For some writers it means a summary; for others, a summary plus a critical commentary. Check the assignment instructions. If you have to write a summary plus a critical commentary, it's usually best to answer in two sections. Some assignments have four sections, basically covering the same divisions.
What goes into a case summary?
This is your understanding of the case in your own words, as briefly and succinctly as possible (aim at less than 10% of the word count, or else proportional to the marks). It may start with:
and should then objectively cover the major aspects of the judgment, including:
Read your assignment instructions carefully to make sure you are emphasising those areas highlighted by your lecturers. Below is an example of some initial notes on a case, with some 'prompts' to move from the summary to the critique. It is an aid to your reading, but you will need to be selective about what you include in your summary.
Example of Notes from a Case (from Monash University)
In a case critique you need to write analytically, creating an argument. This is your opinion on the case and the judgment, analysing why you consider the case important.
Your claims must be substantiated and referenced, and with a clear and logical argument defined by sub-headings. You should adopt a clear position from which to examine the significance of the case. In developing your argument, you will draw on the case and other materials to reveal that significance.
Depending on the assignment, you should:
Most law journals regularly publish case notes, especially on recent decisions. You can choose:
See an example of a case note in AUSTLII.
Another approach is to use a case citator, such as CaseBase, to find the case and associated commentary. The articles referred to may be case notes or more general commentary covering the legal issues involved in the case.