You Made Your Case
The Art of Persuading Judges
Sit down and write. Then revise.
Then revise again. Finally, revise.
Any author will tell you that the hardest part of writing is getting started. Force yourself to write according to the schedule you have established.
Write the questions presented first, the body of your argument next, and then the statement of facts. Save the introduction and conclusion for later, since they usually preview and review the argument. Last of all, write the summary of the argument. Summarizing sharpens your focus—and you may well find yourself modifying the text as you summarize it. Many judges find the summary of the argument the single most important part of a brief, so don’t omit this part-and give it the attention it deserves.
For the careful writer, the hardest thing after starting is stopping. Every read-through uncovers some needed change, and the job is never really done until the copy is wrested from the diligent author’s grasp and sent off to the printer. Don’t do all your revising on the computer. Some failings—for example, a missing connection in argument or undue length—are more easily spotted in hard copy. At least one set of edits should be made on the printed page, pen in hand.
It’s helpful to lay the draft aside for a time—perhaps a few days—between read-throughs. Distance often improves the writer’s perspective. This means that the time you set aside for writing the brief should be ample.
If you have the time and the friends, get some good lawyer who is not intimately familiar with the case—one who knows as much about the acts and the relevant law as the judge who will read your brief—to give the brief a quick read, about as quick as judge’s will be. A reader off the street , so to speak, will sometimes be able to spot gaps and deficiencies that you are too close to the argument to perceive.
The next-to-last read-through should be devoted solely to compression—eliminating those sentences, phrases, and words that do not work. Every word that is not a help is a hindrance because it distracts. A judge who realizes that a brief is a wordy will skim it; one who finds a brief terse and concise will read every word. The final read-through should be exclusively devoted to seeing whether certain points can be put more clearly, more vividly, more crisply.