Monday, December 3, 2012

On Forms - Revisited

Forms are a deadly trap for the appellate advocate.  Brief-writing is bespoke work, requiring as it does hours upon hours of thinking, researching, writing and editing.  So why approach the process like it is a commodity?  A persuasive brief is one that is memorable, and memorable briefs - i.e., those compelling briefs that pull the court in with rapt attention - are those that don't  follow the same formula and rehash the same canned arguments like so many briefs that clog the courts. 

Appellate lawyer and blogger Raymond Ward had an insightful post on the use of forms.  Aptly entitled, Following Forms is a Sad Way to Write," Ward quotes thus: 

The formulas are old wineskins. Your ideas are new wine. Don’t pour your new wine into old wineskins.  See Mark 2:22.  

True, forms are easy.  All you need to do is copy and paste.  Hours of work can be reduced to a couple of clicks of the mouse.  The efficiency is attractive and tempting.  But, at a certain point, efficiency comes at a cost - the cost of making original, thought provoking arguments.  Stand athwart the forces of commoditization that have penetrated the discovery process and that threatens to corrupt the practice of law in general.  In litigation, brief-writing, deposition and trial practice are the last areas in which the advocate can separate himself from the pack of lawyers that crowd the market.  Creativity - not ruthless efficiency - will add value to your clients.  To adopt the latter approach is self-defeating.  It only cheapens your value as an attorney.  

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