How to write a law report

Updated February 21, 2017

Law reports are one of the most common types of documents within the legal community, designed to provide a relatively short analysis of a particular legal problem. There is no universally recognised format for a law report, but every law report contains the same kinds of information. Law reports, as opposed to persuasive memorandums, are designed to give the reader an objective analysis of the matter in question. Writing a quality law report takes practice, but once mastered, can be a valuable tool.

State the issue or issues that the report addresses. This section should begin with a centred heading called "ISSUE" or "ISSUES" in capital letters. If there is more than one issue, each issue should be given its own numbered paragraph. Each issue statement should begin with the word "whether" and end with a question mark. The issue statement should include a combination of law and facts. In other words, does this law apply to these facts, or vice versa? For example: "Whether the defendant is liable for battery where he kissed the plaintiff while the plaintiff was sleeping?"

Provide a short answer to the issue or issues posed. This section appears directly below the Issue statement, and begins with a centred heading called "SHORT ANSWER." The short answer for each issue should begin with either "yes" or "no." Following the "yes" or "no," write a brief statement that explains the answer by applying the facts to the law. For example: "Yes. Because battery is a harmful or offensive contact to a reasonable person that does not require the plaintiff to have actual knowledge of the contact, and because kissing has been found to constitute an unreasonable harmful or offensive contact, the defendant is liable for battery."

Provide the relevant facts of the case. This section follows the Short Answer section, and begins with a centred heading entitled "FACTS." Only relevant facts should be included -- those that have some legal significance or provide important background information. The facts should be written in an objective voice. Therefore, language such as "clearly" and "obviously" should not be used.

Apply the facts to the law. This section follows the Facts section, and begins with a centred heading entitled "DISCUSSION." Begin this section with applicable law. If a statute applies, it should be provided first. If not, a discussion of the case law should be used. The source must follow each rule statement, whether a statute number or a case citation. After the relevant law is provided, the facts should be applied to that law. Do the facts satisfy the legal requirements? For example: "In Jones v. Smith, the court held that a plaintiff need not be actually aware of the harmful or offensive contact for battery to exist, so long as the contact would be harmful or offensive to a reasonable person. Jones v. Smith, 37 F.2d 438. In that case, the defendant grabbed the plaintiff's arm while the plaintiff was lying in a hospital bed unconscious after a medical procedure. The court found that the contact was offensive, reasoning that the plaintiff did not have a prior relationship with the defendant. Here, like in Jones, the plaintiff was touched by the defendant while unconscious, as the plaintiff was sleeping. Also similar to Jones, the plaintiff in this case did not have a prior relationship with the defendant, thereby rendering the contact offensive. Therefore, under Jones, the plaintiff here is entitled to recover for battery."

Provide a conclusion and offer the reader a recommendation. This section appears directly below the Discussion section, and begins with a centred heading called "CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION." Begin by repeating the issue(s) and short answer(s). For example: "The defendant would be liable for battery." Follow this sentence with a brief explanation that supports this conclusion. In other words, why the law of battery has been violated in this case. Conclude by offering a recommendation appropriate to the intended audience by first determining why the report was prepared, then by tailoring a recommendation that suits that purpose.

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About the Author

John Stevens has been a writer for various websites since 2008. He holds an Associate of Science in administration of justice from Riverside Community College, a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice from California State University, San Bernardino, and a Juris Doctor from Whittier Law School. Stevens is a lawyer and licensed real-estate broker.