Legal Writing Tip - The Primacy and Recency Effects in a Statement of Facts


This week my class discussed writing a persuasive Statement of Facts.  We talked about what to include (and what not to include), how to organize a Statement of Facts, and different writing techniques available to increase the likelihood that the reader will find the story persuasive.

We again focused on the "primacy effect."  (For prior discussion of the "primacy effect," click here.)  We also discussed the "recency effect."  The "recency effect" is a cognitive psychological principle that the last information discussed lingers in the reader or listener's mind and is remembered well.

Based on these principles, we discussed the persuasive value of structuring a Statement of Facts to lead with a paragraph focused on legally relevant facts favorable to the client and to conclude with a paragraph focused on the same type of facts.  On the flip side, including material adverse facts in middle paragraphs de-emphasizes those facts.

Similarly, using clauses with favorable facts to begin and end paragraphs is an easy-to-use persuasive writing technique.  Placing adverse facts in the middle of the paragraph is a related persuasive writing technique.