In addition to brief writing, the services I offer other lawyers includes editing the briefs they have written. I get to critique their writing. One of the mistakes I see from good lawyers is that they overuse the technique of placing an abbreviation of a case name, party name, or other references to things in quotes inside parentheses.

Old Law Books

You know what I mean because you do it, too.

Defendant International Business Machines Corporation (hereinafter “IBM”) …

In Hammond v. City of Gadsden, 493 So.2d 1374 (Ala. 1986) (“Hammond“), the Alabama Supreme Court ….

Plaintiff Michael Rasmussen (hereinafter “Rasmussen”) …

The Contract for Sale of Goods (hereinafter “Contract”) …

But you shouldn’t. These parentheticals simply slow the reader and waste space in your brief.

If you refer to International Business Machines Corporation in one sentence and then simply skip to IBM without explanation, the judge will catch on. And he or she will do so even if it’s not IBM but a company called Applied Technology Consultants being referred to as ATC. The same is true with the names of actual living beings. Rasmussen doesn’t need his last name in quotes for the judge to catch on; the simple use of Hammond will be understood without explanation. After all, judges were once lawyers. So don’t treat them like dummies.

This sort of thing occurs because lawyers fall into the trap of formalistic writing. Even though an appellate brief isn’t a contract document, lawyers often write as if they are still defining terms and parties in a contract. They think legal writing has to be more formal than other kinds of non-fiction. It doesn’t. It just needs to be good writing. Simple writing. Persuasive writing. Don’t put unnecessary obstacles in your way to reaching that goal.

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