How to Write a Brief

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How to Write a Brief

Here is how to write a brief (also known as a memorandum of law).

1.         Look at a sample memorandum or several sample memoranda of law. They will give you an idea. Every opinion of the Supreme Court is a memorandum of law. Here is a link to an opinion of the Supreme Court: You can do a Google search to find a memorandum of law on the subject that you desire. This will save you from re-inventing the wheel. I have some sample memoranda of law that I wrote.

a.         There are more than 100 winning briefs linked to this following page:

b.         Here is a fat memorandum of law that took me a year to write:

c.          Here are some of my briefs:


2.         Write like you are talking to your Uncle Bob. Explain in simple words what happened to you and what the law is and what you want the court to do.


3.         Optional: For advanced computer users. Somewhere on the front page give a web address for this brief that you are writing. This will permit people to upgrade from paper to a page on their screen. From the web version they will be able to make the hyperlinks work.


4.         Write the statement of law that you want to prove: Example: “I was entitled to effective assistance of counsel. The court denied me effective assistance of counsel. The remedy for this denial is dismissal. I am entitled to dismissal in this case.”


5.         Try to disassemble your point into subdivisions. Example: In the above statement of law there are several subdivisions:

a.         I was entitled to effective assistance.

b.         The remedy is dismissal.

c.          I am entitled to dismissal.


6.         You will be able to divide each point into further subdivisions.


7.         Now comes the heart of this work: You must find cases, statutes, rules, and constitutional provisions to support your points. If this is a criminal case then I can help you. The top 143 most important criminal cases are here at this list:


8.         When you find a case to support your point, then extract the key sentence and insert it into the brief. Change the margins to 2 inches and 2 inches. This alerts the reading eye that you have a quotation from a case or statute. This is called “setting off” the quoted phrase.


9.         This following part is new – and optional: You will notice that I generally provide a hyperlink to the case or statute on the internet. This saves time for the reader – and you. “But, aha!” you say. “From the paper copy nobody can use the hyperlink! So why insert one?” My answer: If you have uploaded your brief to the internet, then your reader can download your brief to his computer and he will use the internet version – where the hyperlinks work. Nobody will read your brief more than you will. You may as well learn to hyperlink and save yourself time in the long run – and thereby increase the odds that the judge will read your brief. Within your brief provide a link to each case that you cite as referrence. Better yet: Link to the pertinent sentence in the Supreme Court case that you are citing in your brief.


10.       Weave the facts and the law.

a.         Quote the facts from a transcript if possible.

b.         If you don’t have a transcript then write a declaration of facts. This is one part of a motion. See Motion 101:


11.       It may sound silly, but sometimes the quotation in a case will say exactly what you want to say. In that case. Make your point. Then follow it with the exact quotation from the case. Of course, the quotation will be set off with margins of left margin 2 inches and right margin 1.5 inches.


12.       If you have more than 10 cases then make a table of cases. WordPerfect can do this. Maybe Word can do it. I don’t use Word. I don’t know. This table of contents gives your reader a chance to recognize a case that he knows. It also makes a list for your reader to use if he should decide to look up some cases. In WordPerfect your links will show up in the list of cases – and your reader need merely click on the link to go to the case!


13.       A brief is just one part of a Motion. Read more about motions at Motions 101 here:


14.       Polish your brief. Make your sentences shorter.


15.       Use a spelling checker.


16.       Read Strunk’s book called “The Elements of Style”. It is here: . Just read a little at a time. It is a short book. It is a classic book used in college and law school courses.


17.       Post your brief to the web. Ask people to take a look at it and comment. Send it to Lawyerdude for review.


18.       In some cases you may want to burn your brief into a CD rom. Some courts do not let their computers go on line. In such a case you may want to download the entire library of cases and burn them onto the CD. This is the preferred method in my mind but I know of nobody who has actually submitted a CD rom appellate brief although my local court of appeal invites CD rom briefs.


19.       Your brief can always be improved. Use the 80/20 rule. Use 20% of the allotted time to make 80% of the improvements. Remember the concept of diminishing marginal returns. The judge does not want it perfect; he wants it NOW.



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