Appellate Insights

Jul 13, 2021 Alana H. Rotter
Back to Basics

Lawyers who’ve been living with a case, especially in an area of their specialty, are deeply immersed in the relevant law.  But don’t assume that’s true of the court—judges tend to be generalists, given the wide array of cases on their dockets.  To maximize persuasiveness, make your papers easily comprehensible to a relative stranger:

  • Orient the reader by providing an overview of the governing legal framework, especially in technical areas.
  • If your case turns on statutory interpretation, include the full text of the relevant statute for ease of reference.  For readability, consider placing this in an appendix.  (The key language, of course, should also be quoted in your main text.)
  • Avoid acronyms and jargon that would be unfamiliar to someone new.  Instead, use descriptive terms that are easier for the uninitiated to follow.

►  The practical message:  Although you are an expert in your case, your judicial audience isn’t (yet).  Draft your motions and briefs accordingly.