LawProse Lesson 372: How to Write a Brief with a Team

LawProse Lesson 372: How to Write a Brief with a Team

First, establish deadlines for each step. Then:

Step One: Have everyone draft two to three deep issues, not to exceed 75 words apiece. (See The Winning Brief 104–09 [3d ed. 2014].)

Step Two: The team leader cherry-picks the best issue statements, puts together a master draft using no more than four issues, and circulates it for edits and improvements—insisting that each issue must be 60 to 75 words. (Again, see The Winning Brief.)

Step Three: Have everyone draft point headings that mirror the deep issues, using the style of the U.S Solicitor General’s Office. (See The Winning Brief at 403–22.)

Step Four: The team leader selects the best propositions, edits or rewrites them, and circulates a master draft for improvements. There should be three major propositions—all coolly worded.

Step Five: The team leader assigns each major section of the brief to a different attorney, who researches the law and the record and writes up that section. The attorney most familiar with the record drafts the statement of facts, providing a citation for each sentence and ensuring that there are no argumentative statements there. (See The Winning Brief at 524–26.)

Step Six: Once the parts are assembled, each team member edits the brief—one at a time (not simultaneously)—for cohesion, flow, and persuasiveness. Anything tedious must be eliminated. Meanwhile, the team leader drafts an introduction, a summary of the argument, and a conclusion. All this takes place in one day.

Step Seven: The day before filing, one team member does extensive fact-checking against the record. Another verifies all citations of authority for both form and substance. Another checks the brief against applicable court rules and tries to find leading hornbooks and treatises that might be cited in support of the law. Another reads to ensure that obvious counterarguments have been rebutted. The team leader oversees all final changes—and the preparation of front and back matter (table of authorities, certificate of service, etc.).

Step Eight: Everyone reads with the object of making at least one improvement per page. The team leader accepts or rejects each suggested improvement. Hyperlinks are carefully inserted and tested. The brief is filed.


Further reading:

Bryan A. Garner, The Winning Brief (3d ed. 2014).

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