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ABA Journal

A Tale of 2 Associates: How polish and attention to detail can win the motion

Posted Jun 13, 2014 3:45 PM CDT
By Bryan A. Garner

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Photo of Bryan Garner by Terri Glanger

It wasn't the first time that Jim, a fourth-year associate, had collaborated with Denise, a second-year—and it wouldn't be the last. But much to her surprise, Denise's editing of Jim's draft motion was creating rancor.

Denise had highlighted several grammar and punctuation errors in the draft. Jim had repeatedly written: "Legislation and case law supports ... ." Denise delicately pointed out the subject–verb agreement problem there. She proposed to make it "Legislation and case law support ... ." She didn't even raise the possibility of solidifying the term caselaw.

"As long as my grammatical mistakes are minor and don't detract from the meaning or content, these mistakes don't matter," protested Jim.

"But the phrase appears three times in the motion!"

"The same principle holds no matter how many there are. Judges look past these grammatical trivialities. We're not changing it."

Denise pressed on: "That's hardly the only thing, Jim. There are editorial problems in every paragraph of this draft."

Click here to read the rest of "A Tale of 2 Associates" from the June issue of the ABA Journal.

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