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How to write a legal brief - 15 best pactices and 10 mistakes to avoid

No one ever became a great lawyer by accident. It takes years of hard work and dedication to the craft. And one of the most important skills that any lawyer can develop is their writing ability. Writing legal briefs is perhaps one of the most important skills a lawyer can possess - it can make or break a case.

In this blog post, we will discuss how to write a legal brief template, the best practices for legal brief writing, as well as mistakes to avoid. We will also take a look at how legal AI can help you write better briefs, faster and more efficiently.

Writing is a lawyer's main tool of communication

Though it may seem like a drastic thing to say, poor writing skills make for a poor lawyer. Legal writing is the main tool of communication for a lawyer, and if your writing is unclear or disorganized, it can hurt your professional reputation and make it more difficult to get your point across.

There are many things to pay attention to: syntax, as little ambiguity as possible, grammatical correctness, and more. Without these, a contract or legal brief can be rendered unenforceable or misunderstood, leading to a variety of issues.

The key to legal brief writing

Legal briefs require special attention because not only should they make your point clear and persuasive, but also meet certain formatting requirements set forth in the rules of procedure for the court they will be submitted to.

A well-written legal brief will clearly present the facts, the law and the argument. It should be concise, clear and easy to understand. The goal should be to make the argument as clear and concise as possible, without sacrificing accuracy or thoroughness. To do this, lawyers need to consider all of the relevant facts and arguments in order to present a logical, well-supported case.

The goals of writing law briefs

There are three main goals that can work as guidelines for writing an effective brief. First, present the facts in an organized and concise manner, accurately representing the situation of the clients. Second, explain the applicable law as clearly and concisely as possible. Third, make the argument persuasive and logical.

By following these steps, a lawyer can

Best practices for writing legal briefs

1. Research the case thoroughly

Before writing the first word, it is important to make sure that all of the facts and arguments relevant to the case have been uncovered and thoroughly considered. Read the case file carefully. This will help provide an accurate and thorough brief.

2. Outline the argument

It is important to create an outline for the brief that outlines all of the facts, arguments, and legal principles relevant to the case. This will serve as a roadmap when writing the brief.

3. Make sure it is reader-friendly

The audience reading the brief may not be familiar with certain legal terms or concepts, so it is important to make sure that the language is reader-friendly and easy to understand.

4. Use simple sentences

It is best to use simple, direct sentences when writing a legal brief - this will help ensure that the main points of the argument are easily understood.

5. Double-check for accuracy

Make sure to double-check all facts, arguments, and legal principles for accuracy. This will help ensure that the brief is accurate and well-supported. Though it may seem like citations in the text interrupt the flow, judges need to be able to read and understand documents quickly, which is not helped by constantly having to search for the right place on the page to read next.

6. Put citations in the text (and not the footnotes)

Make sure to include citations in the text and not just relegate them to footnotes. This will allow readers to easily see where the facts and arguments come from.

7. Use italics or bolding for emphasis

To emphasize certain points, use italics or bolding. This will help draw attention to the most important parts of the argument. It is a formatting choice preferred by three quarters of judges. Also, do not use underlining or all caps, and remember that emphasis is effective only when used sparingly.

8. Skip the legalese and overlong introductions

It is best to avoid legalese and overlong introductions - these can make the brief more difficult to read and detract from the main argument. Spotting any "whereby", "hereinafter" or "wherefore" means that mistakes have been made. As for introductions, there is simply no need to restate the obvious.

9. The Oxford comma is a useful tool

The Oxford comma - that is, a comma before the "and" in a list of items - is a useful tool when writing legal briefs. It helps to clarify meaning and reduce ambiguity, which can be critical in a legal document.

10. Use the parties' names if possible, but remember court rules

When referring to parties in the brief, use their names instead of plaintiff/defendant, appellant/appellee, or petitioner/respondent. In some cases, you will have to comply with the requirements of a particular court, but otherwise, be plain. This will help to make the case brief easier to read and faster to understand.

11. Do not be too respectful

Phrases like "with all due respect" can come off as disingenuous and stuffy to legal professionals. On top of that, they communicate no information. Even if the other party is a judge or a high-ranking official of the court, you do not need to be too respectful - just use plain language.

