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How to Conduct Legal Research

September 21, 2021

Conducting legal research can challenge even the most skilled law practitioners.

As laws evolve across jurisdictions, it can be a difficult to keep pace with every legal development. Equally daunting is the ability to track and glean insights into stakeholder strategies and legal responses. Without quick and easy access to the right tools, the legal research upon which case strategy hinges may face cost, personnel, and litigation outcome challenges.

Bloomberg Law’s artificial intelligence-driven tools drastically reduce the time to perform legal research. Whether you seek quick answers to legal research definitions, or general guidance on the legal research process, Bloomberg Law’s Core Litigation Skills Toolkit has you covered.

What is legal research?

Legal research is the process of uncovering and understanding all of the legal precedents, laws, regulations, and other legal authorities that apply in a case and inform an attorney’s course of action.

Legal research often involves case law research, which is the practice of identifying and interpreting the most relevant cases concerning the topic at issue. Legal research can also involve a deep dive into a judge’s past rulings or opposing counsel’s record of success.

Research is not a process that has a finite start and end, but remains ongoing throughout every phase of a legal matter. It is a cornerstone of a litigator’s skills.

[Learn how our integrated, time-saving litigation research tools allow litigators to streamline their work and get answers quickly.]

Where do I begin my legal research?

Beginning your legal research will look different for each assignment. At the outset, ensure that you understand your goal by asking questions and taking careful notes. Ask about background case information, logistical issues such as filing deadlines, the client/matter number, and billing instructions.

It’s also important to consider how your legal research will be used. Is the research to be used for a pending motion? If you are helping with a motion for summary judgment, for example, your goal is to find cases that are in the same procedural posture as yours and come out favorably for your side (i.e., if your client is the one filing the motion, try to find cases where a motion for summary judgment was granted, not denied). Keep in mind the burden of proof for different kinds of motions.

Finally, but no less important, assess the key facts of the case. Who are the relevant parties? Where is the jurisdiction? Who is the judge? Note all case details that come to mind.

What if I’m new to the practice area or specific legal issue?

While conducting legal research, it is easy to go down rabbit holes. Resist the urge to start by reviewing individual cases, which may prove irrelevant. Start instead with secondary sources, which often provide a prevailing statement of the law for a specific topic. These sources will save time and orient you to the area of the law and key issues.

Litigation Practical Guidance provides the essentials including step-by-step guidance, expert legal analysis, and a preview of next steps. Source citations are included in all Practical Guidance, and you can filter Points of Law, Smart Code®, and court opinions searches to get the jurisdiction-specific cases or statutes you need.

Points of Law Bloomberg Law feature on a desktop computer screen

Searching across Points of Law will help to get your bearings on an issue before diving into reading the cases in full. Points of Law uses machine learning to identify key legal principles expressed in court opinions, which are easily searchable by keyword and jurisdiction. This tool helps you quickly find other cases that have expressed the same Point of Law, and directs you to related Points of Law that might be relevant to your research. It is automatically updated with the most recent opinions, saving you time and helping you quickly drill down to the relevant cases.

How do I respond to the opposing side’s brief?

Whether a brief is yours or that of the opposing party, Bloomberg Law’s Brief Analyzer is an essential component in the legal research process. It reduces the time spent analyzing a brief, identifying relevant authorities, and preparing a solid response.

To start, navigate to Brief Analyzer available from the Bloomberg Law homepage, within the Litigation Intelligence Center , or from Docket Key search results for briefs.

Bloomberg Law Brief Analyzer tool on litigation intelligence center

Simply upload the opposing side’s brief into the tool, and Brief Analyzer will generate a report of the cited authorities and arguments contained in the brief.

Bloomberg Law legal brief analyzer tool

You can easily view a comparison with the brief and analysis side by side. It will also point you directly to relevant cases, Points of Law, and Practical Guidance to jump start your research.

Bloomberg Law Brief Analyzer citations and analysis feature

[ How to Write a Legal Brief – Learn how to shorten the legal research cycle and give your legal brief a competitive advantage.]

How to optimize your search.

Crafting searches is a critical skill when it comes to legal research. Although many legal research platforms, including Bloomberg Law, offer natural language searching, terms and connectors (also called Boolean) searching is still a vital legal research skill and should be used when searching across court opinions, dockets, Points of Law, and other primary and secondary sources.

When you conduct a natural language search, the search engine applies algorithms to rank your results. Why a certain case is ranked as it is may not be obvious. This makes it harder to interpret whether the search is giving you everything you need. It is also harder to efficiently and effectively manipulate your search terms to zero in on the results you want. Using Boolean searching gives you better control over your search and greater confidence in your results.

The good news? Bloomberg Law does not charge by the search for court opinion searches. If your initial search was much too broad or much too narrow, you do not have to worry about immediately running a new and improved search.

Follow these tips when beginning a search to ensure that you do not miss relevant materials:

  • Make sure you do not have typos in your search string.
  • Search the appropriate source or section of the research platform. It is possible to search only within a practice area, jurisdiction, secondary resource, or other grouping of materials.
  • Make sure you know which terms and connectors are utilized by the platform you are working on and what they mean – there is no uniform standard set of terms of connectors utilized by all platforms.
  • Include in your search all possible terms the court might use, or alternate ways the court may address an issue. It is best to group the alternatives together within a parenthetical, connected by OR between each term.
  • Consider including single and multiple character wildcards when relevant. Using a single character wildcard (an asterisk) and/or a multiple character wildcard (an exclamation point) helps you capture all word variations – even those you might not have envisioned.
  • Try using a tool that helps you find additional relevant case law. When you find relevant authority, use BCITE on Bloomberg Law to find all other cases and/or sources that cite back to that case. When in BCITE, click on the Citing Documents tab, and search by keyword to narrow the results. Alternatively, you can use the court’s language or ruling to search Points of Law and find other cases that addressed the same issue or reached the same ruling.

[Bloomberg Law subscribers can access a complete checklist of search term best practices . Not a subscriber? Request a Demo .]

How can legal research help with drafting or strategy?

Before drafting a motion or brief, search for examples of what firm lawyers filed with the court in similar cases. You can likely find recent examples in your firm’s internal document system or search Bloomberg Law’s dockets. If possible, look for things filed before the same judge so you can get a quick check on rules/procedures to be followed (and by the same partner when possible so you can get an idea of their style preferences).

Careful docket search provides a wealth of information about relevant cases, jurisdictions, judges, and opposing counsel. On Bloomberg Law, type “Dockets Search” in the Go bar or find the dockets search box in the Litigation Intelligence Center .

If you do not know the specific docket number and/or court, use the docket search functionality Docket Key . Select from any of 20 categories, including motions, briefs, and orders, across all 94 federal district courts, to pinpoint the exact filing of choice.

Bloomberg Law Dockets Search feature on a desktop computer screen

Dockets can also help you access lots of information to guide your case strategy. For example, if you are considering filing a particular type of motion, such as a sanctions motion, you can use dockets to help determine how frequently your judge grants sanctions motions. You can also use dockets to see how similar cases before your judge proceeded through discovery.

If you are researching expert witnesses, you can use dockets to help determine if the expert has been recently excluded from a case, or whether their opinion has been limited. If so, this will help you determine whether the expert is a good fit for your case.

Dockets are a powerful research tool that allow you to search across filings to support your argument. Stay apprised of docket updates with the “Create Alert” option on Bloomberg Law.

Dive deeper into competitive research.

For even more competitive research insights, dive into Bloomberg Law’s Litigation Analytics – this is available in the Litigation tab on the homepage. Data here helps attorneys develop litigation strategy, predict possible outcomes, and better advise clients.

To start, under Litigation Analytics , leverage the Attorney tab to view case history and preview legal strategies the opposition may practice against you. Also, within Litigation Analytics, use the Court tab to get aggregate motion and appeal outcome rates across all federal courts, with the option to run comparisons across jurisdictions, and filter by company, law firm, and attorney.

Use the Judge tab to glean insights from cited opinions, and past and current decisions by motion and appeal outcomes. Also view litigation analytics in the right rail of court opinions.

Docket search can also offer intel on your opponent. Has your opponent filed similar lawsuits or made similar arguments before? How did those cases pan out? You can learn a lot about an opponent from past appearances in court.

How do I validate case law citations?

Checking the status of case law is essential in legal research. Rely on Bloomberg Law’s proprietary citator, BCITE. This time-saving tool lets you know if a case is still good law.

Under each court opinion, simply look to the right rail. There, you will see a thumbnail icon for “BCITE Analysis.” Click on the icon, and you will be provided quick links to direct history (opinions that affect or are affected by the outcome of the case at issue); case analysis (citing cases, with filter and search options), table of authorities, and citing documents.

How should I use technology to improve my legal research?

A significant benefit of digital research platforms and analytics is increased efficiency. Modern legal research technology helps attorneys sift through thousands of cases quickly and comprehensively. These products can also help aggregate or summarize data in a way that is more useful and make associations instantaneously.

For example, before litigation analytics were common, a partner may have asked a junior associate to find all summary judgment motions ruled on by a specific judge to determine how often that judge grants or denies them. The attorney could have done so by manually searching over PACER and/or by searching through court opinions, but that would take a long time. Now, Litigation Analytics can aggregate that data and provide an answer in seconds. Understanding that such products exist can be a game changer. Automating parts of the research process frees up time and effort for other activities that benefit the client and makes legal research and writing more efficient.

[Read our article: Six ways legal technology aids your litigation workflow .]

Tools like  Points of Law ,  dockets  and  Brief Analyzer  can also increase efficiency, especially when narrowing your research to confirm that you found everything on point. In the past, attorneys had to spend many hours (and lots of money) running multiple court opinion searches to ensure they did not miss a case on point. Now, there are tools that can dramatically speed up that process. For example, running a search over Points of Law can immediately direct you to other cases that discuss that same legal principle.

However, it’s important to remember that digital research and analytical tools should be seen as enhancing the legal research experience, not displacing the review, analysis, and judgment of an attorney. An attorney uses his or her knowledge of their client, the facts, the precedent, expert opinions, and his or her own experiences to predict the likely result in a given matter. Digital research products enhance this process by providing more data on a wider array of variables so that an attorney can take even more information into consideration.

[Get all your questions answered, request a Bloomberg Law demo , and more.]

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How to Analyze Case Law

Last Updated: January 21, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was written by Jennifer Mueller, JD . Jennifer Mueller is an in-house legal expert at wikiHow. Jennifer reviews, fact-checks, and evaluates wikiHow's legal content to ensure thoroughness and accuracy. She received her JD from Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 2006. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 124,549 times.

When you hear the word "law," you may assume the word refers to statutes passed by Congress and state legislatures. But a major portion of American law actually is case law – the rules appellate judges distill from their interpretation of statutes and other sources. Accordingly, much of law school is spent learning how to analyze case law. However, attending law school isn't strictly necessary to acquire this valuable skill. You can teach yourself how to analyze case law, which begins – but doesn't end – with a thorough reading of the court's written opinion.

Summarizing the Facts

Step 1 Read the case.

  • The first time you read through a case, don't worry about trying to understand it. Just read for a sense of what's happening, who the major parties are, and what they want the court to do.
  • Keep in mind that legal opinions aren't written for laypeople, or even for law students or attorneys – they are written for other judges. If you don't understand something (assuming you're not an appellate court judge), there's nothing wrong with that.
  • You may have to go outside the opinion itself and look at other articles about the case, and then come back to it. For example, if you're reading a case that caused quite a stir in the media when it was decided, there will no doubt be newspaper and magazine articles about it. Reading those can help you better understand the court opinion.
  • Many cases have summaries that appear before the case and let you know the basics of what happened, the issue before the court, and how the court resolved that issue. The summary can be helpful, but don't use it as a substitute for an initial read-through of the case.

Step 2 Identify the parties.

  • To make party identification even more confusing, party names may switch sides of the "v." in the case caption depending on who appealed. For example, suppose when a case began, Sally Sunshine sued Marvin Moon. The case's caption would be "Sunshine v. Moon." The trial court found in favor of Ms. Sunshine – but Mr. Moon appealed. The caption then became "Moon v. Sunshine."
  • To continue the example, suppose the appellate court found in favor of Mr. Moon, but Ms. Sunshine appealed that ruling to a higher court. Now the case's caption is "Sunshine v. Moon" again.
  • Since litigants in written opinions typically are only identified by their roles – appellant and appellee, for example – their names may only be mentioned once.

Step 3 Outline the case's procedural history.

  • Since the procedural history determines the role of the litigants, and thus what each of them is called throughout the written opinion, understanding how the case moved through the court system – who sued whom, and who appealed – is paramount to understanding the case.
  • At the same time, you don't need to go into too much detail here. You just need to understand who filed the original lawsuit (which will help you understand the facts of the case), the decision at trial, and who appealed and why.

Step 4 Isolate the relevant facts.

  • At the appellate level, the courts are concerned with legal issues, not questions of fact. So, for example, if you are reading a case that came about as a result of a bar fight, the factual question of whether one party assaulted the other has already been resolved.
  • In many cases, the initial facts that prompted the dispute may be summarized in a sentence or two. Often, what's really important is what happened afterward.
  • Keep in mind that not all judges are the best writers. While you may be tempted to believe a particular fact is important because the judge who wrote the opinion spent several paragraphs discussing it, this is not necessarily the case.
  • As you read more and more cases, particularly if the cases you read are focused on a particular court, you will become familiar with the styles of individual judges. This can make it easier for you to immediately notice when the judge is focusing on facts he or she believes are central to the case's holding.

Identifying the Issue and Decision

Step 1 Determine the legal issue raised by the facts.

