Legal Writing Tip - Umbrella Sections


Consider using an umbrella section when you are writing a brief that addresses multiple points.  An umbrella section is a short section at the start of the Argument.  It can provide a roadmap for the reader about the components of the rule that the writer will address or the points the writer will make.  An umbrella section helps the reader understand the points to be addressed and the structure of the brief because readers more easily follow short sections separated by white space.  Following the umbrella section with sections or sub-sections for each rule component or point can further enhance the reader's understanding.  For instance, Mark Herrman's sixth point for new associates is "use many headings and subheadings to break up your memorandum or brief.  Little pieces are easier to read."  Revisiting the Basics:  How to Write:  A Memorandum from a Curmudgeon, 44-SEP Advocate (Idaho) 28 (2001) (Westlaw subscription required to link). 


If you are interested in reading more about umbrella sections, a good source is Linda Edwards, Legal Writing: Process, Analysis and Organization, 287-90 (4th ed. 2006).  She has samples on page 289 & 387.  Other uses for umbrella sections include summarizing the argument, setting out the standard of review, or discussing components of the rule that the brief will not address.