Suggestions for Brief Writing from Kentucky Supreme Court Justices


            The Kentucky Supreme Court held oral arguments at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law this week.  During a Question and Answer period, the justices gave the students this advice about brief writing:

            ● Be brief.  The justices don't mind if your brief is shorter than the maximum length.

            ● Don't use six words if you can make your point in three.

            ● Use simple, direct language.  The brief should be crystal clear.

            ● Sometimes you need to use legal terminology, but avoid legalese.

            ● Don't say "clearly"-- it actually weakens a statement.

            ● Don't use words like "egregious" in an attempt to inflame the reader.  We just want the facts.

            ● It's annoying to read a poorly organized, confusing brief.  So edit repeatedly to improve organization and clarity.  Don't give us your third or fourth draft -- give us your ninth or tenth.    

            ● Edit to eliminate grammar and spelling errors, which make a bad impression on the court.

            ● Don't misstate the law or the facts.  Those errors damage your credibility with the court and co-counsel.

            Several of the court's research attorneys were present, and they emphasized the importance of avoiding errors in citations to the record.  It's annoying, they said, when they look for something and can't find it because the citation is wrong.