Appellate Insights

Apr 05, 2016 Laurie J. Hepler
Resolve to Say Less

Commit to succinctness. Swear off at least the top 10% of any court’s word-limit for a brief – and more would be better. Remember, that limit is the maximum the court will accept; not the length the court wants to see. Here’s a chorus to help convince you:

  • “I never fully understood before going on the bench how crucial brevity is. I have so little time to read and grasp each brief.” My former co-counsel in several matters, now an appellate judge.
  • “Every fact, every case, every word and every punctuation mark has to fight its way into my brief. I ask each one, ‘What can you contribute to my chance for victory on appeal?’ If it doesn’t give me a good answer, out it goes.” Myron Moskovitz, Golden Gate Univ. Law Professor Emeritus, in a recent column.
  • “Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it.” William Zinsser, in On Writing Well, considered by many to be “the Bible” of great writing.

The practical message: Relentlessly cut repetition, asides, flabby phrases, and weak arguments. Courts will love you for it.