For years — decades even — clients have been asking their attorneys to find ways to be more efficient. Casetext CEO Jake Heller and BriefCatch CEO Ross Guberman recently teamed up for a webinar offering attorneys tips on efficient brief writing, including how to write, edit, and review persuasive briefs. (You can watch the webinar recording here.)
Jake and Ross chose to focus on how to write a brief efficiently in part because looking at real attorneys fees demonstrates that this is an area where time and money are often wasted. As an example, Jake and Ross looked at the attorneys fees in Clifford v. Trump, in which Trump’s attorney billed 126 hours just for a motion to transfer venue (which a judge deemed excessive).
Here are 5 tips for legal briefs for your law firm that Jake and Ross shared which can help you produce better briefs more efficiently:
1. Get the lay of the land first. Take some time before you start drafting to familiarize yourself with the arguments and legal standards available. You can use technology like Compose by Casetext to speed this up by quickly browsing through a list of arguments.
2. Use technology to cut research time. Research is often one of the most time-intensive parts of brief writing. It’s also one where technology can be the most helpful in adding efficiency. New developments in search technology, including document-based search tools like CARA A.I. as well as Parallel Search, a sentence-based search tool, may be able to help you find what you’re looking for faster.
3. Spend a few minutes checking your draft for consistent and correct formatting and style. A few minutes focused on editing for consistency can go a long way. In addition to making sure you have the proper legal brief format, check details like the format of case citations and punctuation. Make sure you’re using punctuation consistently — for example, whether you do or do not use Oxford commas — as well as consistent style (for instance, whether you refer to the other party as “Plaintiff” or “The Plaintiff”) throughout your draft.
4. Do a quick readthrough to remove excessive or irritating language. You don’t want to waste time drafting a brief, but you don’t want your judge to feel like he or she is wasting any time while reading it, either. Quickly review your draft to make sure it’s as concise as possible and remove anything that is unnecessary or duplicative — for instance, no need to state numbers twice (e.g. as “sixteen (16)”). Streamline any quoted language and citations, and look out for language that judges tend to find annoying, like excessive legalese.
5. Don’t be afraid of automation. Some attorneys are wary of automation, afraid it might eliminate their role as an attorney. But as Jake says, “This enhances — not diminishes — what you do as an attorney every day.” Automation tools can take care of some of the rote tasks in brief-writing so that you can focus on the thinking, strategy, and persuasion that go into writing an excellent brief. For example, you can use Compose to quickly add all the arguments and authorities you’ll need, and then use BriefCatch to check your draft for formatting errors and opportunities to use more persuasive language.
A few simple changes to how you approach brief writing can make a big difference in the quality of your briefs as well as how efficiently you’re able to produce them. Take a closer look at how you’re spending your researching and writing time and look for opportunities where technology — like a high-quality brief writing tool, or dynamic templates for legal briefs — may be able to help. In addition to impressing your clients with the added efficiency gains, it may make the research and writing process more enjoyable for you, too. As Ross said, “Clients and lawyers both want lawyers spending their time on the things that they really truly have expertise in and that their experience has taught them, not on a lot of the things that technology could do for you.”