Every Factum Needs an Excellent Overview Statement

I was surprised to receive a factum last week that omitted an overview statement. Most people now include an overview statement even though some Rules of Court do not expressly require one.

The overview statement is the most important part of any factum. Its purpose is to explain what the case is really about. Too short, or not enough context, and the first opportunity to persuade is lost. Too long, or not sufficiently focused, and the reader is left confused rather than primed to understand the subsequent argument.

When I am drafting a factum (or even a letter, or a memo), I follow Justice Laskin’s advice to “tell my well-informed next door neighbour what the case is about.” My next door neighbour doesn’t know anything about estoppel, but if I tell her it is a case about someone who made a promise who is now trying to get out of it, they have critical context for understanding the subsequent argument that builds on these themes.

Spend the time polishing your overview statement. An overview statement is especially important today in business and legal writing when people are in a hurry to understand.


  1. Thank you for this post. It is particularly timely for me: We just assigned a Summary of Argument assignment to our first-year law students, and Justice Laskin’s article was among the readings. In class we discussed precisely what you wrote about context and persuasion in opening statements.

    We’ve also now referred the students to your post.


  2. Jean-Marc Leclerc

    Excellent, glad to hear. I still think a factum is the most important and powerful advocacy tool in any case so it is worth practicing!