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Garner's Guide to Making Briefs More Persuasive: Tip 10 - The 90 Second Test

Here's another tip from Bryan A. Garner's The Winning Brief: 100 Tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts.

A good brief should open by addressing the deeper issues at hand, and in 90 seconds make clear its primary point. Premises making reference to facts should be quickly stated, and then a yes or no question should be asked so that only one answer to it appears to be possible. Draw a conclusion after reviewing the issues in 75 words or less. Use a specific, but dispassionate tone.

This is an example of how not to begin a brief:

This lawsuit concerns an action for breach of warranty and/or fraud which was commenced in the Court of Common Pleas of Marion County, Indiana in August of 1983. The plaintiff sought to recover certain specific damages from the defendants arising from and admitted breach of warranty. The plaintiff asked the jury to return a verdict in its favor in the amount of $1,076,347.64.

This is a good example of a brief that presents the issue effectively:

Plebinol's jury demand was for damages of nearly $1.1 million. But after the jury awarded $839,000, the intermediate court unanimously decided that nearly $263,000 of the $1.1 million demand had been improperly submitted. Instead of offsetting this amount against the actual verdict, however the court offset it against the inflated demand, as if the jury somehow knew to reject the improper portion. Shouldn't the improperly submitted amount have been offset against the verdict actually rendered?

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