  • Essentially, you're looking for what the person who appealed the lower court's ruling wanted to happen, that didn't. To find the issue, you must figure out what that person thought the lower court did wrong, and why.
  • This usually isn't about something as simple as one person believing he should have been awarded more money, or a criminal defendant not wanting to go to jail. That might be part of an appellant's personal motivation, but to have a legitimate appeal you must be able to point to some way that the lower court made a legal error.
  • In many cases, the legal error isn't an obvious error. The lower court may have applied the law correctly – but the appellant is arguing that her case is different from the cases that developed the rule the lower court used, or that the lower court should have used a different rule.
  • Often in Supreme Court cases, there isn't a rule that can be handed down from previous cases and applied in this case, because no court has ever decided a case like this one. In these situations, it's up to the court to figure out how to tackle this new issue, and where it fits in to the long line of American jurisprudence.

Step 2 Phrase the issue as a yes/no question.

  • In some cases, the issue before the court involves multiple yes/no questions, or a follow-up question that is conditional on the answer to the first.
  • This usually happens when a particular factual situation present in the case has never been explored by any other court. The court must first determine whether a particular law applies to that factual situation at all before it can decide how the law applies.
  • For example, suppose a baker has been fined by the local government for creating cupcakes with expletives written in icing. The court may first have to determine whether icing on cupcakes is the sort of speech or expression protected by the First Amendment, before it can reach the real issue of whether the baker's First Amendment rights have been violated.

Step 3 Provide the court's answer to the question.

  • Some judges have a very clear, straightforward writing style, and they'll phrase the issue as a question and answer it directly. However, this isn't usually the case. In most written opinions, you should expect to dig for the question and answer, which you'll have to craft yourself.
  • When more than one question is asked, sometimes the answer to the first takes care of all the others. To look at the earlier cupcake-icing example, if the court had determined that no, icing on cupcakes is not protected by the First Amendment, the second question disappears. You don't have to consider whether the baker's First Amendment rights were violated by the fine, because she didn't have any First Amendment rights in the first place.
  • When the answer is qualified with a "sometimes," any conditional questions that follow likewise will have qualifications. #Note any significant dissents. In many cases, particularly at the Supreme Court level, a justice who disagrees with the majority will issue a dissent. As time passes and court interpretation evolves, a significant dissent may end up being a majority opinion later on when the court reverses or overturns an earlier decision. [12] X Research source
  • There also may be concurrences, which are separate opinions written by justices who agree with the ultimate outcome of the case, but not with the reasoning the majority applied to get there. Often a concurrence can help you understand the majority's reasoning, particularly if it seemed convoluted on first read.
  • Unless you understand where the case you're reading falls in the history and development of that particular area of law, you may not be able to recognize which other opinions are important until you do further research.
  • If you're unsure, it's best to simply note other opinions – be they dissents or concurrences – and the key difference between them and the majority's opinion.
  • Especially if you're reading a Supreme Court case, you also should note which justice authored the dissent or concurrence. As justices leave the court and are replaced, the values and judicial temperament of the majority also can change.
  • A dissent from a decade ago may become a majority opinion tomorrow – often written by the same justice, now carrying the majority where he or she once held a minority view.

Understanding the Reasoning

Step 1 Identify the legal rules used by the court.

  • Make note of the case from which the rule came, although typically it's not necessary for you to go back and read the case itself to understand the rule.
  • However, if a significant portion of the opinion discusses the previous case, you may want to go back and read it as well so you have a better understanding of what the court is talking about.
  • In some opinions (especially those penned by judges with straightforward writing styles), the rule used by the court will follow trigger phrases such as "the rule we apply is" or "we decide this case by applying the rule from" – phrases that alert you the court is about to tell you exactly what rule they used.
  • Most opinions won't be this direct, and require a closer analysis of the language to ascertain the rule the court used. Sometimes you can figure this out by working backwards. Read the court's decision, and then follow the court's train of logic in reverse until you reach the rule.

Step 2 Apply the rule to the facts of the case.

  • The application of a legal precedent to the facts of a case is the heart of legal analysis. This typically is done using similes. Seldom has the exact issue been presented before – to make a decision, the court must determine that this case is like a different case, and therefore the same rule should apply.
  • Keep in mind that, especially if you're analyzing a Supreme Court case, the court wouldn't have accepted that case on appeal if it didn't present a new issue that had not already been decided in an earlier case.
  • For this reason, there likely won't be a precedent that is entirely on point, or a previous case with the same fact pattern in which the same issue was raised and decided.
  • Rather, the court must compare cases to find a rule that applies closely and is based on a similar situation that is analogous to the dispute presented.

Step 3 Highlight facts the court found most important.

  • Sometimes the easiest way to locate the court's pivotal fact or facts is to consider what would have happened if they'd chosen to focus on a different fact.
  • For example, if the court in the case of the beleaguered baker had decided to focus on the fact that cupcakes are food, and food has never been protected under the First Amendment, it might have arrived at a different decision than it did. Because the court focused instead on the fact that the baker wrote words with icing, just as writers write words in ink, and concluded that written words inarguably enjoy First Amendment protection.
  • Although many other facts may be relevant, or important to some other aspect of the case, those aren't the facts that made the court rule the way it did.

Step 4 Consider how the rule would apply to different facts.

  • No court case exists in isolation. Once a court issues a decision, the legal interpretation and rules it establishes become part of the larger body of law devoted to that particular issue. Each opinion helps future courts understand more about the statute or constitutional provision at the heart of the case.
  • You don't have to wait for future courts to apply the rule you've just learned to other cases, however. Take the facts in the original case and twist them slightly, then apply the rule yourself.
  • Law professors call these imaginary cases "hypotheticals," and spend a good portion of class churning them out and asking their students to apply the rule they've learned to sometimes bizarre and convoluted stories.

Expert Q&A

You might also like.

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  • ↑ https://www.gareth-evans.com/how-to-read-understand-and-summarise-legal-cases/
  • ↑ http://www.lexisnexis.com/en-us/lawschool/pre-law/reading-a-casebook.page
  • ↑ https://www.monash.edu/learnhq/write-like-a-pro/annotated-assessment-samples/law/law-case-note
  • ↑ https://utas.libguides.com/legal_research/caselaw
  • ↑ http://www.cengage.com/resource_uploads/downloads/0324654553_91282.pdf
  • ↑ https://lawschool.westlaw.com/marketing/display/SG/3
  • ↑ http://www.csun.edu/~kkd61657/brief.pdf

About This Article

Jennifer Mueller, JD

Case law refers to the decisions appellate judges make from their interpretations of former cases. To analyze specific case law, you’ll need to read the case through and try to get a feel for how the court made their decision. It can be pretty complex when you’re first reading a case, so jot down the main parties, the main dispute, and a brief history of the case to help yourself keep track. Once you understand the case, try to identify the legal rules the court used to make their decision. It’s also helpful to imagine different scenarios where the rule the case established could be applied, and whether or not the outcome would be the same. To learn how to focus on the most important facts of a case, read more from our Legal co-author! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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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 .

legal case study analysis

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legal case study analysis

How to do legal research in 3 steps

Knowing where to start a difficult legal research project can be a challenge. But if you already understand the basics of legal research, the process can be significantly easier — not to mention quicker.

Solid research skills are crucial to crafting a winning argument. So, whether you are a law school student or a seasoned attorney with years of experience, knowing how to perform legal research is important — including where to start and the steps to follow.

What is legal research, and where do I start? 

Black's Law Dictionary defines legal research as “[t]he finding and assembling of authorities that bear on a question of law." But what does that actually mean? It means that legal research is the process you use to identify and find the laws — including statutes, regulations, and court opinions — that apply to the facts of your case.

In most instances, the purpose of legal research is to find support for a specific legal issue or decision. For example, attorneys must conduct legal research if they need court opinions — that is, case law — to back up a legal argument they are making in a motion or brief filed with the court.

Alternatively, lawyers may need legal research to provide clients with accurate legal guidance . In the case of law students, they often use legal research to complete memos and briefs for class. But these are just a few situations in which legal research is necessary.

Why is legal research hard?

Each step — from defining research questions to synthesizing findings — demands critical thinking and rigorous analysis.

1. Identifying the legal issue is not so straightforward. Legal research involves interpreting many legal precedents and theories to justify your questions. Finding the right issue takes time and patience.

2. There's too much to research. Attorneys now face a great deal of case law and statutory material. The sheer volume forces the researcher to be efficient by following a methodology based on a solid foundation of legal knowledge and principles.

3. The law is a fluid doctrine. It changes with time, and staying updated with the latest legal codes, precedents, and statutes means the most resourceful lawyer needs to assess the relevance and importance of new decisions.

Legal research can pose quite a challenge, but professionals can improve it at every stage of the process . 

Step 1: Key questions to ask yourself when starting legal research

Before you begin looking for laws and court opinions, you first need to define the scope of your legal research project. There are several key questions you can use to help do this.

What are the facts?

Always gather the essential facts so you know the “who, what, why, when, where, and how” of your case. Take the time to write everything down, especially since you will likely need to include a statement of facts in an eventual filing or brief anyway. Even if you don't think a fact may be relevant now, write it down because it may be relevant later. These facts will also be helpful when identifying your legal issue.

What is the actual legal issue?

You will never know what to research if you don't know what your legal issue is. Does your client need help collecting money from an insurance company following a car accident involving a negligent driver? How about a criminal case involving excluding evidence found during an alleged illegal stop?

No matter the legal research project, you must identify the relevant legal problem and the outcome or relief sought. This information will guide your research so you can stay focused and on topic.

What is the relevant jurisdiction?

Don't cast your net too wide regarding legal research; you should focus on the relevant jurisdiction. For example, does your case deal with federal or state law? If it is state law, which state? You may find a case in California state court that is precisely on point, but it won't be beneficial if your legal project involves New York law.

Where to start legal research: The library, online, or even AI?

In years past, future attorneys were trained in law school to perform research in the library. But now, you can find almost everything from the library — and more — online. While you can certainly still use the library if you want, you will probably be costing yourself valuable time if you do.

When it comes to online research, some people start with free legal research options , including search engines like Google or Bing. But to ensure your legal research is comprehensive, you will want to use an online research service designed specifically for the law, such as Westlaw . Not only do online solutions like Westlaw have all the legal sources you need, but they also include artificial intelligence research features that help make quick work of your research

Step 2: How to find relevant case law and other primary sources of law

Now that you have gathered the facts and know your legal issue, the next step is knowing what to look for. After all, you will need the law to support your legal argument, whether providing guidance to a client or writing an internal memo, brief, or some other legal document.

But what type of law do you need? The answer: primary sources of law. Some of the more important types of primary law include:

  • Case law, which are court opinions or decisions issued by federal or state courts
  • Statutes, including legislation passed by both the U.S. Congress and state lawmakers
  • Regulations, including those issued by either federal or state agencies
  • Constitutions, both federal and state

Searching for primary sources of law

So, if it's primary law you want, it makes sense to begin searching there first, right? Not so fast. While you will need primary sources of law to support your case, in many instances, it is much easier — and a more efficient use of your time — to begin your search with secondary sources such as practice guides, treatises, and legal articles.

Why? Because secondary sources provide a thorough overview of legal topics, meaning you don't have to start your research from scratch. After secondary sources, you can move on to primary sources of law.

For example, while no two legal research projects are the same, the order in which you will want to search different types of sources may look something like this:

  • Secondary sources . If you are researching a new legal principle or an unfamiliar area of the law, the best place to start is secondary sources, including law journals, practice guides , legal encyclopedias, and treatises. They are a good jumping-off point for legal research since they've already done the work for you. As an added bonus, they can save you additional time since they often identify and cite important statutes and seminal cases.
  • Case law . If you have already found some case law in secondary sources, great, you have something to work with. But if not, don't fret. You can still search for relevant case law in a variety of ways, including running a search in a case law research tool.

Once you find a helpful case, you can use it to find others. For example, in Westlaw, most cases contain headnotes that summarize each of the case's important legal issues. These headnotes are also assigned a Key Number based on the topic associated with that legal issue. So, once you find a good case, you can use the headnotes and Key Numbers within it to quickly find more relevant case law.

  • Statutes and regulations . In many instances, secondary sources and case law list the statutes and regulations relevant to your legal issue. But if you haven't found anything yet, you can still search for statutes and regs online like you do with cases.

Once you know which statute or reg is pertinent to your case, pull up the annotated version on Westlaw. Why the annotated version? Because the annotations will include vital information, such as a list of important cases that cite your statute or reg. Sometimes, these cases are even organized by topic — just one more way to find the case law you need to support your legal argument.

Keep in mind, though, that legal research isn't always a linear process. You may start out going from source to source as outlined above and then find yourself needing to go back to secondary sources once you have a better grasp of the legal issue. In other instances, you may even find the answer you are looking for in a source not listed above, like a sample brief filed with the court by another attorney. Ultimately, you need to go where the information takes you.

Step 3: Make sure you are using ‘good’ law

One of the most important steps with every legal research project is to verify that you are using “good" law — meaning a court hasn't invalidated it or struck it down in some way. After all, it probably won't look good to a judge if you cite a case that has been overruled or use a statute deemed unconstitutional. It doesn't necessarily mean you can never cite these sources; you just need to take a closer look before you do.

The simplest way to find out if something is still good law is to use a legal tool known as a citator, which will show you subsequent cases that have cited your source as well as any negative history, including if it has been overruled, reversed, questioned, or merely differentiated.

For instance, if a case, statute, or regulation has any negative history — and therefore may no longer be good law — KeyCite, the citator on Westlaw, will warn you. Specifically, KeyCite will show a flag or icon at the top of the document, along with a little blurb about the negative history. This alert system allows you to quickly know if there may be anything you need to worry about.

Some examples of these flags and icons include:

  • A red flag on a case warns you it is no longer good for at least one point of law, meaning it may have been overruled or reversed on appeal.
  • A yellow flag on a case warns that it has some negative history but is not expressly overruled or reversed, meaning another court may have criticized it or pointed out the holding was limited to a specific fact pattern.
  • A blue-striped flag on a case warns you that it has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court or the U.S. Court of Appeals.
  • The KeyCite Overruling Risk icon on a case warns you that the case may be implicitly undermined because it relies on another case that has been overruled.

