Simple Tools to Introduce Your Brief Sections with Style
Learn how to use the most basic tools to create a strong, powerful brief in a matter of minutes.
Everyone writes a little different. But one place where we really change it up is in the beginning of the sections to our arguments. Some lawyers include multiple paragraphs (or even pages) of introductory exposition.
Other lawyers start with nothing at all, like this:
I think the latter approach may be a mistake (at least in most cases). Readers crave guidance, so a roadmap at the outset of each section is helpful. And I don't mean just listing out the issues—but a meaningful roadmap. Explain why you are analyzing these issues, explain how the issues fit together with each other, and explain how this section fits in with any others in your brief. That context will make it a lot easier for your reader to see the forest before the trees.
And these introductions can do even more. Like the overarching introductions to your briefs, these sections can include some persuasive framing to set up the coming arguments. Think of this like your section's brochure. And remember that, like any beginning, writing inviting prose here will instill a good first impression.
Identifying each key point you will analyze in the section that follows.
Disposing of any relevant side issues that you will not analyze, and explain why.
Giving your reader any helpful context.
Highlighting a persuasive fact or argument.
Making the section look inviting—don’t bog it down with tons of cases or heavy writing.
Here’s an example of a roadmap done right from a brief filed in the Fifth Circuit. Note that the lawyer previews the persuasive pitch of the section (that the other side’s use of a doctrine is unprecedented and improper). Then he sets up the following three sections: One looking at the doctrine’s source, one discussing the doctrine's underlying purpose, and a final section walking through the precedent:
Here’s another great one that roadmaps and inserts some zest from the persuasive argument coming. This writer also makes it even easier with a numbered list:
Remember that, like headings, this introductory section sets the tone for the rest of the section. So make it look inviting. Good style will help with that. Avoid weighing this roadmap down with lots of citations, heavy sentences, complex details and concepts—or anything else that will make your reader dread reading on. Save the tough stuff for the body.
The start of your sections should be an elevator pitch that sells your section and promises an engaging and organized read to come. Here are some famous legal writers taking their time to roadmap their sections with fresh style. Note that the persuasive pitch for each section is bottled up in a quick intro sentence or two.
Judge Bybee (note how this Judge makes this intro even more useful by signaling to the reader that it's skippable):
Some legal writers dive deeper into the persuasive pitch, especially if it's a big section with moving parts:
Take advantage of that empty space after your headings. Your readers will thank you.
Write.law co-founder Joe Regalia combines his experience as both practitioner and professor to create exciting new ways to teach legal skills. Learn more about Joe