Does plain language in briefwriting translate into winning? It probably does. At least there is a correlation between use of plain language and winning. That’s the result of an empirical study of appellate briefs by Prof. John Campbell of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His conclusion:
We can’t prove from one study that style wins cases, but we can conclude that those who win cases most value writing style. Often, we spend a great deal of time on research, framing, and crafting argument. And we must do these things. But style matters too. Voiceless, passive, complex writing is a liability. Given that energetic, simple writing rules in the Supreme Court and even correlates with winning in the busy Ninth Circuit, we’d all do well to set aside some time to make our briefs read more like a Grisham novel and less like a statute. Judges and our clients will thank us.
To read an abstract of Prof. Campbell’s study and to download a PDF copy, follow this link.
Source: Campbell, John E., Writing that Wins: An Empirical Study of Appellate Briefs (July 31, 2017). The Colorado Lawyer, Vol. 46, No. 3, March 2017; U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3011605.