Good Writing: It Takes Time

Dallas, Texas – Peter Smythe ˙ 2019

Dallas, Texas – Peter Smythe ˙ 2019

Right now, I'm putting together an article that I'm calling Build a Better Brief. It'll present some tips to help hone brief writing skills. In tracking down some useful sources, I came across Andrew Schulman's tips for brief writing. His tips are pretty good (mine will be different). Here is one of them about the pains of brief writing:

Good Writing Takes Time. I have never spent less than thirty hours writing a brief. I may have been trial counsel. There may be only one issue. The transcript may be under 100 pages. The law may be clear. It takes me around thirty hours, including formatting and creation of the table of authorities and table of contents. It takes a lot longer when I'm new to the case, when the transcript is voluminous, when exhibits are dense, when the issues are many, and when the law is unclear.

Good writing takes time. Presumably it takes time to write good novels, good screenplays, and good musical compositions. Why should it take any less time to write good briefs? Briefs may be written in prose, but prose has its own rhythm and its own symmetry. Every fact should be perfectly supported by a citation to a specific page in the record, and it takes time to ensure perfect factual citation. Every legal principle should be supported by the best possible citations, and it takes me a lot of time to get this right.

If you scrimp on hours then your brief might get your point across, but it won't sing. It will be read and understood, but it won't read effortlessly. Your account of the facts and your explanation of the law will be noted, but perhaps more skeptically than necessary. —Andrew Schulman, Ten Tips for Writing a Great Appellate Brief

If you'd like to read the rest of Schulman's tips, click here to go to his site.