Another bonus of using a citator like KeyCite is that it also provides a list of other cases that merely cite your source — it can lead to additional sources you previously didn't know about.

Perseverance is vital when it comes to legal research

Given that legal research is a complex process, it will likely come as no surprise that this guide cannot provide everything you need to know.

There is a reason why there are entire law school courses and countless books focused solely on legal research methodology. In fact, many attorneys will spend their entire careers honing their research skills — and even then, they may not have perfected the process.

So, if you are just beginning, don't get discouraged if you find legal research difficult — almost everyone does at first. With enough time, patience, and dedication, you can master the art of legal research.

Thomson Reuters originally published this article on November 10, 2020.

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Definition for: Legal Analysis

Legal analysis.

Not all cases are the same. Some come with their own set of complications. An understanding of the law is essential to finding the more intricate details of the case. Lawyers can use this understanding to serve the people better.

Legal Analysis Definition

Legal analysis is an important tool in the US judicial system. It helps improve the clarity of a case. In addition to clarity, it assists in making sure that the specific laws or set of laws for the right case. It forces lawyers to dig in deep to figure out ways to solve a case using the right set of laws.

Legal analysis is a process that helps with this. It is an important tool used by lawyers to determine the following:

1. What the issue is

2. What the facts of the case are

3. What are the laws that apply to the facts of the case?

4. The type of remedy expected in court

5. The impact of the judge’s decision on other cases

But what is legal analysis? What are the steps involved? Before we dive into the details, it is vital to understand the importance of facts in the process.

Facts play a key role in the legal analysis process. Each of the four steps in the legal analysis process involves facts. They are discussed below.

  • Role of facts in step 1 : The issue contains the facts of the events that occurred. It is the basis of the case currently being discussed.
  • Role of facts in step 2 : Different laws apply to different cases. Lawyers must find the specific set of laws that are applicable to the present case. The selected law(s) must be applicable to the facts of the case.
  • Role of facts in step 3 : The application of laws determined in step 2 must be applied to the facts available.
  • Role of facts in step 4 : The conclusion says how the application of the laws to the facts of the case has produced the result.

It is important to identify the facts before initiating the legal analysis process. This is because, as mentioned in the legal analysis definition, the facts form the basis of any case. The following are the steps a lawyer follows once they receive the facts of the case:

Record all Facts: It is important to make sure you have all the facts of the case. This includes interviews, statements, files, and other similar information that has been collected as evidence.

Study the Facts: Once all the necessary facts are collected, it is important to thoroughly study the facts at hand.

Organizing: It is important to arrange all the available facts in a logical order. Organized facts are easier to access.

Remove the Irrelevant Facts: Not all facts are of value to the case. Evidence like hearsay may hold less weight in a case.

Filter the Important Ones: Not all facts are valuable to the case. Identify the important ones that are crucial to the outcome of the case.

It is vital to perform some type of research before the legal analysis process. The research can be into the area of law that governs the issue. This is important as lawyers may not be familiar with the field of law the current case falls into. Also, familiarity with the specific area of law makes it easy for lawyers to analyze the case and form valid arguments and counterarguments. Common sources of research include:

  • Legal encyclopedias
  • Single- or multi-volume treatises
  • American Law Reports

Legal analysis uses the “IRAC” approach. IRAC is basically the abbreviation for four words that constitute the steps to be followed during legal analysis. Just about every legal analysis definition you find on the internet will include IRAC. IRAC stands for,

A – Analysis

C – Conclusion

The order in which the abbreviation is spelt out is also the order the lawyer must follow. This is mentioned in just about any legal analysis definition you can find.

Step 1: Issue . This step discusses the current dispute raised by the client. In other words, this step discusses the issue that was the reason for the case and the facts related to it. It is important to be careful at this stage, as any miscalculation or falsity can lead to a waste of time and court resources.

Step 2: Rule . Now that the issue is clear, it is time to find the rules (laws) or sub-rules that a lawyer can use to arrive at a just and meaningful conclusion. This is the legal research part of legal analysis. At this stage, lawyers will decide whether enacted laws or case laws apply to your case. Their explanation is given below.

  • Enacted Law : The body of law approved by the government. This includes constitutions, statutes, ordinances, and regulations.
  • Case Law : Also known as common law, case law is the law that is based on judicial decisions made in previous cases. It uses the facts and findings from a similar case that has been resolved by a court or a tribunal with the same authority.

In some cases, a combination of enacted law and case law is also used.

Step 3: Analysis . Now that the issue and the relevant laws are clear, the next step is to find out how the laws apply to the issue. There are three sub-processes in analysis. They are,

  • Identify elements that are applicable to the situation
  • Apply the elements found in the previous step to the current issue
  • Prepare for possible counterarguments that may arise due to the application of the specific law in the case

Step 4: Conclusion. This is the final step in the legal analysis process. The conclusion holds the result of the application of the law in step 3. In other words, this step is a summary of what happens when a specific rule of law is applied to the current dispute.

Additional Resources 

Legal analysis is by no means easy. In addition to the IRAC method and other information mentioned in the article, the following points will come in handy for those who are new to legal analysis.

Focus is the level of concentration required to complete a task. Simply put, it means to focus on the issue or issues at hand.

When talking about focus, it helps to concentrate on the facts of the case and the elements of the rule of law. This eliminates the need to go through the rules of law that are not applicable in your case.

Intelligence and Ethics

Lawyers have the ethical duty to represent their clients to the best of their abilities. Lawyers must possess intellectual honesty — the skill required to conduct extensive research and analyze the problem to come to a valid and fair conclusion.

Another important characteristic required is maintaining proper ethics. The lawyer must not let their emotions or personal views take over during the legal analysis process. They should avoid making decisions that conform to their biases or points of view.

Legal Analysis Example

Jake lives in a two-story house in Salem. The house belongs to John. Jake lives on a month-to-month lease, and his rent is due on the fifth of every month. John has decided to sell the house and leaves a note by Jake’s door on September 6 saying that Jake has to move out before the 5th of October. John also mentions in the note that the house has been sold. Considering the current circumstances, does Jake have to vacate the house by October 5?

The Analysis

Let’s apply IRAC to the example.

The Issue : Did John serve a proper notice of termination of tenancy to Jake?

The Rule : An express notice of termination must include a termination date that must be at least one month after the date of notice. This is the applicable rule for month-to-month tenancies.

The Analysis : The application of the rule to the facts. The rule has two elements: 

  • Express notice

John did issue a note of termination along with the termination date. The law demands that the tenant be given one month to vacate. John issued the notice on September 6 and asked Jake to vacate on October 5. The time given by John is one day short of the month required under the statute.

The Conclusion :

Jake doesn’t have to move out by the mentioned date. This is because John didn’t issue a proper notice of termination, which the statute demands. This nullifies the notice. Jake’s tenancy doesn’t end on October 5, and he doesn’t have to move out.

Final Thoughts

Many people, especially lawyers, search for legal analysis definitions on the internet. There is an immediate need for knowledge about legal analysis. It is a process that helps not just lawyers and budding lawyers but the average citizen as well.

Legal analysis as a process is a tough area to master since most of the work revolves around digging into old case archives on and off the internet. But all this hard work is essential, as a fair judicial system that doesn’t discriminate is the backbone of every society.

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Writing Effective Legal Case Briefs for Law Students

How to write a case brief, complete with examples.

tl;dr - Case briefs help your understanding of legal concepts and enable you to better prepare for exams. Here are some example case briefs .

As a new law student, one of the essential skills you need to develop is the ability to write effective legal case briefs. A case brief is a concise summary of a legal case that highlights the key issues, legal principles, and holdings of the court. Writing a good case brief can help you better understand the law, prepare for class discussions and exams, and become a more effective legal professional. In this article, we'll explore the key elements of a good legal case brief and provide some tips on how to write one effectively.

Legal case briefs are an essential tool for you as a law student, as they provide a concise and organized summary of a court case. Case brief examples serve as a means for you to understand the facts, issues, and legal principles underlying a court decision, and are crucial in helping you develop analytical and critical thinking skills.

One of the primary reasons why case briefs are important for you is that they help you understand the law in a practical and applied manner. In law school, you study legal principles and concepts in a theoretical sense. However, case briefs provide a means for you to see how these principles are applied in real-world situations. By analyzing and dissecting court decisions, you are able to gain a better understanding of how legal principles and concepts are applied in practice. For example, case brief examples of landmark cases like Marbury v. Madison or Brown v. Board of Education can help you understand the historical and legal significance of these cases.

Understand the Structure of a Legal Case Brief

Before we dive into the details of how to write a good legal case brief, it's important to understand its structure. A typical legal case brief, such as the examples of case briefs available on LSD , includes the following sections:

  • Title and Citation: This section includes the name of the case, the court that decided the case, and the citation (i.e., the reference that identifies where the case is published).
  • Facts: This section provides a brief summary of the key facts of the case, including who the parties are, what they did, and how the case came to court.
  • Issues: This section identifies the legal issues that the court was asked to decide, and focuses on the questions that the court addressed in its decision.
  • Holding: This section summarizes the court's decision on the legal issues presented in the case.
  • Analysis: This section provides an explanation of the court's reasoning in arriving at its holding, including the legal principles and rules that the court relied on.

Focus on the Key Facts and Issues

When writing a case brief, it's important to focus on the key facts and legal issues presented in the case. You should avoid including unnecessary details or information that is not relevant to the legal issues. Instead, focus on the facts and issues that are essential to understanding the court's decision. This is evident in many examples of case briefs written by legal professionals.

Identify the Legal Principles and Rules

In addition to focusing on the key facts and issues, it's important to identify the legal principles and rules that the court relied on in arriving at its decision. This will help you understand the court's reasoning and the legal principles that are relevant to the case. Many examples of case briefs available online also highlight the legal principles and rules that were applied in a particular case.

Use Clear and Concise Language

A good legal case brief should be written in clear and concise language, as seen in examples of case briefs written by legal professionals. You should avoid using legal jargon or technical terms that may be difficult for a layperson to understand. Instead, use plain language that accurately conveys the meaning of the court's decision.

Be Organized and Structured

To make your case brief more effective, it's important to be organized and structured in your writing. Use headings and subheadings to separate different sections of your brief, and make sure that each section flows logically from one to the next. This is evident in many examples of case briefs available online, which are organized and structured in a clear and logical manner.

So, what’s the point?

Developing analytical and critical thinking skills.

Writing case briefs helps you develop analytical and critical thinking skills. By analyzing court decisions and identifying key facts, issues, and legal principles, you are practicing your ability to think critically and to identify relevant legal issues. Case briefs provide a practical way to develop these skills and apply them to real-world legal problems.

To further develop your analytical and critical thinking skills, you can practice writing your own case briefs. Take a recent court decision and write a brief that summarizes the key facts, issues, and legal principles involved. This will help you become more proficient at identifying relevant information and organizing it in a structured manner.

Preparing for Class and Exams

In addition to being a valuable tool for developing analytical skills, case briefs also help you prepare for class discussions and exams. As you read cases and write briefs, you are gaining a deeper understanding of the law and the reasoning behind court decisions. This knowledge will help you participate more effectively in class discussions and will also help you prepare for law school exams.

To get the most out of case briefs when preparing for exams, you can practice writing case briefs for cases that you studied throughout the year, or to hypotheticals from past exams. This will help you apply the analytical skills you've developed to new situations and ensure that you are able to communicate your understanding of legal principles effectively.

In conclusion, case briefs are an essential tool for law students as they provide a practical application of legal principles, help develop analytical and critical thinking skills, and aid in preparing for class discussions and exams. By studying case brief examples, practicing writing your own briefs, and developing a deep understanding of the law in context, you can become a more proficient and effective student and legal professional. For examples, check out LSD's case brief database .

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Case Study Analysis

Toolkit for Legal Interpreters

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  • Activity: Case Study Analysis

Legal Interpreting Skill Development:

This activity guide enhances legal interpreting skills by exploring an aspect of the legal system and the work of interpreters through the analysis of a real-life legal situation. It provides a structure for analyzing case studies. Cases for analysis can be found in Trial Transcripts .

What is Case Study Analysis?

For the purpose of the Toolkit for Legal Interpreters, CASE STUDIES are documented specific real-life legal situation/scenario - such as a transcript of an actual trial - used as a teaching tool in helping interpreters gain a deeper understanding of some aspect of the legal system and their work as interpreters within that system.

A case study that involves a transcript of an actual trial can also help interpreters gain a deeper understanding of the law and its application to specific legal issues, as well as an appreciation for legal procedure and processes. If the CASE STUDY involves an ethical dilemma that legal interpreters might confront, then the process of analysis enables interpreters to gain a greater understanding of how to apply ethical standards and practices to interpreting in the legal system.

The process of analysis requires interpreters to identify key elements of the case and to discuss the implications for interpreting and/or possible actions an interpreter must take as part of their interpretation process, and requires that they support their findings by the line of reasoning employed and assumptions made.

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Preparing a Case Study Analysis

Select one of the trial transcripts from the Toolkit to analyze.

Many of the cases are not specific to Deaf individuals, but rather focus on an issue of law that is important for interpreters to understand. As an alternative, you can do an internet search for a trial of your interest to use for the purpose of analysis.

For example, here are the transcripts for both the criminal and civil trial of  O.J. Simpson . As well, there are a selection of trial transcripts available through the John Jay College of Criminal Justice's Lloyd Sealy Library .

Read through the transcript.

As you read through the transcript, take notes, highlight relevant facts, and underline legal terminology. Where in doubt, look up the meaning of the legal terms and consider the application of the meaning to the particular case you are analyzing. This will expand your understanding of the case.

Prepare an Executive Summary.

This is a synopsis of the trial generated in either written English or ASL (taped). Create an accurate and concise description of the trial/case OR the portion of a trial or case you are reviewing.

