SIDEBAR Summer/Fall 2020 - 33

MONTGOMERYBAR.ORG

Legal Writing Tips from Some
of the Leaders of the MBA
Continued from page 31
Rebecca Sallen, Esq.
Zachary A. Sivertsen, Esq.
Christopher Sperring, Esq.
Leno P. Thomas, Esq.

Writing Mentors:
Donald J. Martin, Esq.
William H. Pugh, Esq.
Ryan Raymond
Gerald L. Shoemaker, Jr., Esq.
Jessica L. Torres, Esq.
Rochelle N. Bobman, Esq.
Kristen M. Feden, Esq.
Ellen S. Fischer, Esq.
Tuan Samahon
Emily Geer Hippler, Esq.
Tonya W. Lupinacci, Esq.
The Honorable Joseph P. Walsh
Milton Velez, Esq.
Jennifer Ellis, Esq.
Chelsea L. Dearden, Esq.
Michael J. Lyon, Esq.
Nicole B. LaBletta, Esq.
Carolyn R. Mirabile, Esq.
Ronald A. Kolla, Esq.
Anita S. Davis, Esq.
Tyler J. Dunphy, Esq.
E. Nego Pile, Esq.
Cynthia W. Stein, Esq.

"Proof your work. I cannot stress this enough. One or two typos will not be fatal to
your brief, but it's astonishing how many briefs I would read with multiple spelling and
grammatical errors on a single page. Ultimately, it's a clerk's job to apply the law, and
sometimes you'll still win a case even with a bad brief. But sloppy writing and proofing
does not put your best foot forward."
"Use active voice as much as possible. For example: instead of saying "A complaint was
filed on June 5, 2020," say "The plaintiff filed a complaint on June 5, 2020." Always think
about who is doing the action. Active voice makes your writing clearer, more forceful, and
easier for the reader to understand."
"Stick to IRAC (Issue/Rule/Application/Conclusion) or CRExAC (Conclusion/Rule/
Rule Explanation/Application/Conclusion). In particular, briefs become confusing when
a writer starts to mix in application with law. Sometimes you will see a brief where the
writer provides a little law, then some application, then a little more law, and a little
more application, and so on. This confuses the reader because the reader is not provided
the entire picture and often, the reader will have to go back to understand the whole
argument. If it is necessary to break down your brief into multiple sections in order to
adhere to the above format, then that's what you should do. "
"Be concise. Clerks are busy and read a lot of information every day. If you can say the
same thing in 5 sentences instead of 8 sentences, that is always to your benefit as a writer.
Related to that, footnotes are fine for information that does not belong in the body of
your document, but really ask yourself if that information belongs in the body, a footnote,
or is just irrelevant/extraneous. Overly footnoted documents take away the reader's
attention from your argument."
~ James Pancio, MBA YLS Member
and Former Judicial Clerk
"I never liked briefs that included inflammatory rhetoric or ad hominin attacks (especially
regarding the judge). That may seem like an obvious tip but I found practitioners
sometimes forgetting. Another thing that I hated was bad formatting of the briefs (or
really any filing). I think it makes the attorney look sloppy. And probably subconsciously
makes me question their arguments. Both may seem like little things, but I found made a
difference."
"I hated briefs that didn't make references to the factual record. I strongly suggest you
only make factual references if supported by the record before the court as that is all the
court can consider. "
"I liked briefs that walked me through the legal issues from the beginning, starting with
the standard that should be applied. I kind of like to think of it as an inverted triangle.
You start broad then work in specifics such how other courts at the same level ruled on
the similar issue. I am not saying I need the attorney to go back to the founding fathers,
but I always like the big picture before delving into the specific. This was especially
applicable in criminal cases."
~ Jason Edwards, MBA YLS Member and Former Judicial Clerk
"EDIT EDIT EDIT! Spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors in a doc can
undermine your credibility as a legal professional."
~ Lauren Hughes, Co-Chair, MBA Diversity Committee

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