition is satisfied.

Jacob & Youngs, Inc. v. Kent 一 Parties are obligated to fully perform under their contracts, but a trivial and innocent omission may sometimes be excused to the extent that damages may be limited to the difference in value between the performance bargained for and the actual performance, rather than the cost of replacement.

Anticipatory Repudiation

Anticipatory repudiation occurs when one party unequivocally manifests their intention not to perform their contractual obligations before they become due. Generally, an aggrieved party may await performance for a reasonable period of time or pursue a remedy for the breach.

Hochster v. De La Tour 一 Once a party repudiates their contractual obligations, the other party has the right to sue under the contract, even if performance has not yet become due.

Norcon Power Partners, L.P. v. Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. 一 If one party reasonably believes that the other will commit a breach by non-performance, they have the right to demand adequate assurance of future performance. This UCC principle is equally applicable under New York common law.

Excusing Conditions

Certain conditions may excuse a party from performing their contractual obligations. Under the doctrine of impossibility, a party may generally be excused from performance if performance becomes impossible or impracticable due to no fault of their own. Under the doctrine of frustration of purpose, a party may be excused from performance if their principal purpose for contracting is substantially frustrated by no fault of their own.

Acme Markets, Inc. v. Federal Armored Express, Inc. 一 If the non-occurrence of a condition would cause a disproportionate forfeiture, a court may excuse the non-occurrence so long as the condition was an immaterial part of the agreement. To determine whether a forfeiture is disproportionate, a court must weigh the extent of the obligee’s forfeiture against the importance of the risk against which the obligor sought to protect and the degree to which that protection would be lost if the non-occurrence was excused.

Alderman v. Davidson 一 A party’s waiver of their right to enforce one provision of a contract may waive their right to enforce another provision if their waiver intended such a consequence as indicated by their conduct. Even if the party did not intend to waive their right, they may be estopped if their conduct induced the other party into reasonably believing that strict compliance was not necessary.

Zwick v. Lodewijk Corp. 一 A clause in a lease providing that a lessor’s failure to act on any default does not waive the right to declare a default is not effective. A non-waiver provision may be considered evidence of non-waiver, but it itself can be waived. Additionally, the statute of frauds does not bar an oral modification to extend the time for performance, including payment.

Taylor v. Caldwell 一 Impossibility may excuse a borrower or bailee from returning a bailed item if performance becomes impossible because the item has perished, so long as the impossibility is not due to the fault of the borrower or bailee.

Hewitt v. Biscaro 一 Only a governmental order or promulgation of a governmental regulation rises to the level of an event that may excuse performance based on impracticability. A verbal instruction is insufficient. A party may not assert that a condition excuses them from performance if the attempt to avoid performance is not made in good faith and in accordance with fair dealing.

Route 6 Outparcels, LLC v. Ruby Tuesday, Inc. 一 When parties define the contours of a force majeure provision, such contours dictate its application, effect, and scope. A party may not use a force majeure clause to excuse their non-performance when they expressly limited the clause to events beyond the control of the non-performing party. While a global economic downturn is not within a party’s control, their decisions regarding how to cope with the downturn are.

Krell v. Henry 一 When a party’s purpose for contracting is frustrated by the non-occurrence of a condition, the occurrence of which was a basic assumption of the contract, the party’s duties may be discharged so long as the non-occurrence was not their fault.

Remedies for breach of contract protect each party’s expectation interests, reliance interests, and restitution interests. Parties often include liquidated damages provisions in their contracts, under which they agree on damages in event of a breach ahead of time. Parties are also entitled to limit available remedies by including provisions such as damages caps.

Carr-Gottstein Properties v. Benedict 一 A liquidated damages provision is valid when actual damages would be difficult to calculate, so long as the agreed amount is a reasonable forecast of likely damages and not so disproportionate an amount as to be punitive in nature.

O’Brian v. Langley School 一 A party opposing a liquidated damages provision may be entitled to conduct discovery to prove that the provision is an unenforceable penalty.

Nohe v. Roblyn Development Corp. 一 A court has discretion to compare the damages fixed in a liquidated damages provision to actual damages and choose not to enforce the liquidated damages provision if the difference between the provision and actual damages is unreasonable.

