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How to Establish and Maintain Your Credibility with the Court

More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle identified ethos—credibility—as one of the three core components of persuasion (the other two are logos, logic, and pathos, emotional appeal). Because your goal when writing a brief is to persuade the court to rule in your client’s favor, it’s important to understand how to establish and maintain your credibility. Accuracy in your […]

What Lawyers Can Learn From Twitter Account that Converts Federal Rules Into Haiku

Twitter is an amazing place. Since I created a Twitter account in 2008, I’ve followed a wide variety of tweeters, for both business and pleasure. For business, I follow such accounts as legal research providers Westlaw, Casetext and Fastcase; legal practice management tools Clio, MyCase and RocketMatter; and the hashtag #AppellateTwitter. For fun, I follow accounts like We Rate […]

Use Storytelling Techniques to Make Your Briefs More Persuasive

You’ve undoubtedly had the experience of reading a book that’s so compelling you can’t put it down. You can make your briefs more compelling—and therefore more persuasive—to the judges and law clerks who read them by applying in your briefs the same storytelling techniques used by creative writers. In fiction, stories have three primary elements: […]

What judges hate about your briefs: top five takeaways from survey results

Recently, legal-writing expert Ross Guberman surveyed thousands of judges about their legal-writing preferences. Judges at all levels—from state trial-court judges to U.S. Supreme Court Justices—weighed in on a variety of subjects, from formatting conventions to word choice, persuasive strategies, use of case law and treatment of facts. You can read Guberman’s report on some of […]

Defamation Plaintiff Beats Buzzfeed at its Own Clickbait Game

Last week, lawyers for the plaintiffs in a defamation case against the hugely popular website Buzzfeed gave the site a taste if its own medicine. In the case, the plaintiffs sought damages for defamation following Buzzfeed’s publication of a dossier linking them to unsavory conduct and characters surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential […]

How to Write Effective Argument Headings

Argument headings (also called point headings) play two important roles in legal briefs. First, they serve a rhetorical purpose: they let the reader know what’s addressed in the text that follows and (if effectively phrased) point the reader toward the conclusion the writer wants the reader to draw. Second, they serve a practical purpose. Unfortunately, […]

3 Easy-to-Keep Legal-Writing Resolutions for 2017

Losing weight, saving more and getting organized are popular New Year’s resolutions for personal improvement. Similar resolutions can help you improve your legal writing. To make these legal-writing resolutions easy to keep, each resolution is accompanied with concrete implementation tips. Cut the fat from your briefs by editing for concision. Losing weight is a perennially popular […]

Texas Supreme Court Justice is as Memorable in Opinions as in 140 Characters

Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett is known for many things: for being Texas’s “Tweeter Laureate”; for being on Donald Trump’s short list of potential Supreme Court justices despite repeatedly mocking the candidate on Twitter; and for being one of the best writers on the bench today. His recent concurring opinion in Patel v. Texas […]

Second Edition of Typography for Lawyers Should Be on Every Lawyer’s Bookshelf

If you’re not a legal-writing nerd like me, you may be skeptical about whether good typography really has any effect on the persuasiveness of a brief. After all, I’m sure you’ve received at least one decision that made you wonder if the judge even saw your brief, much less read it. But, as Matthew Butterick […]