On January 31, 2014 US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and lawyer Bryan A. Garner “offered some valuable tips for lawyers on ways to improve their legal writing and oral advocacy skills during their keynote speech for the USF Law Review Symposium.”
Most of these valuable tips can and should be used by anyone who is handling their own divorce and appearing in court as a self represented party. So I share them with you here in the hopes that they help make your divorce easier and life happier.
If time is short or you’re feeling overwhelmed and can only tackle one or two of these tips, I recommend using the second and last tips.
Based on my family law trial experience I can tell you that public judges are often overworked, underpaid and often have very little time to familiarize themselves with the facts in your case. So, getting to the most important points and keeping it simple can improve your chances of a positive outcome in your case.
US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and lawyer Bryan A. Garner tips for better legal writing and oral advocacy:
- Learn the case inside and outside the record. Write down a thousand questions about the case.
- Lead with your best argument. Contrary to the great philosopher Aristotle, who advised starting with your second-strongest argument and ending with the strongest, a different approach is necessary for legal brief writing because a judge might not read to the end.
- Be willing to concede points that aren’t essential to your case. Identify those points ahead of time so you can answer any hypothetical question posed during oral argument.
- Identify your best points and stick to them. “Lawyers don’t win on those buckshot arguments,” Scalia said.
- Terminology matters. Don’t use acronyms and give some thought to what names you use. American Airlines lawyers shouldn’t refer to their company as “double A” or “the carrier” when they could call themselves “American.” “Let the other side be anti-American,” Garner said.
- Practice improves public speaking and reading good writers improves writing.
- Treasure simplicity. “Don’t make a simple case complex. Make a complex case simple,” Scalia said. “Be Joe DiMaggio.” (Scalia illustrates the art of judicial persuasion by Laura Ernde, California Bar Journal, February 14, 2014)
Justice Scalia is the longest-serving justice currently on the US Supreme Court and is the Senior Associate Justice. Justice Scalia was appointed to the Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and he has been described as “the intellectual anchor of the Court’s conservative wing.”