What is the citation of the trial; what is the legal issue(s) being tried; what are the compelling facts related to the issue; what is the central position of each side of the issue (the position of the plaintiff/prosecutor and the position of the defendant) and what are the key points to their argument; what is the outcome of the trial?

Also provide a list of the primary “players” - the names and gender of the attorneys, plaintiffs, defendants, judge, witnesses, etc. If expert witnesses were used, identify their area of expertise and which side of the case called them. Provide a brief summary of what the focus of their expert testimony was and what it contributed to the matter before the court.

NOTE:  These are two samples of a citation of a case.  

  • United States of America, Plaintiff v. James Graystone and Phillip Myers, Defendants Criminal Case #2016-10327-GOA
  • Marcia Smith Polinski, Plaintiff v. Harold Richard Polinski, Defendant Civil Case #98-20334

Discuss the Case from the Perspective of an Interpreter.

The case you are studying may or may not have Deaf individuals involved. However, for the purpose of the analysis, discuss the implications of the case from the perspective of an interpreter - assuming there are Deaf individuals involved in some capacity as a witness, victim/plaintiff, defendant, or juror. Answer the following questions. These questions can be answered in written English or ASL (taped).

What are the primary factors to consider when staffing this case with an interpreting team? How would the factors differ if the Deaf individual(s) involved was/were the plaintiff, the defendant, a witness, an expert witness, juror or interested person observing the trial.

Assuming the role of the proceedings interpreter, what are the primary issues and/or challenges to consider and what would you need to do to prepare for in interpreting this particular case? Prove each issue or challenge you have identified is genuinely a concern by providing supporting evidence you have discovered in the case study and by discussing theory and/or what you have learned from your course content.

What tools and/or resources would you require to assist you in your work as a proceedings interpreter? What is the rationale/reasoning for using the specific tools and resources you identified?

What cultural, linguistic, or racial issues surfaced or might surface in this particular case? What is the implication of these issues for the interpreter, the consumers, the jury?

What matters of law or questions of legal and/or interpreting procedure do you have as a result of studying this case? How can you go about finding the information you seek? Select two of the legal or procedural questions you identified and do the research/outreach necessary to find the answers and provide a summary of your findings.

Cite the references and/or expert informants you relied upon in formulating your responses to these questions.

Summarize Your Observations.

As with the other sections, you can convey your summary in written English or ASL (taped). In the summary, reflect on the analysis process and respond to the following questions:

What is your reaction to the case as a whole? How does the case and the outcome impact you as an individual - separate from your work as an interpreter? Are there experiences you have had in your life that give you a particular observation or reaction to this case? How might these observations and reactions impact your work as an interpreter? As you leave this case, what impressions do you have about the legal system, the outcome of the case, and the work of interpreters within the legal system?

What new information about the law, legal system and/or interpreting did you learn as a result of analyzing this case? How do you see yourself applying this information as an individual and interpreter practitioner? 

What questions still remain for you as a result of this case analysis? How can you go about finding the answers to these questions?

Group Analysis

The following six group exercises could be done with small groups or one individual student working with another individual student.

  • A group of students (3-4) can be assigned this task and divide up the elements of the analysis and then work together to discuss their findings and create the final analysis to submit to the mentor. 
  • Multiple groups of students can analyze the same case and then engage in a facilitated discussion to identify their similarities and differences. Everyone’s understanding of the case will be expanded by listening to the perspectives and findings of other students about the same case.
  • One small group of students can present their case analysis to another small group of students who analyzed a different case and they can each discuss their observations and questions. Each group of students presents its case analysis to the other group for feedback and discussion.
  • Students can argue one perspective on the case, almost in a debate format - the plaintiff/prosecutor or the defendant’s perspective - offering facts and evidence drawn from the case analysis. Ideally, students will have the opportunity to argue a perspective that is different from their own some of the time so that they can strengthen their understanding of legal principles and strategy. 
  • Students can exchange their final case analysis with one another and provide feedback to each other. In providing feedback, students will consider the following.
  • What were the parts of the analysis you felt were the strongest and most impactful and why?
  • What were the parts of the analysis you felt were the weakest and least impactful and why?
  • What new insight did you, as the reviewer, take away from the analysis?

A PDF version of this guide is available - Case Study Analysis

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<strong>AI-driven Legal Case Outcome Analysis</strong>


Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become a revolutionary force across numerous industries, and the field of law is no exception. Gone are the days when lawyers pored over endless documents and precedents to assess the potential outcomes of legal cases. Today, AI is ushering in a new era of legal practice, where data-driven insights are helping legal professionals make more informed decisions. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating realm of AI-driven Legal Case Outcome Analysis, exploring the intricacies, benefits, challenges, and future prospects of this transformative technology.

AI-driven Legal Case Outcome Analysis

The Role of AI in Legal Case Analysis

The legal profession is often associated with vast amounts of data, including statutes, regulations, legal precedents, and case documents. Analyzing this data manually can be a time-consuming and error-prone process. This is where AI steps in, offering the ability to process and interpret vast datasets with speed and precision.

AI’s Transformational Impact on Legal Case Analysis

AI is revolutionizing legal case analysis in several ways:

  • Efficiency: AI-powered tools can review and extract relevant information from thousands of legal documents in a fraction of the time it would take a human. This enables lawyers to focus on higher-level tasks.
  • Predictive Analysis: AI algorithms can analyze historical case data to predict likely case outcomes. By identifying patterns and trends, AI can assist lawyers in developing winning strategies.
  • Legal Research: Legal research tools powered by AI can provide lawyers with instant access to a vast repository of legal knowledge, helping them find relevant cases, statutes, and regulations.
  • Document Review: AI can be used to review documents for relevance and privilege, streamlining the discovery process in litigation.
  • Risk Assessment: AI can assess the risk associated with specific legal strategies, enabling lawyers to make informed decisions about how to proceed.

The benefits of AI in legal case analysis are undeniable, but to understand its workings better, let’s explore the core AI technologies driving these advancements.

AI Technologies for Legal Case Analysis

AI’s prowess in legal case analysis relies on several key technologies:

1. Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Nlp in legal contexts.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a branch of AI that focuses on the interaction between computers and human language. In legal contexts, NLP plays a crucial role in understanding and extracting valuable insights from legal documents.

Consider the immense volume of text in legal cases, from contracts to court decisions. NLP algorithms can analyze this text, identify relevant clauses or arguments, and categorize information.

Applications of NLP in Legal Case Analysis

  • Legal Document Summarization: NLP can automatically summarize lengthy legal documents, making it easier for lawyers to grasp the key points.
  • Contract Analysis: NLP tools can review contracts, highlighting critical terms and potential risks.
  • Sentiment Analysis: NLP can analyze public sentiment and media coverage, providing insights into how a case is perceived by the public.
  • Legal Chatbots: NLP-driven chatbots can answer common legal queries, offering valuable assistance to clients and saving lawyers time.

2. Predictive Analytics

How predictive analytics works in legal cases.

Predictive analytics involves using historical data to predict future outcomes. In legal case analysis, this means analyzing past cases to determine the likelihood of success in a current case.

These algorithms consider various factors, including case type, jurisdiction, judge, and even external factors such as economic conditions or political climate.

Examples of Predictive Analytics Tools

Several software platforms specialize in predictive analytics for legal cases:

  • Lex Machina: This platform uses data analysis to predict litigation outcomes, offering insights into judge behavior and case trends.
  • Ravel Law : Ravel Law’s software provides data-driven insights into case law, helping lawyers understand how judges rule on specific issues.
  • ROSS: ROSS uses AI to assist lawyers in legal research, offering predictive suggestions for relevant cases and statutes.

3. Machine Learning Algorithms

Overview of machine learning in legal case analysis.

Machine learning algorithms play a vital role in AI-driven legal case analysis. These algorithms can be trained on historical legal data to recognize patterns, make predictions, and provide valuable recommendations.

Consider a scenario where a law firm wants to predict the outcome of a personal injury case. Machine learning algorithms can analyze past personal injury cases, taking into account factors such as the type of injury, location, and legal precedents.

Case Studies Showcasing the Use of Machine Learning

Case Studies Showcasing the Use of Machine Learning

To illustrate the practical application of machine learning in legal case analysis, let’s explore a couple of case studies:

Case Study 1: Predicting Patent Infringement Outcomes

In intellectual property law, patent infringement cases can be complex and costly. A law firm specializing in patent litigation used machine learning to predict the outcomes of such cases.

By feeding historical case data into their machine learning model, the firm was able to identify factors that significantly influenced case outcomes. These factors included the strength of the patent, the defendant’s history of infringement, and the judge’s track record in patent cases.

The model’s predictions were remarkably accurate, allowing the firm to advise clients more effectively on whether to pursue or settle cases.

Case Study 2: Streamlining Immigration Case Processing

Immigration law firms often face high volumes of cases, each with unique circumstances. One firm employed machine learning to streamline their case processing.

The machine learning model categorized incoming immigration cases based on factors such as visa type, country of origin, and immigration status. It then assigned priority levels to each case, helping lawyers focus on cases requiring immediate attention.

This automation reduced case processing time by 30%, enabling the firm to provide faster and more efficient service to clients.

Data Collection and Preprocessing

Now that we’ve explored the core AI technologies used in legal case analysis and seen their practical applications, it’s crucial to understand the importance of data in AI-driven analysis and how it’s prepared for use.

Importance of Quality Data in AI-driven Legal Analysis

Quality data is the lifeblood of AI-driven legal analysis. Without accurate and relevant data, AI algorithms would be ineffective. In legal case analysis, data encompasses various sources, including case documents, court records, and legal databases.

The success of AI models in predicting legal outcomes depends on having access to comprehensive and up-to-date data. Data quality issues can lead to erroneous predictions and undermine the value of AI in the legal field.

Data Sources for Legal Case Analysis

  • Legal Databases: Legal research databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis provide a vast repository of legal documents and case law.
  • Court Records: Access to court records is essential for obtaining information about case history, judgments, and rulings.
  • Client Data: Law firms can leverage their own case data to train AI models, provided they have the necessary permissions and safeguards in place.
  • Public Records: Some legal information, such as property records or business registrations, can be obtained from publicly available sources.

Data Preprocessing Techniques

Once data is collected, it must undergo preprocessing to make it suitable for AI analysis. Data preprocessing involves several steps:

1. Data Cleaning

Data cleaning involves removing or correcting errors, inconsistencies, and outliers in the dataset. This step is crucial to ensure the accuracy of AI models. Common data cleaning tasks include:

  • Removing duplicate records
  • Handling missing data through imputation or deletion
  • Correcting data format errors
  • Addressing data entry errors

2. Data Integration

Legal case analysis often involves combining data from multiple sources. Data integration ensures that different datasets are compatible and can be used together. This step may require mapping data to a common schema and resolving discrepancies in data structure.

3. Data Transformation

Data transformation involves converting data into a suitable format for analysis. This may include:

  • Scaling numerical features
  • Encoding categorical variables
  • Creating new features through feature engineering

By the end of the data preprocessing phase, the dataset should be clean, well-structured, and ready for use in AI model development.

Building AI Models for Legal Case Outcome Analysis

With high-quality data in hand, the next step in AI-driven legal case analysis is building and training AI models. The process involves several key considerations and steps:

1. The Role of Feature Selection and Engineering

In AI, features are the variables or attributes used to make predictions. Feature selection involves choosing the most relevant features for a particular analysis. Legal case analysis often involves selecting features that have a significant impact on case outcomes.

Feature engineering, on the other hand, involves creating new features or transforming existing ones to improve the performance of AI models. For example, in a personal injury case analysis, feature engineering might involve calculating the severity of an injury based on medical reports or estimating the defendant’s financial resources.

Both feature selection and engineering are essential to ensure that AI models are capable of making accurate predictions.

2. Model Training and Validation

Model training is the process of teaching an AI algorithm to recognize patterns and make predictions based on historical data. During training, the algorithm adjusts its parameters to minimize prediction errors.

Validation is a crucial step to assess the model’s performance. It involves testing the trained model on a separate dataset that it has never seen before. This helps ensure that the model generalizes well to new cases.

Legal case analysis often requires the use of supervised learning, where the model is trained on labeled data—data with known outcomes. For instance, the model may be trained to predict whether a contract is likely to be upheld in court based on historical contract cases with known verdicts.

Ethical Considerations in AI Model Development

Ethical Considerations in AI Model Development

As AI becomes more integrated into legal practice, ethical considerations take on increasing importance. Lawyers and AI developers must address ethical concerns related to AI-driven legal case analysis, including:

  • Bias and Fairness: AI models can inadvertently perpetuate biases present in historical data. It’s crucial to identify and mitigate bias to ensure that AI-driven analyses are fair and equitable.
  • Privacy and Confidentiality: AI analysis often involves sensitive legal documents. Ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of client information is paramount.
  • Transparency: AI models should be transparent in their decision-making processes. Lawyers and clients need to understand how AI arrives at its predictions.
  • Accountability: Who is responsible for AI-driven decisions in legal cases? Establishing accountability is essential, especially when AI recommendations influence case strategy.

Future Trends in AI-Driven Legal Case Analysis

As AI continues to evolve, several trends are shaping the future of AI-driven legal case analysis:

1. Increased Adoption of AI Chatbots

AI chatbots are becoming commonplace in law firms and legal departments. They assist with client inquiries, document drafting, and other routine tasks, freeing up lawyers to focus on more complex matters.

2. Enhanced Predictive Analytics

Advancements in machine learning and data analysis will lead to even more accurate predictive analytics models. Lawyers will rely on these models to assess case outcomes and develop winning strategies.

3. Improved Natural Language Processing

NLP technology will become more sophisticated, enabling AI systems to understand and interpret legal language with greater precision. This will facilitate more accurate legal research and document analysis.

4. Ethical AI Development

The legal profession will continue to prioritize ethical AI development, with a focus on addressing bias, ensuring transparency, and upholding data privacy and security standards.

