California pleadin’

California lawyers, why do you deface your filings with two vertical lines in the left-hand column and one in the right? Sample:

California pleading format

As far as I can tell, this is not a California rule, but a custom that many people follow. California Rule of Court 2.108 requires line numbers in the left-hand margin, and adds that the line numbers must be “separated from the text of the paper by a vertical column of space at least 1/5 inch wide or a single or double vertical line.” The rule lets you choose a space instead of a line, and requires nothing in the right margin.

So why not just do what people usually do, and stick with the lines? This is a lot bigger than just a question for people who file briefs in California. You will be confronted many times during your career with the choice between doing a thing the way that “everyone else” does it and doing it a different, and possibly better, way. I promise you this: you won’t find any graphics designer who will tell you that text looks better, or easier to read, when you put prominent vertical lines right next to it.

If a rule makes you format your brief in a way that makes it uglier or harder to read, you have to follow the rule. If the bad formatting is based on a custom, not a rule, but your judge is so dedicated to the custom that you will lose credibility by not following it, follow the custom. If neither is the case, then I recommend that you do it the way that makes your brief as compelling and as beautiful as possible.

Think about that while you listen to this:

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