The key to great appellate briefing is to eliminate distractions from the brilliance of your argument

Alaine Patti-Jelsvik, Esq. In his recent article titled “4 Vignettes Lead to a Single Moral About Writing Better Briefs,” published in the ABA Journal, Bryan Garner provides some excellent tips for briefing practice.1 For those writing appeals, some of the key takeaways from the article are:

First: Formatting, formatting and formatting.
A great way to avoid “very mild revulsion” or “pity” by the court is to make sure the formatting of your brief is in exact compliance with the Rules of Practice for your jurisdiction. Font size, spacing, margins, headings, footnotes, cover and tables are powerful tools that can keep your reader focused on your perspective and eliminate distraction from what’s important – justice for your client!

Second: Consistency, consistency and consistency.
Whether you’re using a single space between sentences or two, whether you put the period inside your parenthesis or outside, and whether you are using 1½ spacing or double spacing, be consistent. Inconsistencies are avoidable distractions.

Third: You only have one chance at a first impression.
Your Table of Contents is the first page read by the justices, even before the introduction. It brings your reader through the case to your conclusion. In addition, your Table of Authorities sets your reader’s expectations that the arguments are based in law. Formatting and consistency here are key. Accuracy is also essential to maintain credibility with your reader. Remember, your Table of Contents is the map of your argument which leads to the treasure – your conclusion. Your headings tell a story, so make it a good one to keep your reader interested!

Through its award-winning CP Legal Research Group, Counsel Press, the largest and most experienced appellate services company in the United States, has assisted thousands of attorneys with their briefs, including brief review, brief re-crafting and brief writing. Should you require assistance with the editing stage, proofreading or writing of your brief, CP Legal Research Group is here to help.
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1I subscribe to Bryan Garner’s e-mails on writing, and I get them weekly. If anyone is interested, here is the link to his site: http://www.lawprose.org .

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