Ash Park, LLC v. Alexander & Bishop, Ltd. 一 When a contract for the sale of land is breached, a court has discretion to order specific performance, regardless of whether it is demonstrated that a legal remedy would be inadequate.

Reed Foundation, Inc. v. Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, LLC 一 A court may order specific performance even if this would offend aesthetic considerations.

i.Lan Systems, Inc. v. Netscout Service Level Corp. 一 Specific performance may be appropriate when goods are unique or irreplaceable as a practical matter, but specific performance may not be appropriate when it is the contract itself that is unique, rather than the goods.

Grossinger Motorcorp, Inc. v. American National Bank and Trust Co. 一 A liquidated damages provision is only enforceable if the parties intended to agree to settle monetary damages in advance. Therefore, an optional liquidated damages clause is unenforceable because it shows that the parties did not have the necessary intent.

Groves v. John Wunder Co. 一 When a construction contract is breached, the correct measure of damages is the cost of remedying the defect, rather than the difference in value between the land as it was before the contract was made and the land as it would have been had the contract been performed.

Peevyhouse v. Garland Coal & Mining Co. 一 A breach of contract claim cannot give rise to a damages award so substantial that it results in economic waste. If a breach is merely incidental to the main purpose of the contract, and the economic benefit that would result from full performance would be grossly disproportionate to the cost of performance, damages may be limited to the diminution in value to the premises due to the non-performance.

Parker v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 一 The measure of damages for wrongful discharge is the salary that the employee would have earned, minus the amount that the employer affirmatively proves that the employee has earned or with reasonable effort might have earned from other employment. However, the employer must show that the other employment was comparable or substantially similar to the job from which the employee was discharged.

R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. v. Vanguard Transp. Systems, Inc. 一 A non-breaching party’s duty to mitigate damages is suspended when they reasonably rely upon the breaching party’s assurances that they would correct the issue. When reliance is not reasonable, a non-breaching party retains their duty to mitigate, even though the breaching party could conceivably cure the breach.

Hadley v. Baxendale 一 Damages for breach of contract may be any damages naturally arising from the breach or any damages that the parties could have reasonably contemplated at the time when the contract was made.

Manouchehri v. Heim 一 The measure of direct damages for breach of warranty is the difference between the value of the goods as warranted and the value of the goods actually delivered. This value may reasonably be approximated by the cost to repair the goods. In instances in which goods are irreparable or non-replaceable, a court may use other proper grounds to approximate the value.

This outline has been compiled by the Justia team for solely educational purposes and should not be treated as an independent source of legal authority or a summary of the current state of the law. Students should use this outline as a supplement rather than a substitute for course-specific outlines.

Last reviewed August 2023

US Law Schools Contents   

  • US Law Schools
  • Administrative Law
  • Advanced Torts
  • Antitrust Law
  • Arbitration Law
  • Business Organizations
  • Civil Procedure
  • Constitutional Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Employment Law
  • Entertainment Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Federal Courts
  • First Amendment
  • Immigration Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Law
  • Local Government Law
  • Professional Responsibility
  • Real Estate Transactions
  • Securities Law
  • Trusts and Estates
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Washington, D.C.
  • West Virginia
  • Law Professors Blogs
  • Writing a Law School Outline
  • Studying for a Law School Exam
  • Paying for Law School
  • US Law Schools FAQ
  • Bankruptcy Lawyers
  • Business Lawyers
  • Criminal Lawyers
  • Employment Lawyers
  • Estate Planning Lawyers
  • Family Lawyers
  • Personal Injury Lawyers
  • Estate Planning
  • Personal Injury
  • Business Formation
  • Business Operations
  • International Trade
  • Real Estate
  • Financial Aid
  • Course Outlines
  • Law Journals
  • US Constitution
  • Regulations
  • Supreme Court
  • Circuit Courts
  • District Courts
  • Dockets & Filings
  • State Constitutions
  • State Codes
  • State Case Law
  • Legal Blogs
  • Business Forms
  • Product Recalls
  • Justia Connect Membership
  • Justia Premium Placements
  • Justia Elevate (SEO, Websites)
  • Justia Amplify (PPC, GBP)
  • Testimonials
  • Global directory Global directory
  • Product logins Product logins
  • Contact us Contact us

Our Privacy Statement & Cookie Policy

All Thomson Reuters websites use cookies to improve your online experience. They were placed on your computer when you launched this website. You can change your cookie settings through your browser.