5. Regulatory Frameworks

Regulatory bodies will establish guidelines and standards for the responsible use of AI in the legal industry. These frameworks will provide legal professionals with clear guidance on AI adoption and usage.

AI-driven Legal Case Outcome Analysis is reshaping the legal landscape, offering unprecedented efficiency, data-driven insights, and cost savings. Real-world case studies demonstrate the tangible benefits of AI across criminal and civil law cases. However, ethical considerations and transparency remain critical as AI’s role in the legal profession expands. As we navigate the ever-evolving intersection of AI and law, it’s essential for legal professionals to embrace AI as a powerful tool while upholding the core principles of fairness, privacy, and justice.

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Importance of Case Analysis and Understanding of Cases in Legal Studies

Case Analysis

This article explains the importance of analyzing cases in the legal field and the purpose of case analysis. It also provides a guide on how to read and understand cases, including the significance of headnotes, facts, and issues in case analysis. Further, it emphasizes the need for a slower, more careful approach to reading cases, comparing different case reports, and understanding cases in their historical context.

Meaning of Analysis

Purpose of analysis, reading a case, understanding cases.

Although in most legal systems, statutory law plays a far more critical role in the day-to-day life of individuals than cases decided by courts, many legal studies focus, wholly or in part, on the understanding and analysis of cases.

Bare Act PDFs

The fundamental reason for giving attention to cases is that courts interpret statutes, constitutional provisions and administrative regulations, explain earlier court opinions on points of legal significance, and declare the meaning and scope of the application of legal rules. In addition, they often develop and express new legal regulations and principles.

Analysis of cases is the process of identifying and understanding legal principles. Cases may be analyzed for a variety of purposes, which may include the following:

1.  To see whether a court opinion based on a case applies to a given fact situation. Lawyers routinely do this as part of their professional work. This may also be done by students required to write a problem-based assignment (essay, term paper, project, etc.) , often done by researchers working on a dissertation and thesis.

2. To compare two or more or a series of cases to examine how the courts have decided cases on specific legal issues, such as the parameters used by courts in awarding damages for unfair dismissal or professional negligence.

3. To examine the ‘approach’ adopted by courts for critical analysis and evaluation of the appropriateness or otherwise of the judicial attitude on a specific matter, such as the court approach on certain provisions of the constitution or in issues of employer-employee disputes.

In this regard, the following steps are to be followed carefully:

1. Slower Reading

Fast or quick movement is the rule of the day. But in case law analysis, this is not a good principle. “Fast reading’ of case law does not produce the best result in studying or assimilating case law.

For example , a speedy reading may lead to an inaccurate comprehension of ratio decidendi or preclude the reader from appreciating the delicate nuances of a case or a point emerging from between the lines.

On the other hand, a slower reader with watchful eyes may get enough time to grasp the facts and statements to assess the attitude of the court and its feelings to ascertain the law.

2. Comparing Different Case Reports

Usually, the judgments pronounced by a Superior Court are reported in many journals and reports. When more than one report is available to the researcher, he must look at them because new ideas often strike the reader when he compares different case reports. Moreover, with time, reporting processes acquire more straightforward and subtle forms. Therefore, their reading may help in the emergence of new ideas; as far as possible unabridged reports should be compared to determine if there is a difference between them.

3. Reading Case Law in its Historical Context

The historical background of a case is of considerable importance as it sheds light on the proper grounds of and on the policy related to the decision. It also helps in distinguishing the case from other similar cases or treating it as absolute or as obscure. Similarly, the reading of cases in their political, social, and economic context is equally essential from the point of view of the problem at hand, especially in the area of property rights, right to liberty, freedom of trade and commerce, use changes in these areas are very frequent.

In any legal research involving case law analysis, a good understanding of the various parts of a case is the first step.

1. Headnotes

Headnotes, which are found at the beginning of a case, generally provide a piece of brief information as to the facts of the case, the main issues involved, the holding of the court, and often give a summary of the main points in the court’s ruling.

The paragraphs in the headnotes are usually arranged in the same sequence in which the issues are to be taken up by judges. In some law reports, the headnotes also mention the cases followed, overturned, or distinguished.

However, the cases merely considered are generally not mentioned in the headnotes. Instead, before the beginning of the judgment, a list of all the cases used in the parties’ arguments or used in the judgment is provided, indicating which cases were merely considered, followed, not followed, distinguished, and so on.

Editors of the concerned law report prepare headnotes. These are copyrighted material, whereas the reported case is not.

In a case analysis, the researcher should not rely only on headnotes. It is necessary that the case in full, or those parts that are relevant to the research, should be examined. Headnotes may sometimes be misleading.

Facts are statements of what happened that gave rise to legal issues (both in civil and criminal proceedings) presented before the court for its judgment.

A court, before discussing the legal issues, expressing its opinion on the issues, giving its decision, and entering the judgment, states the facts presented by the concerned parties.

Not all cases involve simple and brief facts. Often the facts are stated in elaborate detail and are complicated.

Understanding the facts is essential because the essence of case law research requires locating cases with similar factual circumstances. A case with like facts will often deal with issues identical to those in the problem being researched.

Cases resolve legal disputes presented by the concerned parties. Legal issues emerge from the disputed facts presented by the parties. However, the court finally determines the legal issues upon which the court is called to decide.

Sometimes, there may be only one legal issue based on simple facts. The statement of law made by the court on such an issue will be its holding (the ratio decidendi) .

On the other hand, some cases may involve several issues, and the court may have to give its ruling on all such issues.

The researcher’s task is to pick up only such issues and rulings relevant to the matter under consideration, leaving out the rest. A researcher often has to deal with many cases, each containing several legal issues. Therefore, the researcher should first select the most relevant cases and then pick up only those issues and rulings relevant to some aspects of the study.

4. Decision

A decision is the court’s conclusion. The conclusion is based on the particular facts of the case and the legal rule or principle that the court applies to the facts. The effect of a decision is to resolve the disputed issue.

For example , a civil case determines the rights and liabilities of parties (plaintiff and defendant, or appellant and respondent) , declares who wins and who loses, and provides the relief and remedies accordingly. In a criminal case, it determines whether the accused/defendant is liable for the alleged offence. The decision of the court is the outcome of the case.

5. Judgment

The term judgment is used in two senses.

In its limited sense, it refers to the ultimate order of the court, such as an order that dismisses an appeal, determines the damages payable by a party, or determines the punishment.

In its general sense, the word refers to the whole case- issues, the decision and the reasons the court gives for its decision.

6. Judicial Reasoning

Reasoning is the process the court uses in choosing a rule and applying it to the facts of the case it is considering. The rule may be found in a constitutional or statutory provision, administrative regulations, court rules, cases decided earlier, a customary practice, or any other source recognizable judicially.

The rule may also be found in unwritten principles or concepts such as the ‘principles of natural justice, judicial policy’.

The reasoning is the court’s analysis and justification for deciding the case the way it did. In a standard law system like India, cases play an essential role in legal reasoning and analysis.

7. Ratio Decidendi and Obiter Dicta

A decision of the court has two aspects:

i. What the case decides between the parties? and ii. What principle it lays down?

It is not everything said by a judge when giving judgment that constitutes a precedent. Law quality relates to the principle behind a decision. The focus on which the case was determined is the only aspect of a judge’s ruling that serves as an authority for other judges. That which binds is called its ratio decidendi , i.e., the rule of law .

During the judgment, a judge must let various observations not precisely relevant to the issue before him. These observations are obiter dicta . They are without binding authority but are nonetheless important.

A statement made by a judge during a ruling that might not be entirely pertinent to the matter at hand is known as an obiter dictum .

Ratio decidendi is the rule acted upon by the court and becomes a precedent, whereas an obiter dictum suggests the trend of the courts’ thinking but not the rule of law.

Ratio and dicta tend to shade into each other. The rations have law quality and are binding on lower courts; the dicta, too, have law quality but are not binding at all.

Though rations of a higher court are binding on lower courts, the rations of lower court decisions have only persuasive force in higher courts like that of a dictum. Some dicta are so authoritative that the decision between ratio and dictum is reduced to a vanishing point. Dicta, which have no force, are propositions stated by way of illustration or on hypothetical facts.

Case analysis is a specific feature of legal research. One of the important sources of law, especially in common law countries, is judicial precedents. The study of decided case laws is integral to legal research.

Read Next: 1. What Is Case Law Research and Its Advantages and Disadvantages? 2. What Are Case Comments and Their Significance in Legal Analysis? 3. What Do You Mean by Citation of Cases? 4. What Is Factual Proposition and Its Importance?

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Allan Rouben

Case Studies

Explore case studies of previous cases which Allan Rouben has represented. Find examples of case studies in all focus areas of law.

Legroulx v. Pitre: Striking Jury Notice, Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Rules of Civil Procedure

Background: A complicated action was proceeding in Ottawa before Justice Denis Power and a jury. The plaintiff’s injuries, arising out of a car accident, raised difficult issues of causation and required that complex medical evidence be heard. The plaintiff’s lawyers considered the medical issues were too complex for the jury and brought a motion to …

Legroulx v. Pitre: Striking Jury Notice, Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Rules of Civil Procedure Read More »

Lucia’s Case: Appeal, Civil Litigation, Jurisdiction and Forum non Conveniens

Background: Lucia resides in Ontario with her family, and was involved in a car accident in Michigan. She brought suit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against the driver and owner of the vehicle, as well as her own insurer given that the Michigan defendants claimed the accident was caused by an unknown vehicle. …

Lucia’s Case: Appeal, Civil Litigation, Jurisdiction and Forum non Conveniens Read More »

Patrizia’s Case: Appeals, Civil Litigation, Negligence and Minimum Maintenance Standards

Background: Patrizia was driving to work early on a snowy morning in April. The roads in Milton were snow covered and slippery. Weather forecasts from the day before predicted an 80% chance of snow, yet the Town of Milton had not scheduled an evening patrol to monitor the roads and clear the snow. Tragically, as …

Patrizia’s Case: Appeals, Civil Litigation, Negligence and Minimum Maintenance Standards Read More »

F.A.’s Case: Criminal Law, Appeals, Sexual Assault and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

Background: F.A. worked in a medical facility with a much younger female co-worker. There was flirting between them. They went out together one evening, meeting up in a park and later driving around in F.A.’s car. He said he had a surprise for her at the office so they parked close by. Instead of going …

F.A.’s Case: Criminal Law, Appeals, Sexual Assault and Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Read More »

Clare’s Case: Labour Law, Duty of Fair Representation and Ontario Labour Relations Board

Background: Clare had been working for General Motors for 23 years before his termination. The company claimed that he had threated a supervisor after being told that a urine sample he had given was diluted. Clare denied the allegation and asked the Union, Canadian Auto Workers Local 222, to grieve the termination. He communicated frequently …

Clare’s Case: Labour Law, Duty of Fair Representation and Ontario Labour Relations Board Read More »

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

Definition and Introduction

Case analysis is a problem-based teaching and learning method that involves critically analyzing complex scenarios within an organizational setting for the purpose of placing the student in a “real world” situation and applying reflection and critical thinking skills to contemplate appropriate solutions, decisions, or recommended courses of action. It is considered a more effective teaching technique than in-class role playing or simulation activities. The analytical process is often guided by questions provided by the instructor that ask students to contemplate relationships between the facts and critical incidents described in the case.

Cases generally include both descriptive and statistical elements and rely on students applying abductive reasoning to develop and argue for preferred or best outcomes [i.e., case scenarios rarely have a single correct or perfect answer based on the evidence provided]. Rather than emphasizing theories or concepts, case analysis assignments emphasize building a bridge of relevancy between abstract thinking and practical application and, by so doing, teaches the value of both within a specific area of professional practice.

Given this, the purpose of a case analysis paper is to present a structured and logically organized format for analyzing the case situation. It can be assigned to students individually or as a small group assignment and it may include an in-class presentation component. Case analysis is predominately taught in economics and business-related courses, but it is also a method of teaching and learning found in other applied social sciences disciplines, such as, social work, public relations, education, journalism, and public administration.

Ellet, William. The Case Study Handbook: A Student's Guide . Revised Edition. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2018; Christoph Rasche and Achim Seisreiner. Guidelines for Business Case Analysis . University of Potsdam; Writing a Case Analysis . Writing Center, Baruch College; Volpe, Guglielmo. "Case Teaching in Economics: History, Practice and Evidence." Cogent Economics and Finance 3 (December 2015). doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/23322039.2015.1120977.

How to Approach Writing a Case Analysis Paper

The organization and structure of a case analysis paper can vary depending on the organizational setting, the situation, and how your professor wants you to approach the assignment. Nevertheless, preparing to write a case analysis paper involves several important steps. As Hawes notes, a case analysis assignment “...is useful in developing the ability to get to the heart of a problem, analyze it thoroughly, and to indicate the appropriate solution as well as how it should be implemented” [p.48]. This statement encapsulates how you should approach preparing to write a case analysis paper.

