Bad Language
The Eleventh Circuit's style guide

Show and tell

WinningbriefA few months ago, Carolyn Elefant wrote some nice words about this blog, but lamented that, "like so much of what's been written about legal writing, the blog thus far engages more in telling about good legal writing, rather than showing how it's done." She expressed a similar thought in a comment on The Illinois Trial Practice Weblog: "what I'd love to see are examples of great legal writing in briefs. Not just serviceable or workmanlike (which is how one of my former bosses complimented my work) but stuff that really stands out."

As a student of legal writing, I appreciate Carolyn's suggestion, but as a practicing lawyer, I have a tough time following it. Much of what I write on the job is confidential. While it's true that a brief, once filed, is a matter of public record, I'm concerned that posting a brief while the case is active could cause problems on many fronts. (I noticed that in response to Carolyn's comment, Evan Schaeffer uploaded briefs from a case decided eight years ago.) And while I can't speak for other bloggers, my own blogs (including this one) are personal blogs, not work-related or firm-related, and I'd like to maintain the wall between blogging, which I do on my own time, and my job.

Fortunately, there is a terrific resource for lawyers who, like Carolyn, would "love to see ... examples of great legal writing in briefs ... stuff that really stands out." It's The Winning Brief by Bryan A. Garner, a book in which Bryan not only tells you what to do, but shows you how it's done. The book contains 100 briefwriting tips, each accompanied by real-world examples culled from briefs Bryan has collected over the years, including many written by participants in Bryan's seminars.

The book lists for $50, which is a bit expensive, but will sell it to you for $39.55. You may also be able to pick up a used copy, as Jeremy Richey did.