  • Privacy Statement
  • Cookie Policy

case study in law term

Legal precedents play an important role in decision-making and aids the judicial officers in referring to similar case laws, ultimately saving time and scrutinizing results. And of course, it’s usually a research paralegal or associate tasked with a case law study and discovery concerning a legal matter. This case-building work takes thorough research, where paralegals or associates comb through law books, legal databases, and case law statutes in both physical and digital form. Researching large databases can understandably be a tedious job, but with the most practical case law research tools these tasks can be simplified.

Legal precedent example

In Kudlacik v Johnnys Shawnee Inc , it was observed that once a legal principle has been established by a court, as per the doctrine of stare decisis , it will typically be upheld by the same court when the same legal issue is brought up in consecutive instances, and in all courts of lower rank.

So what transpired? The Supreme Court upheld a district court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit against the defendants (two commercial drinking establishments) for injuries sustained in a collision with a vehicle whose driver had consumed alcoholic beverages at the defendants’ establishments prior to the collision.

On appeal, the plaintiff urged the Supreme Court to re-examine the district court’s case law shielding commercial drinking facilities from liability for the wrongs perpetrated by their inebriated customers. The Supreme Court upheld the district court’s ruling after restating the common law in accordance with the stare decisis principle, ruling:

  • This court declines to overturn Ling v. Jan’s Liquors, 703 P.2d 731 (Kan. 1985), and the plaintiff failed to state a claim for negligence; and
  • Plaintiff failed to state a claim for aiding and abetting under Restatement (Second) of Torts.
“Legal researchers have one perennial question: Have I done enough?” Helping the legal researcher feel confident they’ve done enough – Read the full white paper .

How to use case law as a precedent in a report

Legal reports are typically prepared in one of two ways: in a straightforward, neutral-explanatory tone or in a more persuasive manner.

Include basic elements of a brief

Though writing styles and document templates differ, a report should contain:

  • A brief description of the issue that is to be explained in detail further with a simple resolution;
  • A statement of facts at hand;
  • A comparative study drawn analytically with the facts and the issue concerning the laws;
  • A conclusion to the issue, its facts, and its legal analysis.

Align facts and legal issues

Legal precedents are when a case’s circumstances and legal requirements match those of a contemporary legal dispute; unless a party can demonstrate that it was incorrectly resolved or that it differed materially, the precedent will typically govern the outcome of a later similar case.

For judges, it is important to discern the “ratio decidendi,” or the grounds for the decisions taken in previous cases, to apply the precedents stated in a report. In cases where the reasoning is similar enough to lead to the same or similar conclusion, it is the reasons—and nothing else—that “link” subsequent cases.

Additional citations and considerations

When reviewing law reports to cite valid case law it is important for lawyers, paralegals, and students to understand the significance of learning how to navigate and analyze a law report swiftly. The judgment is only one part of a legal report. It starts off with the names of the parties, the hearing date, the judge or judges’ names, and, typically, the court. The headnote includes a summary of the relevant facts and the judge’s decision, followed by catchwords and indexing terms. While working on the report, it is important to ascertain the precedents referred to in drawing the conclusion and upon whom the decision has been relied upon.

Following are the points to be kept in mind while citing case law and constructing a reliable report:

  • Write in simple and standard legal language
  • Use short sentences
  • Employ fewer jargons
  • Follow the IRAC Method (Issue, Reasoning, Analysis, and Conclusion)
  • Create sub-topics to improve readability
  • Maintain the flow of the report

Final thoughts on precedents

It’s often challenging to determine what “the law” is in any given legal situation. In order to determine the actual law that applies to your case, you may need to compare many different instances to the particular facts of your case.

Do you know the laws and rules that apply to your case? Have you located a case or cases from the past that have similar facts and legal issues to yours? Finding a case that is on point or similar enough demands a lot of time and cumbersome research. If that’s where you find yourself today, request a free trial of Westlaw Precision to drastically streamline your case law research or try Practical Law to get access to thousands of expert-written how-to guides, forms, templates, checklists, and more across all major practice areas today.

The content appearing on this website is not intended as, and shall not be relied upon as, legal advice. It is general in nature and may not reflect all recent legal developments. Thomson Reuters is not a law firm and an attorney-client relationship is not formed through your use of this website. You should consult with qualified legal counsel before acting on any content found on this website.  

