Issue Statements: Conclusion


Here are more suggestions based on my study of lawyers' issue statements:     

6. A brief's credibility is enhanced where the total number of issues is restricted to a manageable few.  Judges don't like wading through extra verbiage.  Moreover, it's best to focus on your strongest points.  If you raise weak issues along with stronger ones, you'll dilute your credibility.

            7. It is often clearest to refer to the parties by their roles (such as employer and employee).  Using names may work if the brief has already introduced the parties.  But procedural titles on appeal (such as appellant and appellee) are less effective, because they require the court to keep checking the parties' positions in the case.

            8. The issue statement should advocate, but do so with subtlety.  Avoid extreme terms like "horrible."  For a more subtle approach, try stating the issue from the client's viewpoint.  If you represent the government, you might write this: 

Under the Fourth Amendment, were circumstances sufficiently exigent for a police officer's warrantless entry into an arrestee's home to procure shoes and additional clothing in order to safely escort the him three hundred yards down a rocky path to a squad car on a cold evening?

            9. The issue should be answerable by yes or no.  Issues in an either-or or open-ended format lose persuasive power by appearing equivocal. 

            Many lawyers attempt to evoke a "yes" answer that favors the client, but evoking a "no" answer can sometimes be effective.

            10. Conflicting court rules trump any of these recommendations. 

            Read the article reporting this study at