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Old....But Good: Citing Older Decisions

Don’t assume that an argument should be discarded because it is supported only an old case. For example, plaintiffs relied on Stevens v. Los Angeles Dock & Terminal Co., 20 Cal.App.743 (2d Dist. 1912), and defendant More-Gas...more

3/9/2015  /  Decisions

Stipulations of law: Wouldn't it be nice if we could all agree?

Occasionally an attorney will propose that the parties stipulate to the meaning of a relevant statute. Such stipulations have no legal force and will be disregarded by the court. Numerous cases so hold across the United...more

Make It Easy

An appellant has the opportunity to make it easy for the appellate panel to locate the relevant documents in the record. If you have the responsibility to create part of the record, select a page numbering system that makes...more

9/22/2014  /  Appeals , Appellate Briefs

Use Block Quotes Carefully and Sparingly

Format selected block quotes for easy reading. Many readers find the dense text of standard block quotes tiresome enough to read that they may skip over the blocks entirely. Istvan & Ricks, Top 10 Ways to Write a Bad Brief,...more

9/15/2014  /  Legal Writing

Legal Ethics Resources

Substantial information on legal ethics is available on the Internet, including:, a broad-based Legal Ethics Research Guide offered by Georgetown...more

Not Represented by the Same Counsel in This Court

Trial and appellate counsel may differ for a variety of reasons, not all of which reflect poorly on one or the other. On occasion, however, trial counsel may have acted so unprofessionally or ignorantly as to be the target of...more

7/29/2014  /  Rules of Civil Procedure

Take the High Road

Litigation offers attorneys many opportunities to choose how they will behave and what they will say. The best course is to take the high road at every opportunity. Rudeness, profanity, throwing things, hitting people, we all...more

7/14/2014  /  Ethics , Legal Ethics

Adopt a Consistent Cite-Checking Approach

A primary brief author may work over a number of days on the brief, followed by review and alteration by other attorneys and the client. Sections of the brief may be emailed to others for comment. Originally published...more

6/17/2014  /  Young Lawyers

String Citations

String cites are almost universally condemned. Judges at all levels criticize string cites. Minority and dissenting judges criticize majorities that use string cites, and vice versa but to a lesser extent. Attorneys criticize...more

6/4/2014  /  Legal Writing , Young Lawyers

Appellate Advice from an Appellate Court

The Bankruptcy Appellate Panel of the Ninth Circuit has adopted some materials designed to assist attorneys and litigants involved in a bankruptcy appeal before the BAP. Although many of the excellent materials address the...more

Errors on Appeal — Too Many Issues

Decisions across the U.S. identify, as one example of “bad appellate advocacy,” presenting too many issues on appeal. The Seventh Circuit applied those words to a brief that presented “12 issues for review—many with...more

Kinds of Authority

Think of legal research as a way to get from here to there and to convince others to go with you. Even judges, perhaps especially judges, are uncomfortable going, in the words of Star Trek “where no man has gone before.”...more

4/29/2014  /  Young Lawyers

How To Shorten Your Documents

At least in the initial drafts, efforts to keep a document concise may stifle the flow of written words. If this is true, then let the words come freely and deal with wordiness later. Once the desired content is captured, a...more

4/16/2014  /  Contract Drafting , Pleadings

Why You Should Vary Sentence Length

Attorneys often write exhaustive and exhausting sentences. Attorneys may not be the worst offenders, as Wikipedia cites Jonathan Coe’s 2001 novel The Rotters’ Club as containing a 13,955-word sentence. In Stanard v. Nygren,...more


Use Space in Documents

Legal documents contain many words, often too many, but that’s not all. Legal documents contain open space or white space between the captions and the text, as well as above, below and on the sides of block quotes, lists and...more


How To Order Your Arguments

As a very general rule, arguments in a brief should appear in order of descending power or importance. A judge may stop reading on reaching a clearly winning argument or on deciding that the opening briefing is so weak as not...more

Eight Tips for Successful Proofing

Careful proofing is as important as excellent writing. Errors and omissions slip into briefs so easily, especially if several people are working on it. There are many good tips for proofing, all best employed a day or more...more

11/15/2013  /  Legal Writing

Researching Uncodified Law for Appellate Briefs

If things did not go so well in the trial court, an attorney may want to return to the books for more research for the appellate briefing. In cases involving statutory issues, there may be relevant law that has not been...more

11/6/2013  /  Appellate Briefs

What to Do When You Think You Are Done with Your Appellate Brief

Consider whether you are really done. Have you answered the question(s) that were asked? All the questions? Are all the factual and procedural statements supported by citations to the exhibits? Are there any omitted...more

11/4/2013  /  Appellate Briefs

How to Make the Best Difficult Decisions in Uncertainty

I. Perpetual Calendar—Make Sure You Have Time for Reasoned Decisions - Stop trying to remember so much, reduce your stress, and avoid the risk of missing an important date. Every item that you can record onto a...more

Some Practical Risk Management Steps for Any Land Trust

I. Perpetual Calendar—Make Sure You Have Time for Reasoned Decisions—Stop trying to remember so much, reduce your stress, and avoid the risk of missing an important date. Every item that you can record onto a perpetual...more

10/7/2013  /  Estate Planning , Estate Tax , Form 990 , FUTA , Trusts

Electronic Communications and Open Meeting Laws

Many aspects of the revolution in electronic communications fall into the proverb: The more things change, the more they stay the same. Electronic communications may be faster and may make it easier for multiple individuals...more

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