  • Legal Topics

case study in law term

Join our community

Sign up for industry-leading insights, updates, and all things AI @ Thomson Reuters.

case study in law term

Webcast and events

Browse all our upcoming and on-demand webcasts and virtual events hosted by leading legal experts.

case study in law term

The past, present, and future of legal research with generative AI

Legal technology has quickly evolved from a books-only exercise to outmatched AI-supported technology - with predictive analytics, precision research capabilities and powerful new citator tools.

Related posts

case study in law term

What does in-house counsel do during trial?

case study in law term

Act now to manage FinCEN CTA requirements for your clients

case study in law term

Reporting on litigation: A checklist for in-house counsel

More answers.

case study in law term

Invest in the future of your business by helping associates know where to start

case study in law term

Pro bono work and in-house legal departments (what you really need to know)

case study in law term

How any lawyer can massively upgrade their capabilities and efficiency

The Harvard Crimson Logo

  • Leadership Crisis
  • Editor's Pick

case study in law term

Broad, Boston Children’s Provide Research Integrity Tools Following Longwood Data Manipulation Allegations

case study in law term

‘Message of Hope’: 11 Harvard Affiliates Visit Israel in Solidarity Trip

case study in law term

Campaign to Fire Graham & Parks Principal Causes Rift Among Parents

case study in law term

Class of 2028 Results Will Offer the First Clues About Harvard’s Post-Affirmative Action Admissions

case study in law term

Harvard College Women’s Center Kicks Off 2024 Women’s Week With ‘Rooted’ Theme

Harvard Law School Digitization Project Publishes Nearly 7 Million Court Cases Online

The Harvard Law School's Caselaw Access Project published almost seve million cases from the school's collections.

The Caselaw Access Project published nearly seven million cases from the Harvard Law School’s collections online on March 8, concluding a nine-year process to digitize the HLS Library’s archive of court cases.

The Caselaw Access Project, also known as CAP, aimed “to make all published U.S. court decisions freely available to the public online in a consistent format, digitized from the collection of the Harvard Law School Library,” according to the project’s website.

The recent release of cases has culminated in “360 years of United States caselaw” accessible to the public, according to the project’s website. This includes all “official, book-published state and federal United States caselaw through 2020,” with the first case dating back to 1658.

Jack Cushman, the project’s director, said that the impetus behind the effort was a desire to make caselaw more accessible to the public. In the past, few people beyond lawyers had access to expensive caselaw databases and could view important legal decisions.

This project, according to Cushman, sought to level the playing field.

Cushman said he believed it was important “for everyone to have access to the law of the land.”

CAP launched in 2015 through a partnership with Ravel Law, a legal research and analytics startup company. Per the terms of the partnership, CAP received financial support in exchange for Ravel obtaining eight years of exclusivity with the caselaw documents, according to Harvard Law Today, a school-run publication.

This project falls under the initiatives of the Law School’s Library Innovation Lab, “a forward-looking group of thinkers and doers working at the intersection of libraries, technology, and law,” according to the organization's website. The LIL facilitated the delicate process of digitizing case files for the project.

As part of the process, 40,000 books containing case files were retrieved from Harvard Law School’s collection in the HLS Library and a repository in Southborough, Mass. The CAP team then used a variety of tools to de-bind the books, effectively scan case files at a rate of 500,000 pages per week, and wrap the books in plastic to be sent to a limestone mine in Kentucky for preservation.

The scanned files were then translated into machine-readable documents and uploaded to the Ravel website. Ravel’s website made sifting through documents easier with their “data science, machine learning, and visualization” systems, according to Harvard Law Today.

Cushman said it was essential to not rush the process, as CAP was dealing with delicate documents that were both culturally and historically important.

“I think one lesson is just, it’s okay if it takes a long time,” he said. “For cultural preservation and cultural heritage — we’re in this for the long run.”

Now that the case files have been digitized, CAP aims to further improve search functionality to make the platform “practically usable,” furthering their mission to increase caselaw accessibility for all. With this forward-looking approach to law accessibility, CAP’s next goal is to strengthen its institutional collaborations with AI model makers interested in high quality datasets.

Cushman said that the digital archive could be useful for “Harvard students who are looking for projects or ways to make their mark with civic technology and big datasets.”

