Headings Are Key to an Effective Document

Whatever document you’re drafting—from a memorandum for a partner to a brief for the court—using clear and concise headings and subheadings will take your reader by the hand and lead them smoothly through your document. Here’s some advice from noted appellate attorneys Daniel U. Smith and Valerie T. McGinty on making your headings as useful and effective as possible. Continue reading

7 Tips for Making Supporting Memos More Persuasive

Almost all motions and demurrers must be supported by a memorandum. Cal Rules of Ct 3.1113. Your supporting memorandum convinces the judge that the law and facts support the order you want. The objective is to persuade—the memo may be your main shot at doing so, as judges issue a tentative ruling or come to the hearing with a ruling in mind based on the motion and response papers. Continue reading

4 Ways to Avoid Ambiguity in Your Writing

Ambiguity in any writing is annoying, but in a contract it can be devastating if you wrote it, because any ambiguity in a contract is likely to be construed against you. Here are some ways to avoid ambiguity in your next writing. Continue reading

Turn Legalese into Plain English

174431990A contract shouldn’t require a Latin-English dictionary to understand it! In fact, there’s generally no reason to use Latin terms or formal legal language (legalese) at all. Use plain English to be sure the contracts and other documents you’re writing are in a language that the parties can read and understand. Here’s a chart to keep handy next time you’re drafting a legal document (or to discreetly slip to a legalese-laden colleague). Continue reading

The Secret to Better Legal Writing

Do you want to know the secret to making any legal writing stronger? Check out this video with specific tips for improving your next legal brief.

CEB has great On Demand programs to help you improve your legal writing, including Smith and McGinty on Legal Writing and Myron Moskovitz on Winning Appeals and Writs. Check out these and all other CEB programs at ceb.com.

Related CEB blog posts:

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A Brief Browse on Briefs: Writing Tips from a Judge (part 3)

Here are the remaining 5 tips from Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of the Second District Court of Appeal, Division 6.  In A Brief Browse on Briefs: Writing Tips from a Judge (part 1) and part 2, we gave the first 10 of 15 writing tips from the judge . Continue reading

A Brief Browse on Briefs: Writing Tips from a Judge (part 2)

Last week, in A Brief Browse on Briefs: Writing Tips from a Judge (part 1), we gave the first of 5 of 15 writing tips from Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of the Second District Court of Appeal, Division 6. Here comes — you guessed it — 5 more writing tips gleaned from the judge’s years of experience and reading so many briefs. Continue reading

A Brief Browse on Briefs: Writing Tips from a Judge (part 1)

Writing briefs — indeed, writing generally — is an area in which most attorneys can use help or at least a refresher. In a recent case, some attorneys learned this the hard way when the  judge called their grammatical errors “so egregious and obvious that an average fourth grader would have avoided most of them.” Those attorneys could have used the following brief-writing principles excerpted from an article written for CEB by Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert of the Second District Court of Appeal, Division 6.  Continue reading

13 Tips for Creating a Clear Train of Thought

One of the essential qualities of all legal writing, clarity, is created by a clear train of thought. No matter how clear your sentences are, readers will not feel that they add up to a clear message unless they can see how the sentences hang together. It is your job as a writer to bring the reader along with you on your train of thought. Continue reading

Make It Clear to the Judge

Too many lawyers write in a style not persuasive to a busy judge. We learned this unpersuasive style in college and law school — ­ it’s called the academic style. Academic style is marked by mind-numbing details, bloated sentences, and meandering paragraphs. Exactly what you don’t want when writing for a judge. Continue reading