A litigator’s standard fare is making motions. Before, during or after trial, we ask the court to do something — to dismiss the other side’s case, grant our client summary judgment, order discovery from an opposing party, preclude certain evidence from being admitted at trial, grant a new trial, and a host of other things. Motions are an indispensable tool in bringing victory to our client’s cause. But all too often lawyers prepare them haphazardly, without sufficient clarity and lacking compelling advocacy. Some motions, such as one for summary judgment, require an evidentiary showing based on affidavits, deposition testimony and exhibits, while others, such as a motion to dismiss, often do not. However, a brief, or what is often called a “memorandum of law” in the trial court, is usually necessary — to present the facts (be they evidentiary or assumed), describe the law, and apply that law to the case at hand. A strong brief is essential for succeeding on the motion. How can you make it as effective as possible?

Brief writing is assuredly more art than science. Equally able lawyers prepare briefs differently. No one size fits all, and there can be exceptions to the norm for a particular motion. But certain “best practices” exist for the vast majority of motions briefs that a lawyer will file. Indeed, much of best practices is basic to a persuasive brief, yet often these advocacy techniques are overlooked. This article offers a checklist for younger litigators and a refresher for more experienced ones.

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