“We’ve only scratched the surface of what you can do with it,” Cushman added.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

  • Skip to main content
  • Keyboard shortcuts for audio player

Legal experts worry about presidential abuse of the Insurrection Act. Here's why

Carrie Johnson 2016 square

Carrie Johnson

case study in law term

National Guard members take a staircase toward the U.S. Capitol building before a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden's Inauguration in Washington on Jan. 18, 2021. Experts in constitutional law and the military say the Insurrection Act gives presidents tremendous power with few restraints. Patrick Semansky/AP hide caption

National Guard members take a staircase toward the U.S. Capitol building before a rehearsal for President-elect Joe Biden's Inauguration in Washington on Jan. 18, 2021. Experts in constitutional law and the military say the Insurrection Act gives presidents tremendous power with few restraints.

A bipartisan group of legal experts is sounding an alarm about presidential power this election season.

They're pushing Congress to update a cluster of laws known as the Insurrection Act and limit how the White House can deploy troops on American soil, in case a future president takes advantage of that sweeping power.

"It's really up to the president to decide when to use the armed forces as a domestic police force," said Elizabeth Goitein, senior director of the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "And that is tremendous cause for concern, because an army turned inward can very quickly become an instrument of tyranny."

The Insurrection Act , which predates the development of modern state and local police departments, gives the president the power to call on the military during an emergency to curb unrest or rebellion here at home .

The last time a president invoked the law was in 1992, when President George H.W. Bush used it to tamp down violence in Los Angeles after a jury acquitted police officers in the beating of motorist Rodney King.

But Goitein said most people remember the law for another moment in civil rights history, when President Dwight Eisenhower called up federal troops to enforce school desegregation in Little Rock, Ark .

More recently, it's been on the table after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and before the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, helped investigate the violence at the Capitol, and he says a central figure in the effort to help former President Donald Trump cling to power recognized the force of the Insurrection Act.

"Stewart Rhodes, who's been convicted of seditious conspiracy, which means conspiracy to overthrow or put down the government, was essentially calling on President Trump to use the Insurrection Act for the purposes of perpetrating an insurrection," Raskin said.

When LA Erupted In Anger: A Look Back At The Rodney King Riots

The Los Angeles Riots, 25 Years On

When la erupted in anger: a look back at the rodney king riots.

Rhodes wanted Trump to take advantage of old language in the law that mentions militias and to deploy his far-right Oath Keepers group to keep Trump in power . Trump never invoked that law, but some lawmakers and legal experts say the episode should serve as a warning.

"The general principle is that we don't live in a military dictatorship and we don't use the military for ordinary law enforcement purposes," Raskin added.

3 suggested changes to current law

Jack Goldsmith is a law professor at Harvard and a leader of the Presidential Reform Project. He said updating the Insurrection Act should be a bipartisan priority, since presidents of both parties could use it to politicize the military and infringe on states' rights.

"It's a huge blank check, it is easily subject to abuse, it's easy to imagine abuse," Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith's outlined three big changes he said should be made to the law.

First, Congress should narrow and clarify the language for when the president can use this sweeping power.

"[T]he statute as it's written has no limitations so it can be used in practically any situation where the president thinks it needs to be used," he said. "And that's just something that's very out of whack and needs to be fixed."

Next, Goldsmith said, the law should require a president to consult with state officials and with Congress.

Finally, and most important, he said, it's "absolutely vital" that Congress impose time limits on its use, putting lawmakers on notice to make a decision. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, is floating a proposal that would give the president about a week for Congress to approve such a move or the military would need to be dispersed.

Blumenthal said he's talking with his Republican counterparts about the plan --and he said it's about more than Trump.

"My hope is that my colleagues in a very bipartisan way will recognize the need for safeguards and guard rails on a power that right now is unlimited, untrammeled and could be easily abused by any president, not one particular individual," Blumenthal said.

The old law is hovering over the current presidential campaign. The Washington Post has reported Trump might use the Insurrection Act to suppress protests or address crime in big cities if he's reelected.

And some Democrats have called on President Biden to use that authority to federalize the National Guard along the Southwest border amid clashes with Republican elected officials in Texas over the scope of state authority.

Advocates said that's one more reason for Congress to update a law that dates to the 1790s to reflect circumstances on the ground today.

