A third-year student at The University of Michigan Law School has created an iPad app, BriefCase, that automates the creation of case briefs.

BriefCase1The student, David Lutz, found it cumbersome to have to print out PDFs of cases, annotate them, and then type all the annotated information into a brief. The app lets you do all that on an iPad. (There are no iPhone or Android versions.)

The app allows you to annotate PDFs of court decisions using nine customizable highlight colors. Each color represents a facet of a case, such as Facts, Procedural History, Issues, Holding and Reasoning. You can edit the colors to give them any label you like.

As you read a case, you use the different colored highlighters to mark text as important to one of the facets. Marking is done simply by holding your finger down on the text and then dragging to select the portion you want. You can also underline text and add notes.

BriefCase2When you are done, tap the “Brief” button and a case brief is created, with your highlights organized in bullet points under the labels associated with each color. Each bullet point links back to its place in the text.

Cases can be organized into folders that you create and name. Cases can be moved between folders and folders can be organized either alphabetically or by creation date.

BriefCase also has a built-in dictionary that allows you to highlight any term in a case and get its definition, even when offline.

Free vs. Paid Features

The app is free to download and everything I described above can be done for free. For a price of $9.99 a year, users can get these additional features.

  • A unique email address that allows the user to send cases directly from Westlaw, Lexis or other research sites into BriefCase. (Free users must import the cases manually.)
  • Ability to share briefs by email and print them. (There is no way to share or print briefs in the free version.)
  • Ability to sync briefs with Google Drive and Dropbox.

Given that the free version does not allow you to print or email briefs, it is pretty much useless except as a way of trying out the app. At the same time, if you try it and find it useful, then $9.99 for a year is certainly a reasonable price.

Frankly, it has been a long time since I have briefed cases in this way. The app is likely to be of interest only to law students and newer associates. If you brief a lot of cases, it may be worth checking out.

For more information, visit the app’s website or see it in the iTunes store.

  • Smiegal

    Why didn’t we have this in when I was in law school?!

  • What will those kids think of next? Out of law school 20 years and makes me feel ancient.

  • I do not think that this app accomplishes the actual purpose of briefing a case – to put it into your own words so you can refer to it in a meaningful way. Simple cut & paste does not allow for the process and integration of information into your knowledge base. For law students use, it totally misses the pedagogical mark of learning critical reading skill development, legal analysis, and writing in a concise way.

    • That is clearly a shortcoming of the app. But I would think you could use the brief it creates as an interim step between reading the case and putting it into your own words.

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  • Anna K

    Nice perk for Law Students as well as other Lawyers! What will be next?

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  • Jon Anders

    As Linda aptly pointed out, BriefCase limits the user to reporting verbatim excerpts. BriefCase also strictly limits the user to use of the standard academic FIRAC method. QuaeroLex Desktop Organizer (Google ‘QuaeroLex’), a Windows desktop-based application, eliminates these limits altogether – allowing you to add, search, and report content in your own words, as noted by Robert – and provides a much greater scope of capability. QDO permits the user to define his/her own analysis tags (e.g. “Issue”, “Consistent”, “Contradicted”) thus broadening the usefulness to documents such as deposition transcripts and more. QDO allows import and management of a broad range of documents. QDO is scheduled for release early this year (2016) and is right now in the alpha testing stage. Alpha-group user feedback is driving last-minute enhancements. If you are interested in participating, please contact me at jon(dot)anders(at)QuaeroLex(dot)net