The First-Page Rule

You should have the judge on your side, wanting to rule in your favor, after reading just the first page of your brief. In a well-written brief, the first page will not only tell the judge what it is that you want, but will also make them want to rule in your favor by laying out the heart of your argument.

Why? Because judges don’t have time to read all that they’re asked to read now, and a brief that gets right to the point will stand out as a courtesy to them—and as remarkably persuasive. And because making yourself write this way will improve your advocacy and your thinking about your case.

You can’t begin to accomplish this if you are wasting time and space with meaningless throat-clearing phrases like “comes now the defendant.” You can’t do it if you’re wasting space on irrelevant details about the procedural posture of the case. And you certainly can’t do it if you haven’t figured out what the heart of your argument is, in terms that you can explain clearly and succinctly.

Sometimes the local rules will require you to use so much space on the first page of the brief that only a few lines can fit on the first page (such as when you must put lawyer names and addresses above the caption). If so, center the title of the brief attractively on the page in the middle of the remaining white space, go to the next page, and start your text there.

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