Before you begin to write your paper, consider the following analytical procedures:

  • Review the case to get an overview of the situation . A case can be only a few pages in length, however, it is most often very lengthy and contains a significant amount of detailed background information and statistics, with multilayered descriptions of the scenario, the roles and behaviors of various stakeholder groups, and situational events. Therefore, a quick reading of the case will help you gain an overall sense of the situation and illuminate the types of issues and problems that you will need to address in your paper. If your professor has provided questions intended to help frame your analysis, use them to guide your initial reading of the case.
  • Read the case thoroughly . After gaining a general overview of the case, carefully read the content again with the purpose of understanding key circumstances, events, and behaviors among stakeholder groups. Look for information or data that appears contradictory, extraneous, or misleading. At this point, you should be taking notes as you read because this will help you develop a general outline of your paper. The aim is to obtain a complete understanding of the situation so that you can begin contemplating tentative answers to any questions your professor has provided or, if they have not provided, developing answers to your own questions about the case scenario and its connection to the course readings,lectures, and class discussions.
  • Determine key stakeholder groups, issues, and events and the relationships they all have to each other . As you analyze the content, pay particular attention to identifying individuals, groups, or organizations described in the case and identify evidence of any problems or issues of concern that impact the situation in a negative way. Other things to look for include identifying any assumptions being made by or about each stakeholder, potential biased explanations or actions, explicit demands or ultimatums , and the underlying concerns that motivate these behaviors among stakeholders. The goal at this stage is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the situational and behavioral dynamics of the case and the explicit and implicit consequences of each of these actions.
  • Identify the core problems . The next step in most case analysis assignments is to discern what the core [i.e., most damaging, detrimental, injurious] problems are within the organizational setting and to determine their implications. The purpose at this stage of preparing to write your analysis paper is to distinguish between the symptoms of core problems and the core problems themselves and to decide which of these must be addressed immediately and which problems do not appear critical but may escalate over time. Identify evidence from the case to support your decisions by determining what information or data is essential to addressing the core problems and what information is not relevant or is misleading.
  • Explore alternative solutions . As noted, case analysis scenarios rarely have only one correct answer. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the process of analyzing the case and diagnosing core problems, while based on evidence, is a subjective process open to various avenues of interpretation. This means that you must consider alternative solutions or courses of action by critically examining strengths and weaknesses, risk factors, and the differences between short and long-term solutions. For each possible solution or course of action, consider the consequences they may have related to their implementation and how these recommendations might lead to new problems. Also, consider thinking about your recommended solutions or courses of action in relation to issues of fairness, equity, and inclusion.
  • Decide on a final set of recommendations . The last stage in preparing to write a case analysis paper is to assert an opinion or viewpoint about the recommendations needed to help resolve the core problems as you see them and to make a persuasive argument for supporting this point of view. Prepare a clear rationale for your recommendations based on examining each element of your analysis. Anticipate possible obstacles that could derail their implementation. Consider any counter-arguments that could be made concerning the validity of your recommended actions. Finally, describe a set of criteria and measurable indicators that could be applied to evaluating the effectiveness of your implementation plan.

Use these steps as the framework for writing your paper. Remember that the more detailed you are in taking notes as you critically examine each element of the case, the more information you will have to draw from when you begin to write. This will save you time.

NOTE : If the process of preparing to write a case analysis paper is assigned as a student group project, consider having each member of the group analyze a specific element of the case, including drafting answers to the corresponding questions used by your professor to frame the analysis. This will help make the analytical process more efficient and ensure that the distribution of work is equitable. This can also facilitate who is responsible for drafting each part of the final case analysis paper and, if applicable, the in-class presentation.

Framework for Case Analysis . College of Management. University of Massachusetts; Hawes, Jon M. "Teaching is Not Telling: The Case Method as a Form of Interactive Learning." Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education 5 (Winter 2004): 47-54; Rasche, Christoph and Achim Seisreiner. Guidelines for Business Case Analysis . University of Potsdam; Writing a Case Study Analysis . University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center; Van Ness, Raymond K. A Guide to Case Analysis . School of Business. State University of New York, Albany; Writing a Case Analysis . Business School, University of New South Wales.

Structure and Writing Style

A case analysis paper should be detailed, concise, persuasive, clearly written, and professional in tone and in the use of language . As with other forms of college-level academic writing, declarative statements that convey information, provide a fact, or offer an explanation or any recommended courses of action should be based on evidence. If allowed by your professor, any external sources used to support your analysis, such as course readings, should be properly cited under a list of references. The organization and structure of case analysis papers can vary depending on your professor’s preferred format, but its structure generally follows the steps used for analyzing the case.


The introduction should provide a succinct but thorough descriptive overview of the main facts, issues, and core problems of the case . The introduction should also include a brief summary of the most relevant details about the situation and organizational setting. This includes defining the theoretical framework or conceptual model on which any questions were used to frame your analysis.

Following the rules of most college-level research papers, the introduction should then inform the reader how the paper will be organized. This includes describing the major sections of the paper and the order in which they will be presented. Unless you are told to do so by your professor, you do not need to preview your final recommendations in the introduction. U nlike most college-level research papers , the introduction does not include a statement about the significance of your findings because a case analysis assignment does not involve contributing new knowledge about a research problem.

Background Analysis

Background analysis can vary depending on any guiding questions provided by your professor and the underlying concept or theory that the case is based upon. In general, however, this section of your paper should focus on:

  • Providing an overarching analysis of problems identified from the case scenario, including identifying events that stakeholders find challenging or troublesome,
  • Identifying assumptions made by each stakeholder and any apparent biases they may exhibit,
  • Describing any demands or claims made by or forced upon key stakeholders, and
  • Highlighting any issues of concern or complaints expressed by stakeholders in response to those demands or claims.

These aspects of the case are often in the form of behavioral responses expressed by individuals or groups within the organizational setting. However, note that problems in a case situation can also be reflected in data [or the lack thereof] and in the decision-making, operational, cultural, or institutional structure of the organization. Additionally, demands or claims can be either internal and external to the organization [e.g., a case analysis involving a president considering arms sales to Saudi Arabia could include managing internal demands from White House advisors as well as demands from members of Congress].

Throughout this section, present all relevant evidence from the case that supports your analysis. Do not simply claim there is a problem, an assumption, a demand, or a concern; tell the reader what part of the case informed how you identified these background elements.

Identification of Problems

In most case analysis assignments, there are problems, and then there are problems . Each problem can reflect a multitude of underlying symptoms that are detrimental to the interests of the organization. The purpose of identifying problems is to teach students how to differentiate between problems that vary in severity, impact, and relative importance. Given this, problems can be described in three general forms: those that must be addressed immediately, those that should be addressed but the impact is not severe, and those that do not require immediate attention and can be set aside for the time being.

All of the problems you identify from the case should be identified in this section of your paper, with a description based on evidence explaining the problem variances. If the assignment asks you to conduct research to further support your assessment of the problems, include this in your explanation. Remember to cite those sources in a list of references. Use specific evidence from the case and apply appropriate concepts, theories, and models discussed in class or in relevant course readings to highlight and explain the key problems [or problem] that you believe must be solved immediately and describe the underlying symptoms and why they are so critical.

Alternative Solutions

This section is where you provide specific, realistic, and evidence-based solutions to the problems you have identified and make recommendations about how to alleviate the underlying symptomatic conditions impacting the organizational setting. For each solution, you must explain why it was chosen and provide clear evidence to support your reasoning. This can include, for example, course readings and class discussions as well as research resources, such as, books, journal articles, research reports, or government documents. In some cases, your professor may encourage you to include personal, anecdotal experiences as evidence to support why you chose a particular solution or set of solutions. Using anecdotal evidence helps promote reflective thinking about the process of determining what qualifies as a core problem and relevant solution .

Throughout this part of the paper, keep in mind the entire array of problems that must be addressed and describe in detail the solutions that might be implemented to resolve these problems.

Recommended Courses of Action

In some case analysis assignments, your professor may ask you to combine the alternative solutions section with your recommended courses of action. However, it is important to know the difference between the two. A solution refers to the answer to a problem. A course of action refers to a procedure or deliberate sequence of activities adopted to proactively confront a situation, often in the context of accomplishing a goal. In this context, proposed courses of action are based on your analysis of alternative solutions. Your description and justification for pursuing each course of action should represent the overall plan for implementing your recommendations.

For each course of action, you need to explain the rationale for your recommendation in a way that confronts challenges, explains risks, and anticipates any counter-arguments from stakeholders. Do this by considering the strengths and weaknesses of each course of action framed in relation to how the action is expected to resolve the core problems presented, the possible ways the action may affect remaining problems, and how the recommended action will be perceived by each stakeholder.

In addition, you should describe the criteria needed to measure how well the implementation of these actions is working and explain which individuals or groups are responsible for ensuring your recommendations are successful. In addition, always consider the law of unintended consequences. Outline difficulties that may arise in implementing each course of action and describe how implementing the proposed courses of action [either individually or collectively] may lead to new problems [both large and small].

Throughout this section, you must consider the costs and benefits of recommending your courses of action in relation to uncertainties or missing information and the negative consequences of success.

The conclusion should be brief and introspective. Unlike a research paper, the conclusion in a case analysis paper does not include a summary of key findings and their significance, a statement about how the study contributed to existing knowledge, or indicate opportunities for future research.

Begin by synthesizing the core problems presented in the case and the relevance of your recommended solutions. This can include an explanation of what you have learned about the case in the context of your answers to the questions provided by your professor. The conclusion is also where you link what you learned from analyzing the case with the course readings or class discussions. This can further demonstrate your understanding of the relationships between the practical case situation and the theoretical and abstract content of assigned readings and other course content.

Problems to Avoid

The literature on case analysis assignments often includes examples of difficulties students have with applying methods of critical analysis and effectively reporting the results of their assessment of the situation. A common reason cited by scholars is that the application of this type of teaching and learning method is limited to applied fields of social and behavioral sciences and, as a result, writing a case analysis paper can be unfamiliar to most students entering college.

After you have drafted your paper, proofread the narrative flow and revise any of these common errors:

  • Unnecessary detail in the background section . The background section should highlight the essential elements of the case based on your analysis. Focus on summarizing the facts and highlighting the key factors that become relevant in the other sections of the paper by eliminating any unnecessary information.
  • Analysis relies too much on opinion . Your analysis is interpretive, but the narrative must be connected clearly to evidence from the case and any models and theories discussed in class or in course readings. Any positions or arguments you make should be supported by evidence.
  • Analysis does not focus on the most important elements of the case . Your paper should provide a thorough overview of the case. However, the analysis should focus on providing evidence about what you identify are the key events, stakeholders, issues, and problems. Emphasize what you identify as the most critical aspects of the case to be developed throughout your analysis. Be thorough but succinct.
  • Writing is too descriptive . A paper with too much descriptive information detracts from your analysis of the complexities of the case situation. Questions about what happened, where, when, and by whom should only be included as essential information leading to your examination of questions related to why, how, and for what purpose.
  • Inadequate definition of a core problem and associated symptoms . A common error found in case analysis papers is recommending a solution or course of action without adequately defining or demonstrating that you understand the problem. Make sure you have clearly described the problem and its impact and scope within the organizational setting. Ensure that you have adequately described the root causes w hen describing the symptoms of the problem.
  • Recommendations lack specificity . Identify any use of vague statements and indeterminate terminology, such as, “A particular experience” or “a large increase to the budget.” These statements cannot be measured and, as a result, there is no way to evaluate their successful implementation. Provide specific data and use direct language in describing recommended actions.
  • Unrealistic, exaggerated, or unattainable recommendations . Review your recommendations to ensure that they are based on the situational facts of the case. Your recommended solutions and courses of action must be based on realistic assumptions and fit within the constraints of the situation. Also note that the case scenario has already happened, therefore, any speculation or arguments about what could have occurred if the circumstances were different should be revised or eliminated.

Bee, Lian Song et al. "Business Students' Perspectives on Case Method Coaching for Problem-Based Learning: Impacts on Student Engagement and Learning Performance in Higher Education." Education & Training 64 (2022): 416-432; The Case Analysis . Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors. Grand Valley State University; Georgallis, Panikos and Kayleigh Bruijn. "Sustainability Teaching using Case-Based Debates." Journal of International Education in Business 15 (2022): 147-163; Hawes, Jon M. "Teaching is Not Telling: The Case Method as a Form of Interactive Learning." Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education 5 (Winter 2004): 47-54; Georgallis, Panikos, and Kayleigh Bruijn. "Sustainability Teaching Using Case-based Debates." Journal of International Education in Business 15 (2022): 147-163; .Dean,  Kathy Lund and Charles J. Fornaciari. "How to Create and Use Experiential Case-Based Exercises in a Management Classroom." Journal of Management Education 26 (October 2002): 586-603; Klebba, Joanne M. and Janet G. Hamilton. "Structured Case Analysis: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in a Marketing Case Course." Journal of Marketing Education 29 (August 2007): 132-137, 139; Klein, Norman. "The Case Discussion Method Revisited: Some Questions about Student Skills." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 30-32; Mukherjee, Arup. "Effective Use of In-Class Mini Case Analysis for Discovery Learning in an Undergraduate MIS Course." The Journal of Computer Information Systems 40 (Spring 2000): 15-23; Pessoa, Silviaet al. "Scaffolding the Case Analysis in an Organizational Behavior Course: Making Analytical Language Explicit." Journal of Management Education 46 (2022): 226-251: Ramsey, V. J. and L. D. Dodge. "Case Analysis: A Structured Approach." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 27-29; Schweitzer, Karen. "How to Write and Format a Business Case Study." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-write-and-format-a-business-case-study-466324 (accessed December 5, 2022); Reddy, C. D. "Teaching Research Methodology: Everything's a Case." Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods 18 (December 2020): 178-188; Volpe, Guglielmo. "Case Teaching in Economics: History, Practice and Evidence." Cogent Economics and Finance 3 (December 2015). doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/23322039.2015.1120977.

Writing Tip

Ca se Study and Case Analysis Are Not the Same!

Confusion often exists between what it means to write a paper that uses a case study research design and writing a paper that analyzes a case; they are two different types of approaches to learning in the social and behavioral sciences. Professors as well as educational researchers contribute to this confusion because they often use the term "case study" when describing the subject of analysis for a case analysis paper. But you are not studying a case for the purpose of generating a comprehensive, multi-faceted understanding of a research problem. R ather, you are critically analyzing a specific scenario to argue logically for recommended solutions and courses of action that lead to optimal outcomes applicable to professional practice.

