Factual Analysis: Get to Know the Facts!
Legal research starts with really knowing the facts!
A factual analysis isolates the relevant facts and helps to expose the legal question and issue(s). This skill takes practice!
The PEC (Parties, Events, Claims) method of factual analysis is a helpful starting point.
- Who are the people involved in the dispute?
- What are all the existing relationships between the parties?
- Are any of the parties in a contractual relationship?
- Are there family relationships?
- Does one party employ or supervise another?
- Does any party have a legal duty towards another party?
- Is any level of government involved?
- Is this a civil or criminal issue?
- What personal characteristics such as age, occupation, marital status, and employment status are known?
- What events gave rise to the dispute?
- To begin, ask yourself questions like:
- What happened?
- Where and when did each event occur?
- Who was present?
- Do the events follow a sequence?
- Organize the events in chronological order.
- Organize related events under separate headings.
- What are the different versions of the events?
- Parties will often give different accounts of what happened. Keep track of which facts are being reported by which parties.
- What is the legal history of this claim?
- Is this an appeal from a tribunal, arbitration, or lower court?
- What claims are the parties making?
- Are they seeking compensation for:
- Lost profits?
- Physical injury?
- Property damage?
- Are they seeking an injunction?
- Is a government agency seeking a fine or penalty?
- Are they seeking reinstatement?
- Is a jail sentence involved?
- How has each party characterized their claim?
- How will the claim likely be defended against?
These are only examples of the questions you should be asking yourself at the factual analysis stage.