Writing a perfect and convincing appellate brief is art perfected by experienced appellate lawyers over time. For inexperienced lawyers, writing a strong appellate brief for the first time can be a daunting challenge. Essentially, an appellate brief is a formal document presented to an appeals court by lawyers which covers all legal arguments supporting their case. The sole purpose of authoring this document is to convince the judges to decide the case in favor of your client.
Adopt a focused approach
Coherency, focus, and clarity – these three elements can make your appellate brief strong enough to impress and possibly convince a judge. While conducting legal research regarding their case, many senior appellate tend to lose focus and end up wasting time upon legal aspects and instruments which do not have a direct connection with their case.
Always stay focused on your objectives while working on your draft – it is natural to get intrigued by questions of law and drive into an entirely different dimension. Keep your research as focused as possible to produce a top-notch appellate brief.
Highlight & Present Major Issues Convincingly
For appellate writing an appellate brief for the first time, it is imperative to identify and highlight the most pertinent issues of law. Finding precedents and statutes which substantiate your case should be your primary objective. In courts, only proof and evidence matter so make sure your appellate brief substantially outlines the errors made in trial court with evidence. Focus on your strongest arguments and build upon them rather than filling your brief with minor issues which would adversely reduce the significance of your most compelling arguments.
Avoid Making Generalizations
By making any tall claims or false information or anything which cannot be backed up with a credible source of information, you will make your appellate brief less effective. It is imperative to fact check every argument and statement you make in your appellate brief. Many appellate lawyers, who are proficient at drafting appellate briefs tend to spend a considerable amount of their time proofreading and fact-checking all their arguments.
Just one generalization or misinformation can render all your other powerful arguments useless. Always strive for perfection to garner positive results. Base your brief on law and legal arguments rather than generalizations and emotional pleas.
Strictly Follow the Rules
Another important aspect to consider while drafting your first appellate brief is taking into account the rules and format outlined by the respective courts. Surprisingly, a number of appellate lawyers fail in staying within the rules while drafting their respective briefs. There has been precedent where a court rejected an appellate brief because it attempted to evade the court’s page limit by adding extraordinarily verbose and lengthy footnotes. Therefore, it is imperative to write your brief, keeping in mind the requirements and limitations set by the respective courts for writing a valid and acceptable appellate brief.
Lastly, and most importantly, the presentation is the most important aspect of writing an appellate brief, especially if you are doing it for the first time. While you may have added great legal arguments in your brief, if you do not present it in a chronological and coherent manner, the judges will not be able to make any sense of it. According to senior lawyers, it is recommended to formulate a chronological table of contents to provide ease to the judge and for your arguments to be received, read and considered in the sequence you originally planned.
In summation, you can certainly right a great appellate brief at your first attempt if you stay focused, conduct a thorough research and present your arguments properly. Although, only the most talented and experienced appellate lawyers have the skill to draft a perfect appellate brief which can convince the court in favor of their respective clients.
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