Vermont Bar Journal, Vol. 40, No. 2 Vermont Bar Journal, Spring 2017, Volume 43, No. 1 - Page 22

Write On ings ( known as point headings ) should be a single persuasive sentence setting forth the legal argument and connecting it to the relevant facts for that particular argument . 6 Effective headings advocate and create page breaks that focus the reader ’ s attention on the key points of the argument . 7 Readers typically remember the first and last sentences in a paragraph or section better than the middle sentences . The first and last sentences of a section or paragraph are called “ positions of emphasis .” 8 Headings allow the writer to have additional sentences that are in positions of emphasis and thereby target the audience with more effective advocacy .
Bonus — Word Choice :
In addition to structural approaches to targeting an audience , advocates can also look at substantive language to help target the audience and thus maximize the impact of writing and advocacy . For example , when I ’ m drafting an appellate brief or preparing for oral argument , I review previous decisions from the court before which I ’ m arguing , not only to determine what the law is , but also to determine what language or facts the court has emphasized in the past . In doing so , I can tailor my writing to emphasize similar language or similar facts . In doing so , I ’ m using the court ’ s decisions in the same way a marketing team uses the information it gains from a focus group to target a specific audience for a Super Bowl advertisement . If I do this effectively , my writing will be more persuasive to my specific audience – the Court .
Ultimately , as lawyers our job is often to
persuade a judge , jury or another attorney that our position is legally sound . To do this effectively , we must consider not only the statutes , regulations and case law that control the legal issue , but also how to best target the audience . In my experience , by considering what will appeal to our particular audience and tailoring the structure and language of our writing to the needs and wishes of that audience , we can better advocate our client ’ s position . ____________________ Jared Carter is an Assistant Professor of Law at Vermont Law School . Jared teaches legal activism , legal writing and appellate advocacy at VLS . He also directs the Vermont Community Law Center , a non-profit legal services organization focused on social justice , constitutional rights and consumer protection . ____________________
1
The Business Research Lab , http :// www . busreslab . com / index . php / articles-and-stories / research-tips / advertising / the-role-of-focusgroups-in-advertising / ( last visited March 14 , 2017 ).
2
Targetsmart , http :// targetsmart . com / offering / polling / ( last visited March 14 , 2017 ).
3
Richard C . Wydick , Plain English for Lawyers ( 5th ed . 2005 ).
4
Id .
5
Id .
6 http :// web . csulb . edu /~ cdamschr / PDFs / ConstructingSentences . PDF ( last visited March 14 , 2017 ).
7
Writing User-friendly Documents , www . plainlanguage . gov / howto / guidelines / Reader-Friendly . doc ( last visited March 14 , 2017 ).
8
Grammar Handbook , http :// handbook . grammarly . com / handbook / sentences / sentencestyle / 2 / sentence-emphasis / ( last visited March 14 , 2017 ).
22 THE VERMONT BAR JOURNAL • SPRING 2017 www . vtbar . org
On ings (known as point headings) should be a single persuasive sentence setting forth the legal argument and connecting it to the relevant facts for that particular argu- ment. 6 Effective headings advocate and create page breaks that focus the read- er’s attention on the key points of the ar- gument. 7 Readers typically remember the first and last sentences in a paragraph or section better than the middle sentences. The first and last sentences of a section or paragraph are called “positions of empha- sis.” 8 Headings allow the writer to have ad- ditional sentences that are in positions of emphasis and thereby target the audience with more effective advocacy. Bonus—Word Choice: In addition to structural approaches to targeting an audience, advocates can also look at substantive language to help tar- get the audience and thus maximize the impact of writing and advocacy. For exam- ple, when I’m drafting an appellate brief or preparing for oral argument, I review previ- ous decisions from the court before which I’m arguing, not only to determine what the law is, but also to determine what lan- guage or facts the court has emphasized in the past. In doing so, I can tailor my writ- ing to emphasize similar language or simi- lar facts. In doing so, I’m using the court’s decisions in the same way a marketing team uses the information it gains from a focus group to target a specific audience for a Super Bowl advertisement. If I do this effectively, my writing will be more persua- sive to my specific audience – the Court. Ultimately, as lawyers our job is often to 22 THE VERMONT BAR JOURNAL • SPRING 2017 persuade a judge, jury or another attorney that our position is legally sound. To do this effectively, we must consider not only the statutes, regulations and case law that con- trol the legal issue, but also how to best target the audience. In my experience, by considering what will appeal to our particu- lar audience and tailoring the structure and language of our writing to the needs and wishes of that audience, we can better ad- vocate our client’s position. ____________________ Jared Carter is an Assistant Professor of Law at Vermont Law School. Jared teaches legal activism, legal writing and appellate advocacy at VLS.  He also directs the Ver- mont Community Law Center, a non-profit legal services organization focused on so- cial justice, constitutional rights and con- sumer protection. ____________________ The Business Research Lab, http://www. busreslab.com/index.php/articles-and-stories/ research-tips/advertising/the-role-of-focus- groups-in-advertising/ (last visited March 14, 2017). 2 Targetsmart, http://targetsmart.com/offer- ing/polling/ (last visited March 14, 2017). 3 Richard C. Wydick, Plain English f ܈]Y\Š ]Y JKBY BBY BX[YKߘ[\ۋBX[[[\˔ \\]YX\ M  MKBܚ][\\YY[H[˜Z[B[XYK݋ZY[[\ԙXY\QY[ BK \\]YX\ M  MKBܘ[[X\[[˙ܘ[KBX\KK[[[\[[KB[K̋[[KY[\\\ \\]YX\M  MKBB˝\ܙ