The past several days, I’ve been working on a U.S. Fifth Circuit brief. It’s a moderately sized brief: 45 pages of substance (double-spaced, 14-point typeface), about 9,650 words. Today was the filing deadline. I had read, re-read, and re-re-read this brief, so I thought it was in pretty good shape. But I decided yesterday evening to give it one more good proofreading. To prevent myself from skimming, I used a big fat ruler to make sure I read no more than one line at a time. What I found was embarrassing: a total of 71 things that needed to be fixed. Here’s the breakdown:
- Inconsistent form in record citations: 7
- Grammar errors: 1
- Verbiage: 8
- Missing record citations: 25
- Record-citation errors: 9
- Miscellaneous things needing to be fixed: 21
So I ironed out the glitches and, this morning, got the thing to photocopying. I got back a good-looking pile of briefs ready to be filed, and I did something I always do: I checked each copy individually, page by page. In years past, this ritual has caught some embarrassing errors before they left the office: things like missing pages and pages copied upside down. Today the photocopy people did an outstanding job. Copy after copy looked great. That is, until I got to the third-to-last copy — which was missing the back cover. That copy did not leave the office. (I should say that the photocopy folks’ batting average is way better than mine. I made 71 mistakes; they made only one.)
The photocopy glitch was no big deal, because I always order a couple of extra copies just in case. To file and serve this brief, I needed exactly 13 copies. I ordered 15. So after pulling the bad one out of the batch, I still had one copy to spare.
The Fifth Circuit also requires filing and service of an electronic copy of the brief, either on CD or floppy disk. I found out that our photocopy department can make attractive CD labels to stick on a CD. For filing and serving, I needed 4 CDs with pretty labels. I ordered 5. This morning, when I copied the brief to the CDs, I found that one of the CDs was bad. No problem; I tossed that one in the trash and still had enough for filing and serving.
The lessons I learned today:
- If you’ve read and re-read that brief so many times that you’re sick of it, it probably needs one more painstaking proofreading before it’s ready to file.
- Always order one or two more copies than you think you’ll need, so that if something goes wrong, you’ll still have enough copies.