Have you ever read a motion and wondered what’s left for the brief? Or waded through a brief only to find a compelling argument buried at the end? Everyone has read a bad brief, But how can you keep from writing one? It all starts with structure.
A well-written motion and brief work together to make a compelling argument. To do that, you need to know how to structure them both to make the most of the judge’s time.
Your motion should do exactly one thing: Tell the judge what you are asking her to do. Motion writing is not about suspense. You should lay out your request for relief in the very first paragraph. Subsequent paragraphs can provide the legal authority for your request. But this is not the place to go into the factual details or to summarize your arguments. That is what the brief is for.
Your legal brief is your chance to convince the judge to do what your motion asked. Don’t leave him guessing about why. Use your introduction to give a quick summary of your points. That way your judge will know what to look for in the rest of your brief.
The Statement of Facts
Your judge doesn’t need to know every detail of your case to decide your motion. Don’t bury her in facts that don’t matter. Tell a story. Structure your statement of facts to feature the things that work in your favor. Start paragraphs with strong facts, but bury weaker facts in the middle. Don’t be afraid to draw some conclusions from the facts you describe.
Say No to the Applicable Law
There’s no need to separate the law from your argument. The law is part of why the judge should grant your motion. So why would you want to separate it out? Get rid of the Applicable Law section of your brief. Instead, develop your argument around the laws.
Structure is most important in your argument. You can use headings and organization to lead your judge through your argument to reach the decision you are seeking. Headings and sub-headings provide a roadmap to your argument and help your judge predict where you are going.
Step back and looking at the logical process you are asking the judge to work through. Does he need to assume one thing in order to rule on another? If so, put that section first. Are there minor issues that aren’t as essential? Put those at the end.
Don’t skimp on your conclusion. It is easy to just copy the “Wherefore” paragraph from your motion. But that leaves your argument un-concluded. Take the time to write a couple of well-structured paragraphs that summarize your argument so that the judge can clearly understand it.
Structure can be the difference between a nearly automatic ruling in your favor and a long and complicated oral argument. Don’t let your writing confuse the judge. Use clear structure to put your best argument forward and lead the judge to the answer you want.
Lisa Schmidt is a ghost-writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She provides document writing services to law firms including motion and brief writing. If you need a well-structured brief for your next argument, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.