April 22, 2014The Main Message
I just finished a three-week trial, and it reminded me how well the principles of good briefwriting apply to trial practice.
- Don’t waste their time. In post after post, I’ve stressed the importance of getting to the point and not wasting the judge’s time. The same applies to the jury at trial. If it doesn’t advance a core issue, you should probably jettison it, whether we’re talking about a sentence in opening or closing or a question to a witness.
- Be explicit. When you write, you should be very clear about what you’re asking for and why. Don’t wait until the end (or even until the argument section) to explain. This is just as true at trial. Don’t save up points to explain in closing; explain them, in your opening statement or through a witness, right now.
- Stick to your themes. Before you start any brief, you should be able to write down your three or four trial themes on an index card, and the brief should then advance at least one of them. At trial, make sure that the jurors could fill out your index card at the end of opening, and that every witness examination advances one or more of the themes.