  • insurrection act


  1. FREE 9+ Sample Case Summary Templates in PDF

    case study in law term

  2. How to brief a case effectively

    case study in law term

  3. 31+ Case Study Samples

    case study in law term

  4. Case study of business law- sample

    case study in law term

  5. Case law

    case study in law term

  6. 6 Steps To Write A Flawless Legal Case Study

    case study in law term


  1. The Case Value Calculator #lawyer #law #personalInjruy #lifeexpectancy

  2. Case Study


  4. How to memorize law?|Tips to study law

  5. What it’s like to study Law at Coventry University

  6. Brett McGrath speech Opening of Law Term Dinner 2024


  1. The Case Study Teaching Method

    The Case Study Teaching Method. It is easy to get confused between the case study method and the case method, particularly as it applies to legal education. The case method in legal education was invented by Christopher Columbus Langdell, Dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895. Langdell conceived of a way to systematize and simplify legal ...

  2. Why and How: Using the Case Study Method in the Law Classroom

    While we have not yet seen a study on the efficacy of the case study method vs. the Langdell method in law schools, research from political science professor Matthew Krain suggests that case studies and problem-based activities do enhance certain types of learning over other types of pedagogy. In his investigation, Krain compared the results of ...

  3. Case Law

    The term case law refers to law that comes from decisions made by judges in previous cases. Case law, also known as "common law," and "case precedent," provides a common contextual background for certain legal concepts, and how they are applied in certain types of case.How much sway case law holds may vary by jurisdiction, and by the exact circumstances of the current case.

  4. Introduction

    Introduction. Every law student and practicing attorney must be able to find, read, analyze, and interpret case law. Under the common law principles of stare decisis, a court must follow the decisions in previous cases on the same legal topic. Therefore, finding cases is essential to finding out what the law is on a particular issue.

  5. PDF Using Cases in Legal Analysis

    Cases, in turn, interpret those statutes and regulations. Cases may be the sole source of the law when the doctrine is strictly a common law doctrine. Even when law is based on a statute, cases interpreting the terms and intent of the statute are invaluable tools for legal writers. Some methods for using cases, discussed in detail below ...

  6. Legal Research: A Guide to Case Law

    Introduction. Each branch of government produces a different type of law. Case law is the body of law developed from judicial opinions or decisions over time (whereas statutory law comes from legislative bodies and administrative law comes from executive bodies). This guide introduces beginner legal researchers to resources for finding judicial ...

  7. Case Study

    A case study is a research method that involves an in-depth examination and analysis of a particular phenomenon or case, such as an individual, organization, community, event, or situation. It is a qualitative research approach that aims to provide a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the case being studied.

  8. The Use of Case Studies in Law and Social Science Research

    WHAT IS A CASE STUDY IN LEGAL SCHOLARSHIP? In a typical social science research design textbook, a case study is defined as "the in-depth exam- ... .2 Moreover, although in formal terms law purports to treat like cases alike, no two cases are ever exactly alike, and this contributes to scholarly skepticism that hundreds or even

  9. The Law School Case Method

    The case method eschews explanation and encourages exploration. In a course that relies entirely on the casebook, you will never come across a printed list of "laws." Indeed, you will learn that in many areas of law there is no such thing as a static set of rules, but only a constantly evolving system of principles.

  10. Case law

    Case law, also used interchangeably with common law, is a law that is based on precedents, that is the judicial decisions from previous cases, rather than law based on constitutions, statutes, or regulations. Case law uses the detailed facts of a legal case that have been resolved by courts or similar tribunals. These past decisions are called ...

  11. Basic Legal Research

    Legal Terminology: Case Law. Appeal: To seek review by a higher court. (e.g. appeal trial court decisions to the appropriate higher court; appeal appellate court decisions to the appropriate highest court.) Appellant: One who brings the appeal of the lower court decision (the loser in the lower court).

  12. case law

    case law. Case law is law that is based on judicial decisions rather than law based on constitutions, statutes, or regulations. Case law concerns unique disputes resolved by courts using the concrete facts of a case. By contrast, statutes and regulations are written abstractly. Case law, also used interchangeably with common law, refers to the ...

  13. How to Write a Case Brief for Law School

    Case briefs are a necessary study aid in law school that helps to encapsulate and analyze the mountainous mass of material that law students must digest. The case brief represents a final product after reading a case, rereading it, taking it apart, and putting it back together again.

