Appellate Insights

Jun 15, 2017 Laurie J. Hepler
Get To The Point

What if no email you received had a Subject line?  What if writers only told you what they needed somewhere in the middle?  And how about a news article that goes on too long, sprinkled with “color words” that make you question its reliability?

This is the kind of frustration and distrust that even good lawyers cause, with briefs that read like revved-up research memos.  Despite some special and even arcane features, appellate briefs are tools of communication aimed to achieve specific results.  So treat them that way:

  • Use substantive headings throughout.
  • Tell court readers quickly what relief you want, and why you should get it.  This has always been important, but has become even more so as electronic communication has trained people to expect information in shorter bites.
  • Dazzle with your authorities, clarity and logic.  Omit adverbs, adjectives and accusations.
  • A good story helps, if it holds human interest and demonstrates the fairness of the result you seek.  But keep it succinct and non-manipulative.

►  The practical message:  Just like email, appellate briefs go to busy readers with too many to get through, on a huge array of topics.  Don’t file any brief that (in all honesty) you’d hate to have to read.