Preliminary Statements and Introductions: Checklists and Models

Craft a concise, effective, and persuasive introduction in little time by looking at your dispute through these four lenses: The Narrative Lens. Begin with a paragraph or two that covers what many attorneys never explain at all: who the parties are; when, where, and how the dispute arose; what question the dispute is over and why your client is in the right (in my book, Point Made, […]

Five Ways to Write Like John Roberts The Brief-Writer—Alaska v. EPA

When Chief Justice John Roberts was a lawyer, he once wrote that determining the “best” available technology for controlling air pollution is like asking people to pick the “best” car: “Mario Andretti may select a Ferrari; a college student a Volkswagen beetle; a family of six a minivan. The choices would turn on how the […]

A BigLaw Paragraph Meets BriefCatch: A Case Study

“Throat-clearing”—starting sentences with phrases like “it is inconceivable that”—is a big problem in briefs filed by even the best firms. Take this paragraph from a recent emergency petition for stay of a Pennsylvania redistricting order: BriefCatch can help you find many issues in just this paragraph alone. Throat-Clearing and Much More The first thing to notice is […]

Six Ways to Tighten Motions

An elite litigation boutique filed the rejected motion for Meta (Facebook). The apparently offending footnotes seemed reasonable, but the judge still kicked the motion out of court until the litigators could refile. Lesson for all: When it comes to word and page limits, avoid even the appearance of impropriety. View on

Finessing Footnotes in Legal Briefs

“Judges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs.” Footnote-averse judges love to cite that condemnation from United States v. Dunkel. Others quote Noel Coward on the subject: “Having to read a footnote resembles having to go downstairs to answer the door while in the midst of making love.” In practice, though, many great […]

Once Upon a Time: Replace Dates with Phrases That Convey a Sense of Time

Few things are duller than a paragraph stuffed with dates. “Using an exact date signals to the reader that it is important—that the reader should remember it for future reference,” says former Judge Mark Painter. “If that’s not your intention, strike it out. You can convey continuity and order by clues like next and later.”[1] […]

Poker Face: Concede Bad Facts But Put Them in Context

With legal disputes, rarely does every fact favor the prevailing party. To present a compelling case while maintaining credibility, nod to bad facts and then neutralize them by controlling how they appear in context. One strategy is to embed unfavorable facts in Although clauses and then turn the reader’s attention elsewhere. In the copyright case […]