Fourteen Tips To Make You A Better Litigator


Thirty-plus years as a litigator have taught me some ways to bring out my best as a litigator in writing motions, in the courtroom, and in the tumble of daily practice. I suspect these tips may work for you too. Pick a couple, give them a try, and let me know what you think. Learning from the experience of other litigators is a huge benefit of your Section membership. But here’s the deal. In exchange for my tips, I ask you to share some practice tips of your own with your 60,000 Section colleagues. That is how we all become better lawyers and judges. When you have considered my tip list, give me your reaction and send me your suggestions. I will plan to share them in a future column. In the meantime, I offer the following tips based on my personal experience.

Writing Tips -

1. News flash. Not all trial judges, even the best, have the time or resources to read every page the parties file before every hearing. Life intervenes. The judge may only read your first paragraph. The judge may flip to the last page hoping your conclusion will spell out what you want the court to do. Perhaps time will allow the judge to skim the headings of your motion. Write with these realities in mind.

2. Do not waste your first paragraph unveiling the mysteries of Rule 56. The judge knows Rule 56. Her eyes will move elsewhere. The judge wants to know about your motion. Your first paragraph, standing alone, should answer the questions “who?”, “what?”, “when?”, “where?” and “why?”. Your first paragraph should also tell the judge exactly what outcome you seek with your motion. Over the years I have come to write my first paragraphslast, because I find that I write shorter, more pointed openings after I understand what the rest of my motion looks like...

Originally published in Litigation, Volume 40, Number 3, Spring 2014.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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