Consumer Bankruptcy Journal Fall 2015 - Page 25

Writing Briefs Judges Want to Read By Christine M. Kieta Law Office of Christine M. Kieta, PC L egal writing – or any writing – intrigues me mostly because you can tell almost all that you need to know about your opponent’s skill from the documents that he produces. If his legal analysis wanders through endless sentences and puked up commas, then it’s likely that his ability to argue that point is equally disorganized. But if the analysis is short and focused in getting to its point, then your opponent is a bit more indomitable. He is intellectually clear in his thoughts, can understand an issue against a rule with precision, and has the unique ability to communicate the result of that analysis. This is what makes your opponents afraid of you. When I first wrote about legal writing several years ago it was because a friend of mine needed a space-filler for a legal newsletter. So I fluffed together the only thing I knew in the absence of any real practice otherwise: strong legal writing. Years later I still support this noble cause of ‘document sanity’ and advocate aggressively against slowly killing a judge with bad grammar and foggy thinking. I. Conquering Unknown Laws: Digesting The Unappetizing. II. Opening a solo practice just out of law school meant that I took on areas of law that I didn’t know existed. Indeed, I likely would have been better off and a more whole person if I never knew these areas existed. But being a starving lawyer in 2009 and beyond required that I take my best shot on cases that smarter, more solvent lawyers declined. That being said putting together a legal analysis on any issue meant that I started with laws that I just did not know. So I started with what I did know: the law library. Years later I now joke with the librarians at one of my favorite libraries that no one knows of this resourcefilled land. It’s a far away world with books that will tell you how to complete your task, inventions called databases housing legal information that only the future can fathom, and fairy dust to blow on yourself once you open a book. Actually, that may just be regular dust accumulating since no one seems to visit law libraries anymore. The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys advancing technological Winter 2015 environment brings incredible resources to the legal community. New resources. Law libraries generally have the ability to pay for these resources. So do associations. Stuff that was once confined to a book – like Illinois Law and Practice which gives you an incredible roadmap on handling a case – is now electronically stored and waiting to be sent through e-mail to you. Now you can do an hour of research in minutes. This is important because if a judge or his clerk has to research a law they typically go to the law library in the courthouse. And they likely know how to use these resources as well as the law librarians themselves. Trapping Your III. Audience And Piercing Your Opponent’s Legal Writing The first time I worked with another attorney on a brief he sent me his draft of it as he started it. Good thing we live in the age of technology because I cannot hide my emotions. When I asked him if he knew what IRAC was he said ‘no’ but that he learned in law school – guess how many decades ago – that a legal analysis is supposed to provide a bridge for the judge. That explanation was as useless as CONSUMER BANKRUPTCY JOURNAL 25