ABA Journal

McElhaney: 12 Ways to Write a Really Bad Brief


Illustration by John Schmelzer

It was one of those great brainstorming sessions that you can never plan but that sometimes just happen. I was talking with Chris Lutz, a partner in the litigation department at Steptoe and Johnson in Washington, D.C., about legal writing, and the discussion settled on bad briefs.

How many ways are there to write a bad brief? Not theoretical possibilities or occasional oddities, but the kind of ordinary sins that even good lawyers commit every day. For every example that one of us gave, the other came up with a number of ways in which lawyers have taken that basic mistake and developed it into an art form of ineffectiveness.

The whole conversation went so fast that I can’t tell you who was responsible for which ideas. So if there is something you really like in our list of ways to write a bad brief, credit Chris; and if there is something you find annoying, blame me.

Click here to read the rest of “Dirty Dozen” from the June issue of the ABA Journal.

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