To avoid any confusion, here are twelve characteristics that delineate the differences between writing a paper using the case study research method and writing a case analysis paper:

  • Case study is a method of in-depth research and rigorous inquiry ; case analysis is a reliable method of teaching and learning . A case study is a modality of research that investigates a phenomenon for the purpose of creating new knowledge, solving a problem, or testing a hypothesis using empirical evidence derived from the case being studied. Often, the results are used to generalize about a larger population or within a wider context. The writing adheres to the traditional standards of a scholarly research study. A case analysis is a pedagogical tool used to teach students how to reflect and think critically about a practical, real-life problem in an organizational setting.
  • The researcher is responsible for identifying the case to study; a case analysis is assigned by your professor . As the researcher, you choose the case study to investigate in support of obtaining new knowledge and understanding about the research problem. The case in a case analysis assignment is almost always provided, and sometimes written, by your professor and either given to every student in class to analyze individually or to a small group of students, or students select a case to analyze from a predetermined list.
  • A case study is indeterminate and boundless; a case analysis is predetermined and confined . A case study can be almost anything [see item 9 below] as long as it relates directly to examining the research problem. This relationship is the only limit to what a researcher can choose as the subject of their case study. The content of a case analysis is determined by your professor and its parameters are well-defined and limited to elucidating insights of practical value applied to practice.
  • Case study is fact-based and describes actual events or situations; case analysis can be entirely fictional or adapted from an actual situation . The entire content of a case study must be grounded in reality to be a valid subject of investigation in an empirical research study. A case analysis only needs to set the stage for critically examining a situation in practice and, therefore, can be entirely fictional or adapted, all or in-part, from an actual situation.
  • Research using a case study method must adhere to principles of intellectual honesty and academic integrity; a case analysis scenario can include misleading or false information . A case study paper must report research objectively and factually to ensure that any findings are understood to be logically correct and trustworthy. A case analysis scenario may include misleading or false information intended to deliberately distract from the central issues of the case. The purpose is to teach students how to sort through conflicting or useless information in order to come up with the preferred solution. Any use of misleading or false information in academic research is considered unethical.
  • Case study is linked to a research problem; case analysis is linked to a practical situation or scenario . In the social sciences, the subject of an investigation is most often framed as a problem that must be researched in order to generate new knowledge leading to a solution. Case analysis narratives are grounded in real life scenarios for the purpose of examining the realities of decision-making behavior and processes within organizational settings. A case analysis assignments include a problem or set of problems to be analyzed. However, the goal is centered around the act of identifying and evaluating courses of action leading to best possible outcomes.
  • The purpose of a case study is to create new knowledge through research; the purpose of a case analysis is to teach new understanding . Case studies are a choice of methodological design intended to create new knowledge about resolving a research problem. A case analysis is a mode of teaching and learning intended to create new understanding and an awareness of uncertainty applied to practice through acts of critical thinking and reflection.
  • A case study seeks to identify the best possible solution to a research problem; case analysis can have an indeterminate set of solutions or outcomes . Your role in studying a case is to discover the most logical, evidence-based ways to address a research problem. A case analysis assignment rarely has a single correct answer because one of the goals is to force students to confront the real life dynamics of uncertainly, ambiguity, and missing or conflicting information within professional practice. Under these conditions, a perfect outcome or solution almost never exists.
  • Case study is unbounded and relies on gathering external information; case analysis is a self-contained subject of analysis . The scope of a case study chosen as a method of research is bounded. However, the researcher is free to gather whatever information and data is necessary to investigate its relevance to understanding the research problem. For a case analysis assignment, your professor will often ask you to examine solutions or recommended courses of action based solely on facts and information from the case.
  • Case study can be a person, place, object, issue, event, condition, or phenomenon; a case analysis is a carefully constructed synopsis of events, situations, and behaviors . The research problem dictates the type of case being studied and, therefore, the design can encompass almost anything tangible as long as it fulfills the objective of generating new knowledge and understanding. A case analysis is in the form of a narrative containing descriptions of facts, situations, processes, rules, and behaviors within a particular setting and under a specific set of circumstances.
  • Case study can represent an open-ended subject of inquiry; a case analysis is a narrative about something that has happened in the past . A case study is not restricted by time and can encompass an event or issue with no temporal limit or end. For example, the current war in Ukraine can be used as a case study of how medical personnel help civilians during a large military conflict, even though circumstances around this event are still evolving. A case analysis can be used to elicit critical thinking about current or future situations in practice, but the case itself is a narrative about something finite and that has taken place in the past.
  • Multiple case studies can be used in a research study; case analysis involves examining a single scenario . Case study research can use two or more cases to examine a problem, often for the purpose of conducting a comparative investigation intended to discover hidden relationships, document emerging trends, or determine variations among different examples. A case analysis assignment typically describes a stand-alone, self-contained situation and any comparisons among cases are conducted during in-class discussions and/or student presentations.

The Case Analysis . Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors. Grand Valley State University; Mills, Albert J. , Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010; Ramsey, V. J. and L. D. Dodge. "Case Analysis: A Structured Approach." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 27-29; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods . 6th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2017; Crowe, Sarah et al. “The Case Study Approach.” BMC Medical Research Methodology 11 (2011):  doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-11-100; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research: Design and Methods . 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing; 1994.

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legal case study analysis

Leveraging the profound impact of real-world success stories, case studies stand out as indispensable assets in law firm marketing. They not only underscore your firm’s expertise and capacity for achieving favorable outcomes but also play a crucial role in fostering trust and credibility among prospective clients.

Here is a guide (with homework!) on how law firms can effectively incorporate case studies into their marketing materials enhancing engagement and building their reputation as a leader in their respective areas of practice.

  • Comprehensive Analysis : Craft case studies to provide a thorough analysis of significant legal matters, outlining the client’s challenge, the firm’s approach and the successful resolution. Ensure the narrative highlights the firm’s legal acumen and strategic thinking.
  • Client-Centric Focus : Center the narrative around the client’s needs and journey, demonstrating empathy and a deep understanding of their situation. This approach makes the case study relatable and emphasizes the firm’s commitment to client success.
  • Multimedia Elements : Enhance the case studies with images, graphs or video interviews of attorneys discussing key aspects of the case. These elements add depth to the story and help demystify complex legal processes.
  • Incorporate Client Testimonials : If possible, include client testimonials within the case studies to add authenticity and provide a first-hand account of the firm’s impact.
  • Showcase Practice Area Expertise : Utilize case studies to highlight the firm’s proficiency across various practice areas, demonstrating versatility and a comprehensive approach to legal services.
  • Educational Value : Ensure the case studies also serve an educational purpose, offering insights into legal strategies, industry-specific challenges or legislative implications.
  • Optimize for Search Engines : Make the case studies easily discoverable online by optimizing for search engines. Use relevant keywords and ensure the content is accessible on the firm’s website.
  • Social Media Promotion : Create bite-sized summaries or key takeaways from the case studies for sharing on social media, driving engagement and website traffic.
  • Client Presentations : Utilize case studies in pitches or presentations to potential clients, showcasing the firm’s successful track record and solution-oriented approach.
  • Training Resources : Employ case studies as training materials, providing practical examples to help junior attorneys bridge the gap between theory and practice.
  • Maintain Relevance : Regularly update the case studies to reflect new developments, ensuring the content remains current and relevant.
  • Accessible Design : Design a user-friendly section on the firm’s website dedicated to case studies, ensuring potential clients can easily find and navigate through the success stories.
  • Clear Call-to-Action : Conclude each case study with a call-to-action, encouraging readers to reach out for more information or to discuss their legal needs.

By strategically integrating legal case studies into their marketing materials, law firms can effectively demonstrate their expertise, foster trust and engage meaningfully with their target audiences.

Homework: Putting Case Studies into Action

Now that you’ve learned how to leverage legal case studies in your marketing materials, it’s time to put this knowledge into action. Here’s a homework task to help you get started:

Task: Create a Mini Case Study

  • Select a Matter : Choose a recent legal matter that had a successful outcome and involved interesting legal strategies or challenges. Ensure you have client permission or anonymize the details to maintain confidentiality.
  • Client Challenge : What problem was the client facing?
  • Legal Strategy : What approach did your firm take to address the issue?
  • Outcome : What was the result of your firm’s involvement?
  • Client Testimonial (if available): Include a short client quote about their experience.
  • Create a Visual Element : Design a simple infographic or visual aid that highlights the main points of the case study. You can use free online tools like Canva for this task.
  • Share on Social Media : Share your mini case study on one of your firm’s social media platforms. Include a brief introduction, the visual element, and a call-to-action encouraging viewers to contact your firm for similar legal assistance.
  • Reflect : After posting, reflect on the process. How did it feel to showcase your firm’s success? Did you receive any feedback or engagement from clients or peers?
  • Plan for Future Case Studies : Based on this experience, think about how you can incorporate more detailed case studies into your firm’s broader marketing strategy. What worked well? What could be improved?

By completing this homework task, you will have taken a tangible step toward integrating case studies into your marketing efforts, providing a practical example of your firm’s expertise and success. Remember, the goal is to build trust and showcase your firm’s capabilities, one success story at a time.

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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.

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What the data says about abortion in the u.s..

Pew Research Center has conducted many surveys about abortion over the years, providing a lens into Americans’ views on whether the procedure should be legal, among a host of other questions.

In a  Center survey  conducted nearly a year after the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision that  ended the constitutional right to abortion , 62% of U.S. adults said the practice should be legal in all or most cases, while 36% said it should be illegal in all or most cases. Another survey conducted a few months before the decision showed that relatively few Americans take an absolutist view on the issue .

Find answers to common questions about abortion in America, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute, which have tracked these patterns for several decades:

How many abortions are there in the U.S. each year?

How has the number of abortions in the u.s. changed over time, what is the abortion rate among women in the u.s. how has it changed over time, what are the most common types of abortion, how many abortion providers are there in the u.s., and how has that number changed, what percentage of abortions are for women who live in a different state from the abortion provider, what are the demographics of women who have had abortions, when during pregnancy do most abortions occur, how often are there medical complications from abortion.

This compilation of data on abortion in the United States draws mainly from two sources: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Guttmacher Institute, both of which have regularly compiled national abortion data for approximately half a century, and which collect their data in different ways.

The CDC data that is highlighted in this post comes from the agency’s “abortion surveillance” reports, which have been published annually since 1974 (and which have included data from 1969). Its figures from 1973 through 1996 include data from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and New York City – 52 “reporting areas” in all. Since 1997, the CDC’s totals have lacked data from some states (most notably California) for the years that those states did not report data to the agency. The four reporting areas that did not submit data to the CDC in 2021 – California, Maryland, New Hampshire and New Jersey – accounted for approximately 25% of all legal induced abortions in the U.S. in 2020, according to Guttmacher’s data. Most states, though,  do  have data in the reports, and the figures for the vast majority of them came from each state’s central health agency, while for some states, the figures came from hospitals and other medical facilities.

Discussion of CDC abortion data involving women’s state of residence, marital status, race, ethnicity, age, abortion history and the number of previous live births excludes the low share of abortions where that information was not supplied. Read the methodology for the CDC’s latest abortion surveillance report , which includes data from 2021, for more details. Previous reports can be found at  stacks.cdc.gov  by entering “abortion surveillance” into the search box.

For the numbers of deaths caused by induced abortions in 1963 and 1965, this analysis looks at reports by the then-U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, a precursor to the Department of Health and Human Services. In computing those figures, we excluded abortions listed in the report under the categories “spontaneous or unspecified” or as “other.” (“Spontaneous abortion” is another way of referring to miscarriages.)

Guttmacher data in this post comes from national surveys of abortion providers that Guttmacher has conducted 19 times since 1973. Guttmacher compiles its figures after contacting every known provider of abortions – clinics, hospitals and physicians’ offices – in the country. It uses questionnaires and health department data, and it provides estimates for abortion providers that don’t respond to its inquiries. (In 2020, the last year for which it has released data on the number of abortions in the U.S., it used estimates for 12% of abortions.) For most of the 2000s, Guttmacher has conducted these national surveys every three years, each time getting abortion data for the prior two years. For each interim year, Guttmacher has calculated estimates based on trends from its own figures and from other data.

The latest full summary of Guttmacher data came in the institute’s report titled “Abortion Incidence and Service Availability in the United States, 2020.” It includes figures for 2020 and 2019 and estimates for 2018. The report includes a methods section.

In addition, this post uses data from StatPearls, an online health care resource, on complications from abortion.

An exact answer is hard to come by. The CDC and the Guttmacher Institute have each tried to measure this for around half a century, but they use different methods and publish different figures.

The last year for which the CDC reported a yearly national total for abortions is 2021. It found there were 625,978 abortions in the District of Columbia and the 46 states with available data that year, up from 597,355 in those states and D.C. in 2020. The corresponding figure for 2019 was 607,720.

The last year for which Guttmacher reported a yearly national total was 2020. It said there were 930,160 abortions that year in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, compared with 916,460 in 2019.

  • How the CDC gets its data: It compiles figures that are voluntarily reported by states’ central health agencies, including separate figures for New York City and the District of Columbia. Its latest totals do not include figures from California, Maryland, New Hampshire or New Jersey, which did not report data to the CDC. ( Read the methodology from the latest CDC report .)
  • How Guttmacher gets its data: It compiles its figures after contacting every known abortion provider – clinics, hospitals and physicians’ offices – in the country. It uses questionnaires and health department data, then provides estimates for abortion providers that don’t respond. Guttmacher’s figures are higher than the CDC’s in part because they include data (and in some instances, estimates) from all 50 states. ( Read the institute’s latest full report and methodology .)

While the Guttmacher Institute supports abortion rights, its empirical data on abortions in the U.S. has been widely cited by  groups  and  publications  across the political spectrum, including by a  number of those  that  disagree with its positions .

These estimates from Guttmacher and the CDC are results of multiyear efforts to collect data on abortion across the U.S. Last year, Guttmacher also began publishing less precise estimates every few months , based on a much smaller sample of providers.

The figures reported by these organizations include only legal induced abortions conducted by clinics, hospitals or physicians’ offices, or those that make use of abortion pills dispensed from certified facilities such as clinics or physicians’ offices. They do not account for the use of abortion pills that were obtained  outside of clinical settings .