12. But be respectful about the opponent

It is bad form to attack the other side's legal argument in an emotional manner, e.g. calling it frivolous or laughable. It communicates nothing useful and may make the trial brief seem hyperbolic. Instead, stick to the statement of facts and legal arguments.

13. Put two spaces after a period

Using two spaces after a period is an old writing style that was practiced by experienced writers and editors, but it has lately been replaced by one space. However, in legal documents, using two spaces can help to make the text easier to read - for example when a period is necessary within a sentence (id., Fed., etc.)

14. Add informative headings

Headings help to make the structure and flow of the legal brief more clear. This is especially useful when a single document contains multiple sections or arguments. Just make sure that headings are informative and include key points of the sections they introduce.

15. Use a legal brief template

Using a legal brief template can help you structure your argument and increase its readability. A good brief should include an introduction, statement of facts, summary of the law and discussion of the same, conclusion and supporting citations.

How to write a legal brief template

A legal brief template is an excellent way to improve speed of work and reduce the risk of making formatting mistakes. It helps to structure the argument and provide easier navigation of the legal brief.

Here is an example of a good legal brief outline:

  1. Introduction - introduce the parties and provide a brief background on the case.
  2. Table of Authorities (TOA) - list all cases, statutes, rules and other authorities cited in the brief.
  3. Statement of facts - provide a chronological narrative of events, identify the parties, and set the scene.
  4. Argument section - synthesize relevant legal authorities and explain their relevance to the case.
  5. Conclusion - summarize the argument and draw a conclusion based on it.

Common mistakes to avoid when writing a legal brief

1. Omitting relevant facts or arguments

It is important to make sure all of the legally relevant facts and arguments are included in the brief. If any are omitted, this can weaken the argument or even lead to a different outcome.

2. Not citing sources properly

It is important to make sure that all facts are properly cited and that the sources are reliable. This will help show that the facts and arguments presented in the brief are accurate and supported.

3. Not citing all sources

When making an argument, it is important to cite all of the sources that support it. If any are left out, this can cast doubt on the accuracy of the argument or weaken its validity in court.

4. Not following formatting rules

It is important to make sure that the brief follows all of the formatting rules set forth by the court it is being submitted to. Otherwise, it may be rejected or not taken seriously.

5. Writing too much or too little

Keep the brief concise and to the point - aim for a length that is neither too long or too short. Writing too much can cause confusion and make the argument difficult to follow, while writing too little can leave out important information.

6. Failing to consider all sides

It is important to consider all sides of the argument when writing a legal brief. Failing to do so can lead to an incomplete or inaccurate argument that may not be effective in court.

7. Not double-checking for accuracy

Finally, make sure to double-check all facts and arguments for accuracy before submitting the brief - this will help ensure that the argument is well-supported and accurate.

8. Citing authority that is no longer good law

It is important to make sure that all of the sources cited in the brief are still valid and applicable. Citing authority that is no longer good law can weaken the argument, or even lead to a different outcome. This is one of the areas in which legal AI like AnyLawyer can be highly useful - it can act as a research partner and fact-checker that flags sections requiring further verification.

9. Writing too much

A legal brief should be as concise as possible. Avoid using flowery language or lengthy descriptions - they can confuse the reader and detract from the main point of the argument.

10. Changing citation and formatting style throughout the text

It is important to be consistent with citation and formatting style throughout the brief. Different styles can cause confusion, lead to inaccuracies and make the argument difficult to follow.

Legal AI as a writing partner

Today, attorneys have access to powerful tools to help them write better legal briefs faster and more efficiently. Legal AI is becoming an increasingly popular way to streamline the legal document writing process. With AI, you can focus on the content of your briefs while the technology takes care of mundane tasks such as formatting and citation checking. Legal AI can be used to quickly research cases, outline arguments, and double-check for accuracy - all of which can improve the quality of your briefs significantly.

How to write a legal brief

The ability to write a good appellate or legal brief is an important element of legal practice. By following the best practices outlined above and avoiding common mistakes, as well as taking advantage of legal AI, lawyers will be able to write high-quality briefs that clearly articulate their argument. With this in mind, lawyers should be able to confidently present their case in court and achieve the desired outcome.