May 20, 2015 Articles

The Art of Writing a Persuasive Fact Section

A well-written work can sway a judge's mind in favor of your legal argument before the argument is even made

by Emily Ambrose

Young lawyers spend much of their time researching statutes and case law to develop legal arguments about legislative intent, public policy, or the plain language in a statute. We draft carefully cited arguments on developing legal doctrines. We distinguish the other side's cases. This work is important—critical for any decent brief—but as young lawyers we may be undervaluing the importance of the fact section. By and large, the judge will be familiar with the law. But the fact section is unique to each case. A well-written fact section will provide the judge with the framework he or she needs to reach the legal conclusions you want. A well-written fact section will persuade the judge of your legal argument before it is made. This article provides advice and examples for young lawyers on either side of the case.

Write to Your Audience
Putting yourself in the reader's shoes is always the number one rule for persuasive writing. For a legal brief, your audience is the judge. Writing to the judge involves two considerations. The first is style. It is important to recognize that judges are busy. The writing must be succinct and organized. Use headings, diagrams, or charts if they help clarify the story. At the same time, recognize when the facts are straightforward and present them simply. The tone of the fact section should be informational, not argumentative or condescending. Avoid jargon and technical terms when simple language will do. Do not say "price point" when you can say "price," and do not say URL when you can say "web address." When technical terms must be used, define them in plain terms. Unless an acronym will simplify the story, avoid it. The bottom line is this: when editing drafts, imagine you are a busy judge who is unfamiliar with the case.

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