Here is the cover page of one of my recent briefs. It probably looks different from most that you’ve seen. Below I will explain the what, why, and how for my design choices.
What I am striving for here is contrast. I’ve seen too many brief covers with all text the same size in the same font, everything in bold, and everything capitalized. No contrast.
I believe that some contrast helps the reader instantly locate the most important information. So I’ve chosen to emphasize the elements that, I think, are most important to the reader: (1) Which case is this? (2) Whose brief is this? That information is in bold sans serif font. Almost everything else is in plain Roman typeface.
For content, I follow some simple guidelines. Uniform Rule 2-12.3 tells you exactly what needs to be on the cover. I try to include everything that Rule 2-12.3 requires, and (with some exceptions) omit anything that Rule 2-12.3 does not require.
The first thing that Rule 2-12.3 requires is the title of the court to which the brief is directed. I think that, unless the court is having an identity crisis, this information does not need to be emphasized. So I put it in plain text.
The next thing that Rule 2-12.3 requires is the case’s docket number. I believe that this information is important to the clerk of court, the judges’ law clerks, and the judges themselves, because it answers the immediate question “Which case is this?” So the docket number is big and bold, and in a sans-serif font (which stands out in bold more than a serif font).
The next thing that Rule 2-12.3 requires is the case title. Sometimes I use all caps for the case title. In this instance, I didn’t.
Next, Rule 2-12.3 requires three things: the name of the court and the parish from which the case came, the name of the judge who rendered the judgment or ruling complained of, and a statement of whether the case is before the court on appeal or in response to a writ. Many lawyers also include the trial court's docket number here. I usually don’t because Rule 2-12.3 does not require this information, and because I cannot imagine how this information would help the reader. [p.s. 3 Jan. 2013: On this last point, I stand corrected. See the comments to this post.]
Next comes “a statement identifying the party on whose behalf the brief is filed and the party’s status before the court“ and “the nature of the brief, whether original, in reply, or supplemental.” Usually I try to convey all this information in the brief title. I imagine that this information is important to the reader facing a stack of briefs in the same case. So this information gets the big-and-bold treatment. And for extra contrast, it’s rendered in a sans-serif font.
Next comes “the name of counsel, with address and telephone number, by whom the brief is filed, and a designation of the parties represented, and a designation of ‘appeal counsel.’” Here, I stray from the rule just a tad. When only one law firm is on the brief, I usually fudge on the “appeal counsel” requirement. I also add information that Rule 2-12.3 does not require, because I want the cover page to be as helpful as possible to the reader. So I include the lawyers’ direct-dial phone numbers and their e-mail addresses. Lately, I have been using a simple two-column, one-row table for counsel identification. In the left column, I list the individual lawyers with their respective individual contact information: their direct-dial phone numbers and e-mail addresses. In the right column, I list the law-firm information. If more than one law firm is on the brief, I add a row for each law firm.
Finally, Rule 2-12.3 requires a statement of the type of case: civil, criminal, juvenile, or special proceeding. Easy enough for me—everything I do is a civil case.
If you make different decisions about the form and content of your cover page, I welcome your comments. Also most welcome are any comments from court personnel—the audience I am trying to assist in designing the brief’s cover page. If I’m doing something that doesn’t work for you, please weigh in.