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Garner's Guide to Making Briefs More Persuasive: Tip 1 - Know Thy Reader

During this difficult time when so many of us are working away from the office, it seems like a good time to methodically go through a valuable reference for attorneys - Bryan A. Garner's The Winning Brief: 100 Tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts. A solid command of the advice in this book can allow a paralegal to go beyond simply confirming the accuracy of legal citations in a memorandum of law, and improve the overall coherence and persuasiveness of the brief. Hopefully this crisis will have ended before I go through all 100 tips!

Garner's first tip is simple: Know thy reader. This may appear to be a bit insubstantial and obvious, but a read through the chapter on this tip helps flesh out what Garner is getting at. He uses these specific points to illustrate what he means:

1. Judge read briefs quickly - try to invade their though processes.

2. The reader of a legal brief will usually be busy; looking for something useful; and skeptical of your assertions.

3. If the details aren't right, a reader will assume that the larger points will probably not be right.

4. Distill your message on the first page.

5. Avoid needless formality.

6. Remember the maxim of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, "No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader's intelligence."

7. Chief Justice Joe R. Greenhill of the Texas Supreme Court recommends not referring to statutes simply by a section number - judges may not always understand language that is too technical.

8. Garner notes that Justice Clarence Thomas told him in an interview, that he's more likely to take the time to read a 20 page brief than a 50 page brief.

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