What to do second in editing a legal brief

We’ve discussed what to do first when editing a legal brief, and the need to ensure that the big-picture message is clearly conveyed to the court. The second step in editing is to make sure that the brief actually makes the argument for your message.

Your attention now should be on the structure of the brief: how the argument proceeds, from the introduction of the question presented to the conclusion. Focus one at a time on each section, and ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of this section? Does it advance the argument? Is this the best place for it?
  • Is the section internally coherent? Does it flow smoothly and without jolts from paragraph to paragraph?
  • Is the section compelling? Will it make the judge want to rule in our favor?
  • Does the header correctly introduce the section?

Once you’ve examined the sections individually, look at their organization. Do the sections support and complement one another? Is the transition from each to the next smooth and effective? Are they in the most persuasive order?

Finally, look to see if the flow of your argument is clearly presented in the headers and the table of contents. In a well-crafted brief, the reader should be able to read the question presented and the headers and from those alone have a very good idea of the argument of the whole brief.

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