  14. Crime, Justice, and the American Legal System: Case Study Preparation

    The goal of the case studies is for students to (1) research a relevant, real life case that illustrates course themes and theories; (2) analyze a real life fact scenario not only for course themes, but also for classroom pedagogical potential in terms of the dilemma and issues presented for discussion/debate; and (3) to analyze (in Part C of ...

  15. Glossary of Legal Terms

    A bankruptcy case in which the debtor is a business or an individual involved in business and the debts are for business purposes. Go to top. C Capital offense . A crime punishable by death. Case file . A complete collection of every document filed in court in a case. Case law . The law as established in previous court decisions.

  16. What Is a Case Study?

    Revised on November 20, 2023. A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research. A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods, but quantitative methods are ...

  17. Contracts Cases Outline

    Contracts Cases Outline. Contract law concerns the creation and enforcement of binding agreements between parties. Generally, the elements of a legally enforceable contract are assent, a valid offer, acceptance, and consideration. Most contract law concepts stem from common law, but some come from other sources, such as the universally adopted ...

  18. PDF A Case Study: Translation of Legal Terms

    Legal terms generally have the following characteristics: 1. The Meaning of Legal Terms Is Professional. Legal terminology is the core part of the legal system, and it's fixed down after the use of a long period of time in the gradual precipitation. A term may mean a legal concept (such as "object", "legal person", "person having no ...

  19. Case study legal definition of case study

    A system of instruction or study of law focused upon the analysis of court opinions rather than lectures and textbooks; the predominant method of teaching in U.S. law schools today. Christopher Columbus Langdell, a law professor, often receives credit for inventing the case method although historians have found evidence that others were ...

  20. What is a legal precedent? Definition and case law resources

    March 15, 2023 · 5 minute read. Generally, there are two types of legal precedents: Binding precedent - Precedent that a court must abide by in its adjudication of a case. Persuasive precedent - Precedent that a court may, but is not required to, rely on in deciding a case. Definition taken from the Practical Law glossary pictured below.

  21. A Case Study: Translation of Legal Terms

    In the translation of legal terms, we must first study the meaning of the source legal terms to be translated, compare the legal system involved, and try to find the target term with the same content. ... Dong, X., Zhang, Y. (2023). A Case Study: Translation of Legal Terms. In: Chinese Legal Translation and Language Planning in the New Era ...

  22. Legal concepts and legal expertise

    With case studies on various concepts (e.g. the concept of intentional action, causation, consent, reasonableness, knowledge), we can begin to address the broader question. This Part takes up one such case study. It considers the concept of intentional action, in the context of American law. This is a useful case study for several reasons.

  23. Harvard Law School Digitization Project Publishes Nearly 7 Million

    Per the terms of the partnership, CAP received financial support in exchange for Ravel obtaining eight years of exclusivity with the caselaw documents, according to Harvard Law Today, a school-run ...

  24. What the data says about abortion in the U.S.

    The rate was lowest during the most recent period examined by the agency (2013 to 2020), when there were 0.45 deaths to women per 100,000 legal induced abortions. The case-fatality rate reported by the CDC was highest during the first period examined by the agency (1973 to 1977), when it was 2.09 deaths to women per 100,000 legal induced abortions.

  25. Abortion Pill Dispute Centers on Central Question: Who Can Sue?

    Kent Nishimura for The New York Times. The plaintiffs' lawyers said those decisions escalated the risk that anti-abortion doctors "will see more women suffering emergency complications from ...

  26. Erin Hawley: The Woman Arguing Against the Abortion Pill

    Erin Hawley, a law professor and wife of Senator Josh Hawley, is arguing the Supreme Court case. By Elizabeth Dias and Abbie VanSickle It was 2014, and Erin Morrow Hawley was fighting against the ...

  27. Felony charges against Ken Paxton to be dropped

    The legal saga dates back to July 2015, when Paxton was indicted on three felony securities fraud charges just months into his first term as the state's top lawyer. Paxton said he and his family ...

  28. Why abuse of the Insurrection Act worries legal experts and how they'd

    Patrick Semansky/AP. A bipartisan group of legal experts is sounding an alarm about presidential power this election season. They're pushing Congress to update a cluster of laws known as the ...