LawProse Lesson 356: Building a Brief the Boone Pickens Way

LawProse Lesson 356: Building a Brief the Boone Pickens Way

At LawProse, while writing a federal appellate brief over the past two weeks, we’ve been reminded of Boone Pickens (1928–2019). Why? He liked to say that a fool with a plan can beat a genius without one. We believe that.

We had a plan for this brief—meaning we had an outline with point headings. We always have that first: all our point headings before a single paragraph gets written. The whole team works it out. But as usual, the plan evolves during composition. Now the headings look nothing like the initial plan. The entire architecture has changed.

But it changed rationally and carefully. We never lost sight of the overall plan.

We urge you, when you’re writing a brief, to start with a plan. It may change along the way. You’ll be a rarity among lawyers, though. Truly. You see, most lawyers neither start nor end with a detailed plan. They just write and write and write, hoping that their words will add up to something.

Remember Boone Pickens’s words: a fool with a plan can beat a genius without one.

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