(Back to top)

A line chart showing the changing number of legal abortions in the U.S. since the 1970s.

The annual number of U.S. abortions rose for years after Roe v. Wade legalized the procedure in 1973, reaching its highest levels around the late 1980s and early 1990s, according to both the CDC and Guttmacher. Since then, abortions have generally decreased at what a CDC analysis called  “a slow yet steady pace.”

Guttmacher says the number of abortions occurring in the U.S. in 2020 was 40% lower than it was in 1991. According to the CDC, the number was 36% lower in 2021 than in 1991, looking just at the District of Columbia and the 46 states that reported both of those years.

(The corresponding line graph shows the long-term trend in the number of legal abortions reported by both organizations. To allow for consistent comparisons over time, the CDC figures in the chart have been adjusted to ensure that the same states are counted from one year to the next. Using that approach, the CDC figure for 2021 is 622,108 legal abortions.)

There have been occasional breaks in this long-term pattern of decline – during the middle of the first decade of the 2000s, and then again in the late 2010s. The CDC reported modest 1% and 2% increases in abortions in 2018 and 2019, and then, after a 2% decrease in 2020, a 5% increase in 2021. Guttmacher reported an 8% increase over the three-year period from 2017 to 2020.

As noted above, these figures do not include abortions that use pills obtained outside of clinical settings.

Guttmacher says that in 2020 there were 14.4 abortions in the U.S. per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. Its data shows that the rate of abortions among women has generally been declining in the U.S. since 1981, when it reported there were 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women in that age range.

The CDC says that in 2021, there were 11.6 abortions in the U.S. per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44. (That figure excludes data from California, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Hampshire and New Jersey.) Like Guttmacher’s data, the CDC’s figures also suggest a general decline in the abortion rate over time. In 1980, when the CDC reported on all 50 states and D.C., it said there were 25 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44.

That said, both Guttmacher and the CDC say there were slight increases in the rate of abortions during the late 2010s and early 2020s. Guttmacher says the abortion rate per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 rose from 13.5 in 2017 to 14.4 in 2020. The CDC says it rose from 11.2 per 1,000 in 2017 to 11.4 in 2019, before falling back to 11.1 in 2020 and then rising again to 11.6 in 2021. (The CDC’s figures for those years exclude data from California, D.C., Maryland, New Hampshire and New Jersey.)

The CDC broadly divides abortions into two categories: surgical abortions and medication abortions, which involve pills. Since the Food and Drug Administration first approved abortion pills in 2000, their use has increased over time as a share of abortions nationally, according to both the CDC and Guttmacher.

The majority of abortions in the U.S. now involve pills, according to both the CDC and Guttmacher. The CDC says 56% of U.S. abortions in 2021 involved pills, up from 53% in 2020 and 44% in 2019. Its figures for 2021 include the District of Columbia and 44 states that provided this data; its figures for 2020 include D.C. and 44 states (though not all of the same states as in 2021), and its figures for 2019 include D.C. and 45 states.

Guttmacher, which measures this every three years, says 53% of U.S. abortions involved pills in 2020, up from 39% in 2017.

Two pills commonly used together for medication abortions are mifepristone, which, taken first, blocks hormones that support a pregnancy, and misoprostol, which then causes the uterus to empty. According to the FDA, medication abortions are safe  until 10 weeks into pregnancy.

Surgical abortions conducted  during the first trimester  of pregnancy typically use a suction process, while the relatively few surgical abortions that occur  during the second trimester  of a pregnancy typically use a process called dilation and evacuation, according to the UCLA School of Medicine.

In 2020, there were 1,603 facilities in the U.S. that provided abortions,  according to Guttmacher . This included 807 clinics, 530 hospitals and 266 physicians’ offices.

A horizontal stacked bar chart showing the total number of abortion providers down since 1982.

While clinics make up half of the facilities that provide abortions, they are the sites where the vast majority (96%) of abortions are administered, either through procedures or the distribution of pills, according to Guttmacher’s 2020 data. (This includes 54% of abortions that are administered at specialized abortion clinics and 43% at nonspecialized clinics.) Hospitals made up 33% of the facilities that provided abortions in 2020 but accounted for only 3% of abortions that year, while just 1% of abortions were conducted by physicians’ offices.

Looking just at clinics – that is, the total number of specialized abortion clinics and nonspecialized clinics in the U.S. – Guttmacher found the total virtually unchanged between 2017 (808 clinics) and 2020 (807 clinics). However, there were regional differences. In the Midwest, the number of clinics that provide abortions increased by 11% during those years, and in the West by 6%. The number of clinics  decreased  during those years by 9% in the Northeast and 3% in the South.

The total number of abortion providers has declined dramatically since the 1980s. In 1982, according to Guttmacher, there were 2,908 facilities providing abortions in the U.S., including 789 clinics, 1,405 hospitals and 714 physicians’ offices.

The CDC does not track the number of abortion providers.

In the District of Columbia and the 46 states that provided abortion and residency information to the CDC in 2021, 10.9% of all abortions were performed on women known to live outside the state where the abortion occurred – slightly higher than the percentage in 2020 (9.7%). That year, D.C. and 46 states (though not the same ones as in 2021) reported abortion and residency data. (The total number of abortions used in these calculations included figures for women with both known and unknown residential status.)

The share of reported abortions performed on women outside their state of residence was much higher before the 1973 Roe decision that stopped states from banning abortion. In 1972, 41% of all abortions in D.C. and the 20 states that provided this information to the CDC that year were performed on women outside their state of residence. In 1973, the corresponding figure was 21% in the District of Columbia and the 41 states that provided this information, and in 1974 it was 11% in D.C. and the 43 states that provided data.

In the District of Columbia and the 46 states that reported age data to  the CDC in 2021, the majority of women who had abortions (57%) were in their 20s, while about three-in-ten (31%) were in their 30s. Teens ages 13 to 19 accounted for 8% of those who had abortions, while women ages 40 to 44 accounted for about 4%.

The vast majority of women who had abortions in 2021 were unmarried (87%), while married women accounted for 13%, according to  the CDC , which had data on this from 37 states.

A pie chart showing that, in 2021, majority of abortions were for women who had never had one before.

In the District of Columbia, New York City (but not the rest of New York) and the 31 states that reported racial and ethnic data on abortion to  the CDC , 42% of all women who had abortions in 2021 were non-Hispanic Black, while 30% were non-Hispanic White, 22% were Hispanic and 6% were of other races.

Looking at abortion rates among those ages 15 to 44, there were 28.6 abortions per 1,000 non-Hispanic Black women in 2021; 12.3 abortions per 1,000 Hispanic women; 6.4 abortions per 1,000 non-Hispanic White women; and 9.2 abortions per 1,000 women of other races, the  CDC reported  from those same 31 states, D.C. and New York City.

For 57% of U.S. women who had induced abortions in 2021, it was the first time they had ever had one,  according to the CDC.  For nearly a quarter (24%), it was their second abortion. For 11% of women who had an abortion that year, it was their third, and for 8% it was their fourth or more. These CDC figures include data from 41 states and New York City, but not the rest of New York.

A bar chart showing that most U.S. abortions in 2021 were for women who had previously given birth.

Nearly four-in-ten women who had abortions in 2021 (39%) had no previous live births at the time they had an abortion,  according to the CDC . Almost a quarter (24%) of women who had abortions in 2021 had one previous live birth, 20% had two previous live births, 10% had three, and 7% had four or more previous live births. These CDC figures include data from 41 states and New York City, but not the rest of New York.

The vast majority of abortions occur during the first trimester of a pregnancy. In 2021, 93% of abortions occurred during the first trimester – that is, at or before 13 weeks of gestation,  according to the CDC . An additional 6% occurred between 14 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, and about 1% were performed at 21 weeks or more of gestation. These CDC figures include data from 40 states and New York City, but not the rest of New York.

About 2% of all abortions in the U.S. involve some type of complication for the woman , according to an article in StatPearls, an online health care resource. “Most complications are considered minor such as pain, bleeding, infection and post-anesthesia complications,” according to the article.

The CDC calculates  case-fatality rates for women from induced abortions – that is, how many women die from abortion-related complications, for every 100,000 legal abortions that occur 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. During the five-year periods in between, the figure ranged from 0.52 (from 1993 to 1997) to 0.78 (from 1978 to 1982).

The CDC calculates death rates by five-year and seven-year periods because of year-to-year fluctuation in the numbers and due to the relatively low number of women who die from legal induced abortions.

In 2020, the last year for which the CDC has information , six women in the U.S. died due to complications from induced abortions. Four women died in this way in 2019, two in 2018, and three in 2017. (These deaths all followed legal abortions.) Since 1990, the annual number of deaths among women due to legal induced abortion has ranged from two to 12.

The annual number of reported deaths from induced abortions (legal and illegal) tended to be higher in the 1980s, when it ranged from nine to 16, and from 1972 to 1979, when it ranged from 13 to 63. One driver of the decline was the drop in deaths from illegal abortions. There were 39 deaths from illegal abortions in 1972, the last full year before Roe v. Wade. The total fell to 19 in 1973 and to single digits or zero every year after that. (The number of deaths from legal abortions has also declined since then, though with some slight variation over time.)

The number of deaths from induced abortions was considerably higher in the 1960s than afterward. For instance, there were 119 deaths from induced abortions in  1963  and 99 in  1965 , according to reports by the then-U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, a precursor to the Department of Health and Human Services. The CDC is a division of Health and Human Services.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published May 27, 2022, and first updated June 24, 2022.

legal case study analysis

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Key facts about the abortion debate in America

Public opinion on abortion, three-in-ten or more democrats and republicans don’t agree with their party on abortion, partisanship a bigger factor than geography in views of abortion access locally, do state laws on abortion reflect public opinion, most popular.

About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts .

Law Enforcement Deaths by Suicide


Police and correctional officers (hereafter referred to as public safety personnel) routinely confront arduous and psychologically taxing circumstances that can adversely affect their mental and emotional health. In a thorough survey encompassing 2,232 law enforcement officers, Mumford and colleagues (2021) noted that although two-thirds displayed healthy behaviors, approximately one-fourth encountered moderate health challenges, and a minority (6 percent) grappled with more severe health issues. Similarly, a separate study conducted by Drew and Martin (2023) involving 3,994 officers found that 44 percent experienced psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety within the previous four weeks, and nearly a quarter of them experienced moderate to severe distress.

Extensive research highlights the profound repercussions of poor wellness characteristics among public safety personnel, including cognitive dissonance toward society, feelings of isolation, and diminished self-worth, which potentially increase the risk of suicide attempts or deaths by suicide (Civilotti et al., 2022; Newiss et al., 2022; Stogner et al., 2020; Violanti & Steege, 2021). Thoen et al. (2020) reported that 12.4 percent of surveyed police officers expressed a likelihood of future suicide attempts, with 13.2 percent acknowledging suicidal thoughts in the past year. Moreover, compared to the general population, law enforcement officers face a 54 percent higher risk of dying by suicide (Violanti & Steege, 2021), underscoring the critical need for comprehensive wellness programs and support structures within the field.

Despite extensive research into the correlates of public safety personnel deaths by suicide, all police and public safety professions are challenged by the absence of a systematic, national, and comprehensive data collection effort to fully grasp the extent of the problem (Dixon, 2021; Malik et al., 2023; NASEM, 2023). Recognizing the critical need for accurate data in this area, Congress enacted the Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection (LESDC) Act on June 16, 2020. Part of the LESDC Act mandates the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to establish a national data collection effort to seek incidental information on suicides, including gestures, ideation, and attempted suicides within the law enforcement community. However, initial federal efforts have been slow and have encountered numerous challenges.

The nonprofit organization First H.E.L.P. (Honor, Educate, Lead, Prevent) has been collecting data systematically since 2016 on deaths by suicide among public safety personnel. In late 2023, the CNA Corporation (hereafter “CNA”) initiated a partnership with First H.E.L.P. to undertake the first comprehensive analysis of its extensive dataset on public safety personnel deaths by suicide. This brief presents an overview of previous research and data collection endeavors related to public safety personnel deaths by suicide. It outlines the methodology employed by First H.E.L.P. for its data collection and offers descriptive insights into public safety personnel deaths by suicide. The results are organized according to the year of occurrence, agency information, geographical distribution, demographic attributes, position details, help-seeking behaviors, life challenges the person encountered before their death, and details about the death event.

Approved for public release. Unlimited distribution.

  • Document Number: RM-2024-U-037860-Final
  • Publication Date: 3/20/2024

Baltimore bridge collapse: What happened and what is the death toll?

What is the death toll so far, when did the baltimore bridge collapse, why did the bridge collapse, who will pay for the damage and how much will the bridge cost.

NTSB investigators work on the cargo vessel Dali, which struck and collapsed the Francis Scott Key Bridge, in Baltimore


What ship hit the baltimore bridge, what do we know about the bridge that collapsed.

The 1.6-mile (2.57 km) long Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland collapsed into the water overnight after a cargo ship collided with it on March 26.


Reuters Graphics Reuters Graphics

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Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Bill Berkrot

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legal case study analysis

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Lisa's journalism career spans two decades, and she currently serves as the Americas Day Editor for the Global News Desk. She played a pivotal role in tracking the COVID pandemic and leading initiatives in speed, headline writing and multimedia. She has worked closely with the finance and company news teams on major stories, such as the departures of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and significant developments at Apple, Alphabet, Facebook and Tesla. Her dedication and hard work have been recognized with the 2010 Desk Editor of the Year award and a Journalist of the Year nomination in 2020. Lisa is passionate about visual and long-form storytelling. She holds a degree in both psychology and journalism from Penn State University.

Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse in Baltimore

Former Taiwan president Ma leaves for China, likely to meet Xi

Former Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou left on Monday for an 11-day trip to China where he is expected next week to have his second meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at a time of simmering tensions across the Taiwan Strait.

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

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