Firstly read the case extremely carefully at least once taking note of all authorities cited by the court. Secondly make notes of pertinent points as you read the case a second time.
Structure of the case note.
The structure is particularly important in a case note as unlike an essay or coursework, the question relies entirely on the case given. The area of concentration is therefore specific and narrow although you will have to consider whether the case has wider impact.
As with an essay or coursework you should always introduce the area of law impacted by the case and why the case is worthy of such attention.
Only relevant facts should be presented in an orderly and logical manner. You must extrapulate the main facts and not just give a running commentary on the case. Also bear in mind that courts often distinguish cases on their facts. Describe any lower courts decision, appeals and any subsequent action. After reading the facts section the reader should have a clear idea of the critical facts and the setting in which the current court is giving its judgment.
Set out the court’s reasoning behind its judgment (ratio). Mention any words said by the way (obiter dicta).
Background or Discussion of Prior Law.
In this section, provide the reader with the relevant background law relating to the issues regardless of whether discussed in the decisions. Describe the existing law and its development. In closing this section, relate the selected case to the prior law to illustrate how, if at all, the selected case affects prior law.
Reasoning or Analysis.
After describing and critically analysing the court’s reasoning you should be able to express your own view. Remain objective but point out any flaws you detect in the judgment. Support your criticisms with appropriate authorities. You may agree with any dissenting judgments and if so explain why. If you detect ambiguity in the court’s reasoning you should explore such statements.
Examine whether the judgment affects the existing law or whether there are any proposals for reform in this area of the law. Refer to Law Commissions or Parliamentary Committees for example.
This section gives you the opportunity to demonstrate legal skill and incisiveness by dissecting the case and raising important issues.
If the case is not that recent, you will need to consider whether the decision has been affected, modified, approved or overruled in later cases.
Bring your case note full circle, reinforcing the “noteworthiness” of the selected case and summarising the points made in each topical section.