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Research and Brief Writing: Building a Convincing Case

Crafting a strong appellate strategy in Indianapolis depends on many factors, two of which are research and brief writing. Research is imperative to finding the correct law and how it should be applied to the facts and circumstances of each case. Writing a convincing brief requires the ability to explain to the appellate court why your choice of law and its application is correct. This blog explores how to build a convincing case through research and brief writing. 

Brief writing should always begin with identifying the issues to be appealed and formulating the issue statements. While it may seem like an easy enough task to write an issue statement, this is really where you should begin persuading the court that you are right and the trial court is wrong. That is a much taller order than simply stating the issue. Effective issue statements need to be both persuasive and informative. An issue statement should identify the issue and frame it in a way that describes your perspective and suggests the desired result (The Writing Center at Georgetown Law). Writing an issue statement requires some preliminary research in order to determine the rules and codes you might use and how easy or difficult it will be to locate case law that supports your theory of the case. This research can also be used to help narrow or broaden your original issue and make adjustments to your statement language.  

Once the issue statements have been formulated, the statement of facts and statement of the case can be written based on those issue statements.  Many new appellate attorneys do not use the statement of the case or statement or the facts to their advantage, or even according to the rules of appellate procedure. The statement of the case section should describe the nature of the case, the course of the proceedings relevant to the issues on appeal, and the disposition of those issues (Ind. App R. 46(A)(5)). The statement of the case is your chance to tell your clients story (Georgetown University Law Center). So, tell it in a gripping, hold your attention, manner that the judges cannot resist wanting to read. Make your client more likeable and his or her actions relatable. The statement of facts section should describe the relevant facts, with citations, keeping in mind the standard of review (Ind. App. R. 46(A)(6)). Do not simply recite the chronological case summary or provide a summary of the witness testimony. It should be noted that for both of these sections, judges do not like reading uninteresting or irrelevant facts (Ruggero J. Aldisert, Winning On Appeal: Better Briefs and Oral Argument, (2d ed.)). Busy judges prefer short, uncluttered briefs, written in language that is easy to understand and makes them want to continue reading. 

When drafting the argument section of the brief, the use of shorter sentences and plain language, where legal or industry terminology is unnecessary, will make the writing more concise and straightforward. Headings and sub-headings can also help keep the brief organized and easier to follow. Argumentative headings may add to the persuasiveness of the brief, as can skipping the acronyms for government agencies and using the complete words, such as Federal Bureau of Investigations, instead of FBI. The full name of the agency can have a more powerful effect than the acronym (LexisNexis). Another technique for persuasiveness in a brief is to begin by explaining why you are right and not why the opposing party or trial court is wrong (Seattle University Law Review). While discussing why the other party is wrong is important, the purpose of a brief is to convince the appellate court that you are right by leading it to the correct answer; explaining why any other answer is incorrect is secondary to that purpose. 

Before you can persuade an audience that the law supports your theory of the case and desired outcome, you must first find the laws that support it. Anyone who has ever done an internet search knows how frustrating it can be to locate the information you want when hundreds of results are returned for your search. It can be even more discouraging searching for case law. Skimming search results to determine if any returned cases are applicable or may lead to useful rules, statutes, or case law can be very time consuming. While case summaries, headnotes, and annotations are extremely useful, the key to conducting a search that returns the most accurate and helpful results is searching for the right words or phrases and using
Boolean operators where appropriate (Scribbr). When looking for a specific phrase, use quotation marks. For example, a search of child support will return results with either the word child or support anywhere in the opinion. A search for “child support” however will only return results containing that exact phrase. Most all search engines, including those used on legal research websites such as Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Casetext, also allow the use of the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT. Each search engine should provide a list of operators that are recognized. 

This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Associates, P.C. It is for general educational purposes. The blog is not intended to be relied upon for any legal matter or issue. The blog is not legal advice. This is an advertisement.

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