What Is a Skeleton Argument?

A skeleton argument is a brief document used to provide United Kingdom and Irish courts with a general overview of case history, how the side plans to proceed and the legal basis for the relief being requested. Skeleton arguments are also used in moot court.

A skeleton argument has several components which are generally divided into sections, as listed below. The initial section specifies a summary of the order sought, along with the law(s) justifying that relief. Such a filing also provides the court with the history and background of the case and designates which parts have been agreed upon by both parties and which parts continue to be in contention.

A section follows which names the legal authorities the attorney(s) expect to reference and apprises the court of any precedents which apply, including any necessary citations. The next section provides the submissions of fact, including relevant reports, records and interviews that provide evidence in favor of the desired outcome.

Finally, a short summary follows, which informs the court of exactly what sort of order or other action is being requested. If there are any relevant precedents to be presented, a final section should be appended which contains either copies of the precedents to be referenced or a reading list of those cases, and, ideally, an estimate of the length of time required for the court to read through the precedents.