Skip to content
RMIT University Library - Learning Lab

Writing case notes


Case notes usually require you to provide a summary of the case which outlines the relevant facts, explains the legal issues and the judge's reasoning (ratio). This is followed by a critique of the judge's decisions and a discussion of the implications of the case. In doing this, you are evaluating the court's decision.

Writing process


Identify the purpose of the case notes according to the assignment briefing and the marking rubric. Read the case - skim first to understand the issue and context; reread (as often as necessary) to pull out the key facts and points of law.

Undertake research using reliable authorative sources. Begin with relevant course readings; look for existing case notes on the case, peer-reviewed articles or other cases to support your arguments. See the library's Law and Justice subject guide for tips on accessing legal sources.

Brainstorm your response to the task. Consider the legal principles covered in your lectures and recommended readings for the course.

Plan the document; organisation can vary. Outline your structure based on the task instructions and decide on a logical order to represent your ideas (e.g. according to judicial reasoning or court rulings).

Write your paper using your plan and research. Avoid unnecessary description of case details. Provide an introduction with a brief explanation of the case to lay the foundation of your analysis and critique of the case decision.
  Edit and review. Is it logical, clear and concise? Have you addressed all the elements of the marking rubric? Are all sources cited? Proofread. Check for grammatical errors that can reduce clarity. Spelling mistakes, typos and inconsistencies can cost you marks.

More information on assignment writing


There is no one way to structure case notes. The table below outlines requirements and possible elements of case notes. Always refer to assignment instructions.

  Elements Requirements
Summary Introduction Identify: Case name and citation (use most authoritative source)

Parties and brief facts

Typ of court and history of the case



Might include the nature of the legal issue(s) and/or suggest why the case is of importance/interest.

Might outline procedural history, including if the case is a first instance decision of if there have been appeals.

Facts Explain the facts of the case relevant to the law. Only provide sufficient information to show how the legal issues arose.
Legal Issues

Identify and explain the applicable law.

Outline the arguments presented i.e.the contentions of the parties.

Decision Describe the outcome of the case, including the ratio (reasoning) of the judge(s) and orders made in applying the law.
Analysis Analysis

Analyse how the rules were applied. Did the reasoning support the decision?

Consider the background and context of the case.

Evaluate the court'’'s decision. With split decisions (dissenting judgments),is the majority's rationale persuasive? What was the reason for different findings (e.g. interpretation and/or application of the law)? These questions are especially important if you disagree with the case outcome.

Where the case determination is based on appeal, consider how the decision justifies or reconciles earlier decisions. Weighing this up could require further research into the precedents referred to in the judgement.

Describe how the case been treated since. Present any social implications or impact on business practices. Assess any policy or legislative implications.

Summary Briefly sum up your main points from your case analysis and restate your position regarding the significance of the case.

Style considerations

Key features of the professional, academic style required in writing case notes includes:

  • formal language; avoid idiom or slang, using I, no contractions
  • an objective tone that avoids emotive language
  • headings, sub-heading and numbering to separate your arguments
  • paragraphs and complete sentences to develop your position, not dot points
  • arguments based on evidence from case reports and scholarly sources, which must be cited using AGLC4