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R. David Donoghue

I agree that lawyers tend toward long briefs, partly out of a desire to make sure they get everything in and partly because of inefficient/poor writing (or perhaps to save their clients the editing costs). I clerked for a judge who believed that only the rarest set of ideas could not be expressed in 25 pages or less. My experience has been that he was correct, except that he could have gone with 20 pages or less. And I think judges and their clerks appreciate short, well-crafted briefs much more than long briefs that might feel more important.

Sue Liemer

I'm a legal writing professor. When my students are learning to write appellate briefs, I show them one I wrote in practice that was 12 pages long. I purposely use this one as an example, because opposing counsel used the entire 35 pages allowed by the court to make his arguments. I knew as soon as I saw that he took an entire page just to identify the two parties that I was going to win. Some students get the point.

Derek Jones

You have some good points there. I vividly remember drafting an appellate brief for a partner who insisted on butchering the brief by adding in a bunch of weak material because he was afraid of dropping any arguments on appeal. I'm a happy solo practitioner now. :-)

I would also advise people to be brutal when reviewing their writing. Find the harshest critic you can and tell them to go nuts. The only way you will improve is by seeing what you are doing wrong.

Justinian Lane

In my limited experience, I've found that the longer an attorney has been practicing law, the longer his or her briefs will be. It's encouraging to know that law professors are encouraging brevity.

I'm a big fan of Bryan Garner's books on legal writing. It was he who first introduced me to the famous quote from Blaise Pascal: "I have only made this letter rather long because I have not had time to make it shorter."

Solomon Grundy

The managing partner at my firm writes terrible, long, ridiculous briefs (and adds numerous irrelevant footnotes (as if a footnote is ever relevant!)). Any brief I turn into him is butchered into incomprehensible gibberish. The problem is that other partners and associates at the firm think this means he has amazing "legal ability" and brains. The partner takes great pride in his writing and position at the firm as the "resident genius". Fortunately, some of the younger associates who happened to go to good law schools know better.

P.S. I am a huge fan of Bryan Garner and recommend his books to anyone who wants to become a good legal writer.

John Davidson

there is ample psychological evidence that briefs should be much longer, but with citations, not words. If there are 50 cases that support a point, the maximum persuasive effect is to cite all 50 cases.


I think that attorneys also write long briefs because they're typically cautious people. They want to cover every base and are afraid to leave something out. Good tips for cutting things down here though. Thanks.

David Barker

A legal writing style that is concise and to the point can often be the best way to convey your message.

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