Quick Tips for Persuasive Writing by Judge Richard Gabriel

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hi my name is rich Gabriel and I'm a

judge on the Colorado Court of Appeals

in the brief time that we have together

today I would like to provide some quick

tips on more persuasive writing I'll

just jump right in

keep it simple and keep it clear short

concise sentences are very very powerful

much more powerful than longer complex


avoid latin phrases and legalese that

tend to be not so persuasive and in fact

if it's an obscure latin phrase you're

requiring the judge to go look it up the

judge may or may not do that focused on

your best issues don't bury a winning

issue in ten other issues that are where

the other nine are not so persuasive

focus on your best one pick your best

horse and ride that don't repeat what

you've said before many lawyers seem to

think that judges won't get it unless an

argument is repeated over and over

judges do reefs very carefully and they

do get it good organization and roadmaps

are key I think to good persuasive

writing remember you know the facts in

the case and the evidence much better

than the judge does when the judge first

picks it up if your start by talking

about all kinds of detail without giving

any organization or roadmap it'll read

to the judge like a bunch of facts that

don't have seemed to have anything to do

with one another so help the court out

by organizing your your briefs well and

by giving a roadmap as to where this is

going that makes the brief easier to

read and it also helps persuade because

the judge sees the line of reasoning be

accurate in your briefs there there is

nothing more deadly than citing a case

for a proposition and the judge reads it

and the case doesn't say what you said

it says or citing a place in the record

and the record doesn't say what you said

it says losing credibility where the

court is absolutely deadly that's what

we as lawyers have and once that's lost

it's impossible to get it back

in your FAQ section in your briefs stick

to the pertinent facts judges frequently

see briefs where the fact section is

quite long and there's a bunch of facts

put in there to disparage the other side

I suppose in the hopes that it may bias

the court in favor of one's client that

generally is not is not persuasive to

the court in fact some judges I think

would be insulted by that that you're

treating the judges if the judge needs

to be biased one way as opposed to being

able to decide based on the law and the

facts avoid personal attacks even if you

are personally attacked and that's not

always easy take the high road in your

briefs there's no reason to scream at

the other side to cite the word say the

word frivolous over and over and over

don't label things as frivolous or

misleading it's far more persuasive to

show the court so for example one could

say my opponent is misleading of the

court with respect to so-and-so's

testimony it's much more powerful to say

my opponent has said the witness

testified X the transcript in fact the

transcript shows as follows : and quoted

that's much more powerful to show the

court and the court can can reach its

own conclusions

take out the adjectives and adverbs

they're not persuasive they don't add

anything they end up just being

screaming words get rid of meaningless

words or it's like clearly if you have

to tell the court that's something

clearly something then maybe it wasn't

so clear a sentence like there's no

force to that argument whatsoever well

the word whatsoever doesn't mean

anything in that sentence so take out

those meaningless words stay focused

stay concise as I mentioned before give

courts context before you get into the

detail you know the facts you've lived

the facts as the lawyer but the court

has it and if the court is just mired in

a bunch of facts and detail without

knowing a context or having a frame of

reference your brief is far less

persuasive in terms of citation of

authority if you can cite one

that's binding precedent that's much

more powerful than citing a string site

with twenty with twenty cases that are

binding precedent the one case will

suffice if it's a Colorado Supreme Court

case and you're in a Colorado Court

that's that's all you really need the

exception would be where a string site

would be useful or foreign courts

Authority would be useful is if you're

trying to argue a case of first

impression and trying to persuade a

court to adopt one line of cases as

opposed to another then it makes some

sense but other than that if you've got

a case binding Authority at some point

stick with that one and leave the rest

out assist the court attach useful

documents if that makes sense if the

case turns on a contract provision but

go ahead and attach the contract or just

the paragraph from the contract that's

relevant that's helpful even if you're

not required by the rules to attach it

but be very careful not to overdo it

err on the side of less paper not more

paper don't tell the court what it must

absolutely do courts don't like being

told they have to do something

but that said do tell the court what

you're asking the court to do is it a

reversal for a new trial is a reversal

and judgment should enter is it a remand

whatever it may be sometimes the remedy

is not that obvious so do make sure the

tell the court what you're looking for

I hope these quick tips have been

somewhat useful to you I wish you all

good luck thank you very much for