Brief Writing

Build Better Briefs with Westlaw

A step-by-step guide


Step #1 | Find An On-Point Case or Statute

  • Start with a Statute
  • Start with a Case
  • Expand Your Research

All you need is an on-point statute to launch your research. Let's help you find it!

A great place to start with a brief problem is going to be either state or federal laws. For this, start with statutes.

1. Click on Statutes - Choose Your State or Federal Code
2. Type in Basic Search Terms – Think Facts + Law + Issue
3. Choose Relevant Statute
4. Is My Statute Changing? Go to History to see Proposed Legislation and Legislative History
Note: Any proposed or accepted law changes that affect the law are listed here!


Or you can start with a case!

1. Click on Cases - Choose Your State or Federal Jurisdiction
2. Type in Basic Search Terms – Think Facts + Law + Issue
3. Use Filters or Search Within Feature to Narrow Results
4. Select an on-point case
4. Is My Authority Good Law? Go to the Negative Treatment tab to see!


You'll need more than one source. Quickly expand your research!

Once you have your launching pad for your research, leverage Westlaw features to easily expand your research.

For cases , you can use the Key Numbers to find additional headnotes from any jurisdiction on the same issue.
Simply click on the text to left of any linked Key Number and it will build a list for you of similar cases...SO EASY!!

Hot Tip: Sort by "Most Cited" to list the leading cases first

For statutes , you can review the Notes of Decisions tab at the top of the statute to find headnotes that apply and cases interpret your statute. You can also review helpful secondary sources under Context and Analysis for additional understanding and discussion.


A great place to start with a brief problem is going to be a either state or federal laws. For this start with statutes.



Step # 2 | Start Writing..but not from scratch

Finding an on-point sample brief can be your gateway to easily start writing your memo. You can see how to organize your argument and get a table of contents to launch your research. Work smart, don't reinvent the wheel.


Step #3: Check Your Work

FOMA: Fear of Missing Authority

With the click of a button,you can get rid of that nervous feeling that you might have missed something...even after hours and hours of research.

I use Quick Check for my own briefs, to give me peace of mind that I didn't miss something or that at the very least I had looked at it and made a determination. That helps me sleep at night.

Jeunesse M. Rutledge Associate, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c.

Learn to Use Quick Check in Two Steps

Step #4: Table of Authorites

Step #4 | Build Your Table of Authorities

Don't lose easy points on your TOA!

A table of authorities lists every legal authority cited in the brief, along with the page numbers on which the citations occur.
Learn how to easily build your TOA with our exclusive tools and tighten things up in word.

Step #5: Oral Arguments

Step #5: Oral Arguments
Your Brief is Done. Time to Litigate! Here are our best tips.

Quick Check

Find Your Opponent's Weaknesses

Video Tip Lesson

Nail Your
Oral Argument

Practice Note

Attorney Tips for Effective Appellate Advocacy