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Writing Tips For Large Projects

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Practicing law comes with many writing projects. Emails, internal memos, motions, oppositions and the like. And then there are “briefs.” One of the more ridiculous ways to describe the writing projects of the longest and most complex type, the word “brief” belies the undertaking it requires to create one. Briefs require, in fact, the most rigorous attention and devotion if they are to turn out right. But, to make the process more palatable, there are a number of things you can do to make your path an easier one to walk.

  1. Exhibits and Other Case Documents

Take the time before you begin to craft your brief to peruse and organize the exhibits you will use to frame your legal argument. There is only so much you can do with the law, as we all know, and it’s application to the facts is just, if not more, crucial, to a successful argument. Knowing exactly where your facts exist in the file (statement of material facts, opposition to summary judgment, deposition testimony, etc.) will take time upfront, but will ultimately save you headaches as you begin the drafting process.

Your flow will be less disrupted if you know where you can turn in order to cite facts and testimony and have all the necessary documents pulled together in one place. It will also help you feel confident that you know your file inside and out and aren’t missing an important piece of the overall case.

  1. Rules

Whether it’s a simple motion to extend, or an appellate brief to the Supreme Judicial Court, there are rules of procedure, local rules and/or rules from the court that will impact the timing of your brief, the length of it, the format of it and the manner in which you serve it upon opposing counsel and ultimately file it with the court.

Read through the relevant rules and get a broad idea of the various requirements that apply to your particular brief. If this is something you’re going to be doing repeatedly throughout your career, invest some time and effort into creating a rubric of timelines and requirements. Make a note of which rule gives rise to which requirement and refer back to it frequently so that you don’t unwittingly make a procedural error.

  1. Outline

Writing briefs can, in some circumstances, feel daunting. There are so many facts and arguments to string together into a cogent argument that, at the beginning, connecting all of it seems impossible. Take it in small, digestible portions and outline your argument for each piece of the brief. Once you’ve outlined, take a step back and look for themes and connections. It may seem counterintuitive, but I often write my introduction or “summary of the argument” last, after everything else has been drafted, so that I have a clear grasp of the full brief and can summarize it efficiently in writing. Similarly, take a step back to see if any of the structural decisions about the brief, or any of its content/arguments, actually work together or whether any should be changed

After you’ve done this preparatory work, you’re left with old-fashioned elbow grease and your LexisNexis subscription. But with good organization, an understanding of the rules, and a clear outline of both the brief and the arguments within it, you’ll be off to a running start

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